Tennis has witnessed some of the greatest rivalries in the Open Era. However, no two players on the ATP or WTA tour have played each other so many times as Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. Their great rivalry was on contrasting yet highly efficient styles of play. The two superstars of women’s tennis also remained close friends thus not letting their intense on-court tussles affect their off-court friendship. We look back at this historical and legendary tennis rivalry that is easily the greatest one in female tennis.
The Rivalry Begins: Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova
Chris Evert was dominating tennis in the early 1970s when Martina Navratilova arrived on the scene. The two starlets would then play each other in 80 matches over the next 12 years, including 60 tournament finals. The two great legends collectively dominated the tour for more than a decade, winning 18 Grand Slams each and also swapping the world number 1 WTA rankings.
Chris Evert was dominant in the initial encounters, winning 14 of the 16 matches; Martina Navratilova would later settle the scores and surpass her great opponent. She won 43 of the 80 matches they played against each other. Martina and Chrissie had a great contrasting playing style making their matches fun to watch.
Chris Evert had a strong baseline game aided by powerful ground-strokes such as the two-handed backhand. Martina Navratilova, on the other hand, concentrated on playing ultra-aggressive tennis with her great serve and volley tactics. This also translated into their career success stories as Evert dominated clay of Roland Garros while Navratilova would be Wimbledon’s most successful female player.
Greatest Tennis Encounters
Martina Navratilova was WTA world number 1in singles for 332 weeks while Chris Evert remained at the top for 260 weeks. Naturally, these two legendary tennis players met in 6 finals which included some extremely epic contests. The Wimbledon 1978 final where Navratilova came from a set down to win the contest was full of extreme intensity. They also played another epic in the 1980 Wimbledon semi-finals. This time it was Evert who marched back from a set down to victory.
There were many such intense and historical matches in this slugfest like Australian Open 1981 final and the Roland Garros 1985 championship decider. The two met in 60 finals with Martina Navratilova winning 36 of them and Chris Evert 24. Navratilova also leads in the Grand Slam finals with a 10-4 lead. Their collective dominance on the tour can be understood by the statistics. The two greats met in the finals of each major at least twice in singles.
The two legendary tennis players were the superstars of the tour in their days. They not only gave the game a great rivalry but also excelled in their singles as well as the doubles career. While Chris Evert won 157 singles titles, Martina Navratilova went even beyond with 167 trophies. They both were inspiring figures for generations of later tennis players. Chris was known for her focus and iron will on the tennis court while Martina for her fitness and longevity in the game. Their historical rivalry is still cherished by the fans long after the two retired.