For reasons that I can hardly have any justification for, I have never been a big fan of Martina Navratilova. I had respect for her – anyone who does not give that to her ignoring her nine Wimbledon and 18 Grand Slam titles and more can only do so with a prejudiced eye. But that did not make me root for her when she played though I was a keen follower of tennis.
This is perhaps because I liked her close rival Chris Evert better for her feminine charm. Or possibly I thought she was too muscular to be playing in a women’s event. I love the game and, like any normal spectator, one-sided games would not find favour with me. The same reasons why I would not be drawn to Serena Williams when pitted against petite Maria Sharapova!
I liked Steffi Graf, but not Monica Seles. Martina Hingis was a favourite as well, as opposed to Lindsay Davenport or Amelie Mauresmo (new coach of Andy Murray).
BT Sport Brand Ambassador: So, when we at BT last week were told that Martina Navratilova would visit us as a BT Sport brand ambassador I was not too excited. Instead, I was wondering why she was chosen for the role as she was not British, but Czechoslovakia-born American. How silly of me as sport transcends such petty geographical considerations!
Nonetheless, I chose to attend the one-hour session with her at the BT office in Singapore yesterday. The result – I came out of it bowled over by the way she handled the questions. With assertive poise, demonstrating how articulate she was delivering killer punches.
Here are a few examples from her interaction with BT staff where I chose not to wear my former journalist hat and refrained from asking her any questions.
- “It is a pity that no male player had thought of having a player of the calibre of Billie Jean King as a coach”.
- “Andy Murray’s decision to hire Mauresmo gives me confidence that there is an open coaching avenue for former women champions.”
- “Djokovich’s hiring of Boris Becker is positive as well. He may not need to learn playing styles but he can get better in terms of handling mental pressures with Becker having been there as a champ.”
- “Pressure is for the privileged. It makes me laugh when people talk about how newbies exhibited calm when playing against champions.”
- “The better player must win,” was her reply when asked who she would support in a match that has Federer play Nadal.
- But she gave enough indication to suggest that she likes Nadal’s style and that of Djokovich as well.
- She did not like it when she was asked about whether Briton Virginia Wade’s 1977 Wimbledon win was the result of a possible match fixing. She moved away from it asking “why will a player throw away a match to make the Queen happy”! Incidentally, 1977 marked the silver jubilee of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, who was watching the final then.
- “I am aghast at the rise of racial tensions in the U.S. I am on Twitter where I write more about politics than tennis. I get negative comments from people for my political views.”
Martina Navratilova has won me over. I will start following her on Twitter to see what she has to say on issues of political and social significance.
G Joslin Vethakumar