Happy 65th birthday to Martina Navratilova!
Martina came out publicly in 1981 at a time when it was virtually unheard of for a professional athlete to do so – especially one at the height of her career.
Thirty-eight years later, we are still waiting for a male tennis player to come out during their playing days.
Martina retired from singles in 1994 but played doubles on the pro tour until 2006 when she retired shortly before her 50th birthday.
She won a total of 59 grand slam titles in singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles – the second most of any player. She holds the record for the longest winning streak (74 matches) and is tied with Billie Jean King for most Wimbledon titles (20). Her 16-year rivalry with Chris Evert spanned 80 matches and is still considered one off the greatest of all time.
At the Australian Open six years ago, Martina did an interview with one of my big crushes, retired Australian tennis star Todd Woodbridge, who asked her what her most legendary achievement outside of her tennis wins is.
I absolutely love her answer: “My being out as a gay woman. I came out as an athlete when I was at the height of my career in 1981 – way before it was an okay thing to do. I (was) criticized for it then, I was an outcast. And now, I’m lauded for it. So it’s kind of funny how things have come full circle.”
She added: ” … By being out, I have helped a lot of people deal with their sexual orientation and I’ve gotten letters over the years from men and women saying I saved their life – literally. They were ready to call it a day because they thought they were the only one out there. Then they saw me on TV or read an article. This is from the days when the word homosexuality was hardly ever mentioned and when it was it was in a negative way.”
“That is something I didn’t think I was doing, I didn’t know I was doing but that’s pretty special.”
Happy birthday to a true hero!