Serena Williams ‘paved the way’ for mothers to keep playing tennis, says Martina Navratilova
DURING the Women’s Tennis Association’s Annual Conference in New York City, Martina Navratilova was asked about the question most often asked about her: Why didn’t Serena Williams stop playing tennis?
“Serena Williams ‘paved the way’ for mothers to keep playing tennis,” Navratilova, who won 11 majors in a career spanning nearly 25 years, said. “If you can be that athletic, you have it in you to keep playing. Serena has that same quality.”
Navratilova is the only woman in tennis history to have won a grand slam singles title 11 times. She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2007 and is also a seven-time U.S. women’s singles tennis champion (1978-84) and a seven-time Wimbledon women’s singles champion (1968-82) and a three-time Australian Open women’s singles champion (1972-75).
Navratilova, who won 13 Grand Slam singles titles and 18 in total, said her decision to play tennis had been a difficult one. She said that Serena, who was ranked No. 2 in the world, never forced her, but they became close friends. When Serena turned professional, Navratilova, who is retired, joined the tour and competed against her friend.
“I never really pushed Serena, because I knew she was going to do it her way,” said Navratilova, who competed against her friend many times in her career, including in the 1984 Olympics. “I never wanted to push her.
Navratilova, whose doubles partner was Steffi Graf, who won three Grand Slam titles, said Serena was “the best tennis opponent I ever had.”
“When Serena came along, she had a couple of good years,” Navratilova said, “but I didn’t think it was going to be a long career.”
Navratilova said she decided at one point that she would retire at age 33. That didn’t happen, but she did retire from tennis in 1986 at the age of 35.
Asked about her most memorable tennis wins, Navratilova said she would have to go back to the 1992 Australian Open. She beat Steff