“Martina Navratilova: The Wimbledon Legend”

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Martina Navratilova: The Wimbledon Legend

Undoubtedly one of the most accomplished women to have graced the world of sport, Martina Navratilova is also perhaps the most worthy claimant to the mantle of the most remarkable female tennis professional ever. Her resilience on the tennis court was levelled in equal measure by the strength of her resolution off the court; a spirit that helped the Czechoslovakian wonder to surmount political partiality and oppression on her road to accomplishing the heights that few are able to attain.

Born on 18 October, 1956, to Miroslav Subert who was a ski coach by profession in the Czechoslovakian capital of Prague, Martina Subertova spent her early years residing in a ski hostel near the Krkonose Mountains. Following her parent’s separation when Martina was still a little girl, she went to stay with her mother in Revnice, a settlement in the outskirts of Bohemia.

Keeping up with the family tradition of tennis, young Martina soon followed in the footsteps of her grandmother Agnes Semanska, who also played the game at the international level. The young Czechoslovakian signed up for her debut tennis tournament at the age of just eight. Following her mother’s remarriage in 1962, Martina’s stepfather Mirek Navratil took charge of the young talent’s training and it was at this point that she decided to alter her surname to “Navratilova.” Meanwhile, the 1960’s were turbulent times for most Czechoslovakians as the country grappled with political turmoil amidst the Soviet encroachment of the territory in 1968. These troubled times saw the aspiring young Martina running into trouble with the oppressive Communist administration after she infuriated the establishment on many instances with her outspoken criticism of its antics and was each time threatened with penalties that could potentially have ruined her professional career.      

Entering the professional tennis arena in 1973, Navratilova made her first trip to the U.S. that year to participate in a competition at Akron, Ohio where she tasted defeat at the hands of Chris Evert. The clash would mark the beginning of an intense feud that would dog Martina for a large part of her career. Fed up of the political uncertainty blighting her native Czechoslovakia, Navratilova decided to depart for the U.S. in 1975 where she was granted a “Green Card” to facilitate her stay. In 1981, regardless of the off-court controversy surrounding Martina’s private life, she was finally granted an American citizenship. Far away from her family, young Martina’s initial years in the new country were far from easy. Yet she braved the odds to land her first Wimbledon ladies’ singles trophy in 1978 after overcoming future arch rival Chris Evert. It was a feat she would repeat the following year to attain the number one standing in the WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) world rankings.

It was this wonder from Czechoslovakia who would take the quality of the ladies game to unprecedented heights during the 1970’s and 1980’s with a coruscating passion and force that was quite remarkable. She would go on after her initial win in 1978 to win a record nine Wimbledon singles titles, a feat that remains unparalleled to this day. From 1982 to 1987 Navratilova recorded an astonishing six successive victories at Wimbledon in a run reminiscent of the legendary Swedish men’s champion Bjorn Borg’s unchallenged dominance at the All England Club Championships for five consecutive years. The ferocious competitor also added to her trophy cabinet 11 Wimbledon Doubles Championships, summing up an impressive 20 wins at the games most coveted tournament. Navratilova once remarked: “Wimbledon is like a drug. Once you win it for the first time you feel you’ve just got to do it again and again and again.”

Navratilova finally bid farewell to professional tennis in 1994 after having amassed a massive fortune worth more than $20 million over the span of her illustrious career. In 2000, she made a comeback to professional tennis and in 2003, at the age of 46, Navratilova was ultimately able to notch that years mixed doubles title at the Australian Open. In the same year, she made headlines once again after triumphing at the Wimbledon mixed doubles trophy, becoming the most aged player ever to have clinched a Grand Slam title. Very recently, Navratilova won sympathy of fans from across the world after discovering that she was suffering from breast cancer in early 2010.



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