Martina Navratilova

Former women’s world no. 1, Billie Jean King, once said about her “She’s the greatest singles, doubles and mixed doubles player who’s ever lived”. She has won 18 singles Grand Slam titles, 31 doubles Grand Slam titles, which happens to be a record even to this day, and 10 mixed doubles Grand Slam titles. Yes, she is none other than the legendary Martina Navratilova.

Originally from Czechoslovakia, she was removed from citizenship when she asked the United States government for political asylum and was given temporary residency. This was in 1975, when Martina was girl of just 18 years of age. She became a full US citizen in 1981, but was also given back her Czech citizenship in 2008.

She was originally born Martina Subertova, in 1957, in the Czech capital, Prague. Her parents were separated when she was just a child of three. Her mother remarried, to Miroslav Navartilav. It is customary for women in Czechoslovakia to add the suffix “ova” to their surname. Her stepfather was also her first tennis coach. Her talent was on display from a very early age.

She won the Czechoslovakian national tennis tournament at the age of 15, and debuted at the US Lawn Tennis Association the very next year, but didn’t start playing professionally until 1975 when she moved to the United States. Although she didn’t turn professional until 1975, her first professional title came in Orlando in 1974. At the time, she was continuing with her studies. The very first year that she turned professional, she was in two Grand Slam finals. The first of these was the Australian Open, where she lost to Evonne Cawley. The next of these was the final of the French Open the very same year, when she lost to Chris Evert. Navratilova and Evert faced off again in the semi-finals of the US open that year, where Martina was defeated yet again. Following that, she went to the Immigration and Naturalization center in New York with a plea stating that she wanted to defect from Czechoslovakia and wanted to become an American citizen. She was given a green card within a month’s time.

Martina Navratilova won her first Grand Slam in 1978 at Wimbeldon, by defeating Chris Evert in three sets. After this win, she also got the ranking of world no. 1 for the first time, which she held on to, by winning the next Wimbeldon in 1979. She adopted the fitness and training regime from basketball star  , Nancy Lieberman. Following that, she became the most dominant female tennis player. During a period of three years from 1982 to 1984, she won only 6 singles matches. During that period, she also won the Australian Open, the US Open and the Wimbeldon multiple times.

“Tennis” magazine named her as the greatest female tennis player for the period 1965 to 2005. She was WTA Player of the Year for 7 years during the period 1978 to 1986. She really was one of the greatest tennis players the world has ever seen.