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Martina Navratilova: More Than A Lefty

Nov 28, 2007
When you go by the numbers the greatness of Martina Navratilova is something no one can deny. She holds the most consecutive grand slam singles titles at six, has reached the Wimbledon finals 12 times and holds the open era record for both mixed doubles tournaments and singles wins. She also has the record for the longest winning streak in women's tennis. However, the strong left-hander with a mean backhand is more than just a powerhouse who played the game well. For all of the glory and acclaim she took from tennis she gave back so much more.

Athleticism

Martina Navratilova won the Czechoslovakian national tennis championship at the age of 15. Two years later, she defected from the Czechoslovakian Republic, applied for US citizenship, and won her first professional singles title. The world of women's tennis has never been the same. She brought with her a strong determination, fierce competitiveness and athletic regimen that many in the world of tennis have started to follow. She popularized women working with focused exercising, consistent training and healthy diet. Her emphasis that female tennis players be considered top athletes, and not simply ladies with tennis rackets, brought a collection of new tennis players onto the field who, following her example created a strong, active and fierce game that revitalized the world of women's tennis.

Gay and lesbian awareness

In 1981 Martina Navratilova became a citizen of the United States of America. While that was certainly a positive step forward for her own life, the next step she took would change the lives of thousands of people. When she disclosed that she was a lesbian, Martina Navratilova was one of the first professional athletes to come out of the closet. The move cost her millions in endorsements and worldwide scrutiny. Yet, her tennis game never suffered and she continued to show that professionalism went far beyond the boundaries of your gender or sexual orientation. For members of the gay and lesbian community seeking role models at a time when there weren't any in media sports or any other public outlet she became a startling beacon of hope and reduced the amount of isolation and despair felt in that community. Gay and lesbian rights groups to this day credit her act of courage as one of the pivotal touchstones in the road toward gay and lesbian recognition and equality.

Life after singles

Tennis, like many sports, is hard on the body and it's not uncommon for tennis players to retire at an early age and settle into a life of commentating or coaching. However Martina Navratilova did not retire until she was 50 and maintained after her ability to win by playing doubles after her single title hopes were over. This achievement in successful play after her singles career had diminished has left her, in the opinion of many tennis analysts, as the most well-rounded tennis player to ever take the court.

Martina retired in 2006 with an impressive distinguishing list of wins and trophies on her mantle. However, like someone who truly excels in any sport, she not only took success from the sport, but left her sport a more successful place to play.
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