Tennis great Martina Navratilova recently appeared in The GOAT: Serena, a podcast about Serena Williams run by former players Chanda Rubin and Zina Garrison. They try to bring people from inside and outside the tennis fraternity who can share stories and anecdotes from Serena Williams’ career.
Having won 18 Grand Slam titles, Navratilova is a big name in tennis. However, Navratilova was a big admirer of Serena Williams. When asked what impressed her the most, Navratilova highlighted how the American great has won several majors after turning 30. The Russian could relate how age gets to a player and also being a mother makes it more difficult.
“What’s most impressive to me is how she won so many majors after she was 30 because it gets harder as you grow older,” Navratilova said.
She then spoke about the rivalries in Serena’s career. While she highlighted Viktoria Azarenka’s short rise, she mostly focused on Justine Henin and Serena’s dear sister Venus Williams.
“I think the closest rival would be Justine Henin and of course her sister, Venus [Williams],” Navratilova said. “There were a lot of contenders; Victoria Azarenka looked like she was heading that way but that fizzled out. She got injured and then got pregnant. So yeah Venus and Justine, that’s it.
Lastly, Navratilova pointed out how a rivalry can actually have a good impact on the player. During her days, the 64-year-old faced tough competition from Christine Evert. She was one of the most dominant players of her time and was fierce on the court. Therefore her rivalry with Navratilova is considered one of the greatest in women’s tennis. Evert also bagged 18 Grand Slam titles in her career and three majors in doubles. She was truly a tough competition for Martina Navratilova.
Sharing her stories of Chris Evert, Navratilova highlighted how rivalries can spur on players for the greater good.
“Yeah I mean it pushes you,” she continued. “You can only be as good as your opponent. You can’t hit great shots if you’re not pushed into hitting great shots. With rivals you have to strive to improve, you can’t just hold onto what you have you have to do better than that.”
“So Chris (Evert) and I did that with each other. Maybe we would’ve won more without the other but probably wouldn’t have been as good. So that kind of paid off,” the American concluded.