MARTINA NAVRATILOVA, Czech-born tennis player, born; former World #1 woman tennis player. Billie Jean King said about Navratilova in 2006, “She’s the greatest singles, doubles and mixed doubles player who’s ever lived.” Tennis writer Steve Flink, in his book The Greatest Tennis Matches of the Twentieth Century, named her as the second best female player of the 20th century, directly behind Steffi Graf. Tennis Magazine has selected her as the greatest female tennis player for the years 1965 through 2005. She won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, 31 Grand Slam women’s doubles titles (an all-time record), and 10 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles. She has reached the Wimbledon singles final 12 times, including 9 consecutive years from 1982 through 1990, and won the women’s singles title at Wimbledon a record 9 times.
She also ties Billie Jean King’s 20 Wimbledon titles by winning the mixed doubles in 2006. She is one of just three women to have accomplished a career Grand Slam in singles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles (Called the Grand Slam box set). She holds the open era record for most singles and doubles tournament wins (167 and 177 titles respectively). She also recorded the longest winning streak in tennis history (74 matches in a row) and three of the top six longest winning streaks in women’s tennis history. Navratilova, Margaret Smith Court, and Maureen Connolly Brinker share the record for the most consecutive Grand Slam singles tournament championships won (six).
Navratilova reached 11 consecutive Grand Slam Singles Finals (2nd All-Time) Steffi Graf made it to 13 consecutive finals. In doubles Navratilova and Shriver won 109 consecutive matches. They won the calendar year Grand Slam in 1984 as a team. They also tied the record of 20 Grand Slam Doubles titles as a team.
Originally from the former Czechoslovakia, she defected to the United States in 1975 at the age of 18 and became a U.S. citizen in 1981. In 1981, shortly after being granted U.S. Citizenship, Navratilova came out publicly about her sexuality. From 1983 to 1991, Navratilova had a long-term relationship with partner Judy Nelson. Their split in 1991 included a much-publicized legal wrangle. Navratilova was featured in a WITA (Women’s International Tennis Association) calendar, shot by Jean Renard with her Wimbledon trophies and Nelson’s children in the background.
Navratilova also made a humorous guest appearance on the NBC sitcom Will & Grace in a 2000 episode in which a flashback revealed that she had been a heterosexual until a 1985 relationship with character Karen Walker “turned her Lesbian.”
When not playing tennis, Navratilova is involved with various charities that benefit animal rights, underprivileged children, and Gay rights. She filed a lawsuit against Amendment 2, a 1992 ballot proposition in Colorado designed to deny Gays and Lesbians legal protection from discrimination. In the same year, she spoke before the National March on Washington for Gay and Lesbian Rights.