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The Rivals: Chris Evert Vs. Martina Navratilova - Their Epic Duels and Extraordinary Friendship


The Rivals: Chris Evert Vs. Martina Navratilova - Their Epic Duels and Extraordinary Friendship

Martina Navratilova had the physical edge. As a child she was
selected by the Communists as a potentially prize-winning athlete,
based on bone structure and musculature. She was a fighting machine
who quickly mastered any sport she was exposed to, and when she was
willing to concentrate no one could beat her on Center Court. Chris
Evert by contrast was all concentration. She didn't have the latent
strength and pounding ability of her most famous rival, but she had
a mental game that wouldn't quit. She knew how to be efficient with
every shot, she was patient, she could come back to win slowly
after initial defeat, and do it with a little-girl innocence that
made her the press's darling.

Martina was the woman the press loved to hate. They hated her for
saying she was a lesbian (others were but no one said so, and
Billie Jean King famously tried to cover up her sexual history when
confronted with a palimony suit). They hated her for looking
mannish and acting like a bully against pretty girls like Chrissie
and Tracey Austin. They hated her for her big mouth and her
uncompromising kookiness.

No one suspected that Chrissie, as tall and dominant as Martina,
was not all Pollyanna. She had her affairs, her rages, and her wild
moments on tour. The women, thanks in large part to ground broken
by Billie Jean, were superstars. They were as adored as many rock
musicians. Chris had only to pen a short note on a napkin to land a
date with Burt Reynolds in his heyday as a Hollywood sex machine.
Martina was coached by a woman who had been a man, Renee Richards
--- dated by the mercurial author Rita Mae Brown --- who put a
bullet through her car windshield and was followed by the secret
police when she went on a world tour.

They were grand figures living in grand times. Martina appears in
photographs beginning with her fluffy hair and youthful chubbiness
and leading on to her militant bangs and sepulchrally thin look,
all muscle and long bones. Chris never really changed. They were of
similar height, blondish, handsome women. They both had a steely
gaze and gave up not one point that they didn't have to. They paved
the way for the ones who came after and lifted women's tennis off
the fourth page of the sports section to the front page, with some
notable appearances in the scandal sheets.

Johnette Howard, a sports columnist, has examined their lives in
rich and believable detail, revealing the moments when each on
separate occasions collapsed in tears after a match, when each had
shocking love affairs, when each beat the other stroke by grueling
stroke, and when both supported the other. No one but Chris could
truly understand what Martina went through, and vice versa. They
were, for a few bright years, all there was to watch.

Reviewed by Barbara Bamberger Scott on January 23, 2011

The Rivals: Chris Evert Vs. Martina Navratilova - Their Epic Duels and Extraordinary Friendship
by Johnette Howard

  • Publication Date: June 7, 2005
  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Archetype
  • ISBN-10: 0767918843
  • ISBN-13: 9780767918848