Navratilova doesn't believe she has to lift her game to unprecedented heights to reach such greatness. "Just return to my own best," she says. "Technically, I'm hitting the ball well, but I'm finessing people too much, hitting behind 'em, not blasting right at 'em."
The occasion for the visit to Navratilova's trophy room is a quick tour of the house. The downstairs bathroom is remarkable for a waterfall that slides softly down black stone, and for the dozens of photographs—of matches, dances, portraits. "I collect things that preserve a moment," says Nelson. Here are Shriver, Evert, Nelson and Navratilova in Martina's hometown, Revnice, Czechoslovakia, in 1986 for the Federation Cup. For years after her defection in 1975, Navratilova did not think it possible she would ever see Revnice again. "That was taken by her father," says Nelson. "Unbelievable."
Each room in the Navratilova-Nelson home is distinct. Each seems a rough reflection of some quality of its inhabitants. The photographs of movie stars in the breakfast nook encourage dreaming. The trophy room embodies Nelson's motherly urge to safeguard memorabilia until Navratilova is equipped with enough years to treasure them.
In the upstairs weight room, the tone is tougher. Here, framed, is the $50 bill Shriver sent to Martina after Navratilova was judged liable for that amount for having ripped the film out of photographer Art Seitz's camera following a quarterfinal loss at the 1982 U.S. Open. Navratilova lifts weights three times a week. She easily bench-presses 125 pounds eight times.
"But descending weights are the hardest I've ever done," she says. "Jim Landis, the man at the Aspen Club International, started me doing biceps curls with 18-pound dumbbells. When I get tired, I go to 15's, then 12's and so on until I can't pick up a glass of ice tea. I'm more flexible and have more strength above shoulder level now."
A few years ago, Lieberman's vocal lashings before, during and after workouts so stung Navratilova that the two drifted apart. "I needed her at a time when I was too immature to discipline myself," says Navratilova. "She was still hard on me after I didn't need it. Now it's happy. She doesn't have to badger me. Oh, I'll bitch about having to do seven 440s tomorrow, but it's not serious."
At home, there is a curving water slide down the side of the house to the swimming pool. "The slide is crucial," says Nelson dryly. "Otherwise she'd jump from the weight room balcony to the pool."
Navratilova has lived here since 1984, the longest she has maintained one base in her American life. Here, she has a ready family. Nelson's two teenage sons are always around. Nelson's parents are frequent drop-ins. Lieberman lives in nearby Dallas.
"Nancy always thinks more is better," says Navratilova as Lieberman arrives at the house to take her to play basketball. When it is suggested that Navratilova doesn't need 440s to train for tennis, Lieberman's eyes go round and her curls begin to vibrate. "I'm getting her ready for the third set!" she says. "She has no base of endurance!" Her battle won, Lieberman argues on, running up the score.
"She needs me," Lieberman says later, "to get her going past her rote, I-can't-do-it laziness. We both want to end our careers at the Barcelona Olympics. What a great thing to help each other to that goal. That's what sport is all about: helping each other."