- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
When Navratilova arrived in the U.S. two years ago, she spoke Czech, German and Russian, but little English. Now she is handling at least one press conference and one or two TV interviews a day.
Of her first season in the U.S., she says, "My eyes were wide open then. You know, the big highways and big cars." Also wide open in those days was her mouth. She took in pancakes and Big Macs at such a rate that within two months she had gained more than 20 pounds. "I was really fat and really slow, but I didn't know I was fat. I couldn't see it. I still love Big Macs, but I haven't had a pancake in six months."
Some of the weight is gone now, but she remains a sturdy 5'7�". Her shoulders are broad and her arms and thighs look powerful. She has short light-brown hair, as fine as a child's, and her face is dominated by high, wide cheekbones and forthright hazel eyes. She moves on the court with the economy and assurance of a complete athlete. Bent from the waist at the baseline, waiting for an opponent's serve, she spins her racket handle in her palms. Her head and shoulders weave slightly from side to side, cobra-like, but her feet remain still.
Her serve is perhaps the best part of her game. "I get a high percentage of my first serves in, so I get to the net often and am in good position to put away the next shot. I'm quite good on the net, too. Once I get there I feel really comfortable." Her overhead is awesome. "Sometimes it's not on," she says. "I might miss three in a row. So maybe the percentage is the same as other players, but it is powerful."
Her backhand, she thinks, needs the most improvement. "I have a good slice backhand but I have to improve my top spin. I don't miss but also I don't get myself into position to put it away."
It was King who told Martina a few weeks ago that she was going to have to practice more, and who then devoted several hours a day in Sarasota to practicing with her. And it is from King that she is beginning to learn some things about fame and the way of the American sports fan. " Billie Jean told me not to read what is written about me. It might not be true and you might get mad and so you better don't."
Martina's fellow players seem fond of her, and she is comfortable with them. Chris Evert and she recently teamed up as regular doubles partners and have already won their first tournament. "We get along great," says Evert. "If anyone is going to beat me, I hope it's Martina. Her potential is fantastic and there's nothing in her way except [Chris taps her forehead with her finger] her attitude."
"Chris really is the best player right now," says Navratilova. "She plays the same all the time. Maybe a little bit worse one time and a little bit better another, but mostly the same, which is hard to do when you are the best. It is easier to be a challenger. You have nothing to lose. If you lose it means nothing. If you win it's great. It is easier to be—what do you call it—the black horse."