You stand in front of what might be a display case in the silver department at Harrods. It is, in fact, the master bedroom in Martina Navratilova's Fort Worth home, a room given over to showing the trophies and cups from her major victories. Not that the room was so established by Navratilova. "Years ago," says her companion, Judy Nelson, "I asked her where all the artifacts were—the solid evidence."
The massed cups and bowls are mingled with framed notes from distinguished fans, among them the Duchess of Kent and Katharine Hepburn. Clearly, Navratilova's reward for all this conquest was entry into the rare company of others who have forged success in their own way.
"I made it my quest to get these things," says Nelson. "I found them where Martina had left them: in people's attics, in storage, with agents, with strangers. There are still two U.S. Open trophies I haven't found."
Navratilova, ever locked on the next conquest, is not the only champion who is cavalier about artifacts of past triumphs. "Chris [Evert] walked in here," says Nelson, "and said, 'Look at this! I ought to try to find some of mine.' "
The large, chased silver platter that goes to the women's Wimbledon victor and is raised tearfully aloft at Centre Court must be given back to tournament officials. All the winner keeps is a copy the size of a salad plate. There are eight of these plates marching unobtrusively along a shelf.
Such solid evidence of how good she has been, and for how long, brings up the question of contentment. Is the difference between eight plates and nine a matter of life and death? "Am I insatiable? Yes!" says the 32-year-old Navratilova. "Wimbledon is like a drug. Once you win it, you've just got to do it again. And if Chris can win [the French Open] at 32, I can win Wimbledon."
"In private," says her friend and doubles partner Pam Shriver, "she must be content with all she's accomplished. But the pressure from the fans and media for more is always there. There's never peace."
But one wonders how much peace Navratilova would enjoy in a vacuum. She has always been an emotional person with an acute sense of the primacy of the individual; she defected from Czechoslovakia less for the West's money than for its promise of the freedom to be true to her own piercing feelings.
And true to them she has been, through liaisons doomed, or wacky or salubrious. Her sense of those personal choices is that it was flatly impossible to do otherwise. "You can't direct your feelings," she wrote in her autobiography, Martina, in 1985, "and say: You can't fall in love with this one. It might hurt your career."
Navratilova is one of the world's great desirers, instinctive and headlong. But one of her irresistible needs is for disciplined, insightful people. As she found them, and as they helped her train, she could abandon herself to her game. And when she has played with abandon, she has been magnificent.