Martina Navratilova is widely regarded as the greatest female tennis player in the history of the game. She captured 18 Grand Slam singles titles and 40 Grand Slam doubles titles.
She was born in Czechoslovakia on October 18, 1956 and at age 18 defected to the United States in 1975. She was granted US citizenship in 1981. Her given name was Martna Subertova but her parents divorced when she was three and her mother remarried a man named Miroslav Navratil, who would later one become her very first tennis coach. Martina later on adopted her stepfather’s name and added the feminine suffix “ova.”
By the time she was 15, Navratilova was making her mark on the tennis scene. She won the Czechoslovakian national tennis championship in 1972 and turned professional the very next year at age 16. Her first professional singles victory came in 1974 in Orlando, Florida.
She is best known as a strong left-handed serve-and-volleyer with magnificent volleying skills and an aggressive and powerful game. Her excellence on the court raised the quality of the women’s game to new heights. Early in her career, Navratilova was on the overweight side and received some sharp remarks from the press for it. However, showing her firm determination, Navratilova soon whipped herself into shape with a punishing fitness routine that she maintained throughout the rest of her career. Eventually, a high level of conditioning soon became a hallmark of her game.
In 1978, she won her first Grand Slam singles tournament at Wimbledon, defeating Chris Evert in three sets in the championship. Her victory propelled her to the top of the women’s rankings and she was named the number one female tennis player in the world for the first time. Evert and Navratilova would meet again in the Wimbledon finals a year later and Navratilova would once again prevail.
In 1981, Navratilova bagged her third Grand Slam singles title, once again by defeating Evert in the finals, this time in the Australian Open. In 1982, she would go on to win both Wimbledon and the French Open.
By the mid-1980s, Navratilova hit her stride and embarked on her domination of the women’s tennis scene. After losing the French Open in 1983, she would go o to win all three remaining Grand Slam tournaments that year – Wimbledon, the US Open and the Australian Open. Amazingly, her defeat at the season-opening French Open was her only loss for that season and she went 86-1 win-loss for the year. That is the best-ever winning percentage for a professional tennis player for a single season.