In the floodlit arena of championship tennis, there are a handful of individuals that have broken out of the sporting circle to become household names. From the mid-1970s to 1990, Martina Navratilova was the most successful player of her generation and is still regarded to this day as one of the greatest of all time.
There are the undeniable facts and figures — 18 Grand Slam Singles Championship titles, 31 Grand Slam Women’s Doubles Championship titles, 10 Grand Slam Mixed Doubles Championship titles, seven years as World Number One.
But the story of Martina Navratilova goes far beyond her trophy-studded career. Born in 1956 in Communist Czechoslovakia to a family of gifted athletes, she became a national tennis champion at the age of 15 and made her international debut the following year. After playing in the 1975 US Open, Navratilova formally sought political asylum in the United States and was granted residency.
Her revolutionary approach to the game involved cross-training within other sporting disciplines, popularising the high levels of athleticism that are now seen as commonplace. Admirers of her playing style focused on her aggression and strategic skill, qualities that carried through to Navratilova’s post-professional activities as a political and human rights activist.
Far more than any title or record, this spirit of relentless progress is what elevates Martina Navratilova’s story into legend.