Martina Navratilova: Life off the court after being diagnosed with throat & breast cancer


Tennis legend Martina Navratilova revealed she’s battling both throat and breast cancer. 

But her outspoken defiance, vowing to ‘fight with all’ she has, is very much what we’ve all come to expect from one of the sport’s decorated athletes. 

The 66-year-old Navratilova won 59 Grand Slam titles over the course of a career that spanned an amazing four decades, including 31 in women’s doubles and 10 in mixed doubles. The last was a mixed doubles championship with Bob Bryan at the 2006 US Open, a month shy of her 50th birthday.

Navratilova originally retired in 1994, after a record 167 singles titles and 331 weeks at No. 1 in the WTA rankings. She returned to the tour to play doubles in 2000 and occasionally competed in singles, too. 

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova announced she has throat and breast cancer on Monday

She won 59 Grand Slam titles in a 40-year career. Pictured with Wimbledon trophy in 2004

She won 59 Grand Slam titles in a 40-year career. Pictured with Wimbledon trophy in 2004

Navratilova was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2000. She has worked as a TV analyst in recent years. There was a time, however, when one of the most dominant players in tennis history would shock the world with her views and sexual orientation, particularly in the 1970s and 80s.

After all, Navratilova was one of few outspoken, openly gay women who would have her romantic partners sit courtside at championship matches without anyone in the crowd necessarily knowing about it. 

She was also vehemently criticized by LGBTQ+ advocates when she published an opinion piece in the Sunday Times of London in February 2019 against rules that would support transgender female athletes competing against other women, saying they would ‘reward cheats and punish the innocent.’

‘Clearly that can’t be right. You can’t just proclaim yourself a female and be able to compete against women,’ she also said in a 2019 tweet that’s now been deleted.  

‘There must be some standards, and having a penis and competing as a woman would not fit that standard.’

Last year, Navratilova also blasted the NCAA for giving 22-year-old University of Pennsylvania trans swimmer Lia Thomas its Woman of the Year award, tweeting: ‘Not enough fabulous biological women athletes, NCAA?!? What is wrong with you?!!!!!!!?’

Navratilova has never been shy of sharing her opinion and is a vocal critic of the GOP's policies

Navratilova has never been shy of sharing her opinion and is a vocal critic of the GOP’s policies

Last year, Navratilova reacted angrily at UPenn's trans swimmer Lia Thomas winning the NCAA Woman of the Year award

Last year, Navratilova reacted angrily at UPenn’s trans swimmer Lia Thomas winning the NCAA Woman of the Year award

UPenn's 22-year-old trans swimmer Thomas was put up for the prestigious collegiate award

UPenn’s 22-year-old trans swimmer Thomas was put up for the prestigious collegiate award

Subsequently, Navratilova was cut from a nonprofit LGBTQ athletic advocacy group based in the US, called Athlete Ally. Nonetheless, the 66-year-old still wishes that social media platforms were around when she was still professionally touring around the world. 

‘I lived behind the Iron Curtain,’ she once told the New York Times. ‘You really think you are going to be able to tell me to keep my mouth shut?’

Raised in Prague, Navratilova would regularly keep herself briefed on current events by reading the daily newspaper and believes her awareness of societal issues around the globe has helped her turn into one of the loudest athletes on the planet.  

She left Czechoslovakia at only 18 and claims living freely as a gay professional athlete in the US with her two daughters and Russian model wife, Julia Lemigova, has liberated her. 

Navratilova also isn’t shy of expressing her thoughts and opinions, often sharing them through her Twitter profile, no matter what subject of conversation. 

‘What really aggravates me, among other things, is when Republicans claim to be the party of Lincoln, as if they agree with him and would want to free the slaves etc,’ the tennis star tweeted in May 2021. ‘The party of Lincoln would be the modern day Democratic Party, so STFU about Honest Abe already.’

In another tweet from June of last year, Navratilova further expressed her criticism of the Republican party after Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) accused ex-US President Donald Trump of provoking violence in the 2021 storming of the US Capitol and said he ‘does not have a role as a leader of our party going forward’. 

‘With their cancelling Liz Cheney, don’t the republicans, a.k.a. GQP, recognize they are now a totalitarian party? All have to be in lockstep with one guy- same guy who lost them the presidency the house and the senate?!? #wrongsideofhistory,’ she tweeted. 

In May 2021, Navratilova criticized the GOP for sticking with President Donald Trump after the 2021 storming of the U.S. Capitol

In May 2021, Navratilova criticized the GOP for sticking with President Donald Trump after the 2021 storming of the U.S. Capitol

Navratilova's pictured with her 50-year-old wife & former Russian model, Julia Lemigova (left)

Navratilova’s pictured with her 50-year-old wife & former Russian model, Julia Lemigova (left)

Navratilova doubled-down against the GOP, saying 'the party of Lincoln would be the modern day Democratic Party' in a 2021 tweet

Navratilova doubled-down against the GOP, saying ‘the party of Lincoln would be the modern day Democratic Party’ in a 2021 tweet

The tennis star has donated more than $25,000 to Democratic campaigns, according to CampaignMoney.com.

Roughly 27 years after gaining US citizenship, Navratilova criticized the political system of her adopted country in a 2002 interview with then-CNN anchor Connie Chung, who told the tennis star her criticisms were ‘un-American’ and ‘unpatriotic.’ 

She even suggested Navratilova should ‘go back to Czechoslovakia’ (which had dissolved nine years earlier) rather than use her status as a professional athlete to gain a platform for her complaints. 

When Navratilova asked why it was ‘unpatriotic’ to speak out, Chung said: ‘Well, you know the old line, love it or leave it.’

‘She was always opinionated, and always principled,’ Pam Shriver, Navratilova’s close friend and longtime doubles partner, told the New York Times. ‘It would have been so great for her and her fans not to have her voice filtered.’

‘She was smart and quick and funny and emotional, with a game so strong and assertive that it seemed like fans automatically felt the need to cheer for the woman across the net,’ former professional tennis player Mary Carillo also told the New York Times, recalling the first time she had met Navratilova at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, New York. 

‘Like Martina’s game wasn’t … what? Feminine? Fair? That drove me nuts.’

'She was always opinionated, and always principled,' said Pam Shriver, Navratilova's close friend and longtime doubles partner. Pictured: Navratilova at Wimbledon in July, 1990

‘She was always opinionated, and always principled,’ said Pam Shriver, Navratilova’s close friend and longtime doubles partner. Pictured: Navratilova at Wimbledon in July, 1990

Navratilova was once described as 'un-American' and 'unpatriotic' by CNN's Connie Chung

Navratilova was once described as ‘un-American’ and ‘unpatriotic’ by CNN’s Connie Chung

Navratilova reached the quarterfinals of Wimbledon in the summer of 1975, when Czechoslovakia’s Communist government was contemplating whether to allow her to play in the US Open in New York City in the fall. 

Later that year, she was given permission to travel for the tournament and had told her father, who was also her coach at the time, that she would not be returning to her homeland. Navratilova didn’t warn her mother. 

After a semifinal loss to longtime rival Chris Evert, she requested asylum at a US Citizenship and Immigration office in Manhattan before being approved just three hours later.

However, on the following day, a bombshell story on Navratilova’s homosexuality was featured in The Washington Post. At the time, the tennis star had kept her sexuality to herself for an additional six years, as it could have impacted her chances on becoming a US citizen.   

After the completion of her naturalization process, a sports reporter at a exhibition match in Monaco met with Navratilova and told her he was going to publish a story based on an off-the-record conversation they had on the athlete’s sexual orientation.

Pleading him not to, Navratilova claimed the report would wreck the reputation of women’s tennis, which had been promoted by the great Billie Jean King at the time, who had also been embroiled in a court battle with a former girlfriend for palimony. 

Navratilova once believed that her coming out would've tarnished women's tennis after Billie Jean King's affair with a woman was revealed while she was still married to Larry King. Pictured with Billie Jean King (center) and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Wimbledon in 2021

Navratilova once believed that her coming out would’ve tarnished women’s tennis after Billie Jean King’s affair with a woman was revealed while she was still married to Larry King. Pictured with Billie Jean King (center) and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Wimbledon in 2021

Together, Navratilova and King won the women's Double title at Wimbledon in 1979 (pictured)

Together, Navratilova and King won the women’s Double title at Wimbledon in 1979 (pictured)

King denied having an affair with the woman, though she later confirmed the veracity of these claims at a news conference with her husband present.

The reporter didn’t listen to Navratilova’s plea and after tennis fans learned of her coming out, she went on to make public appearances with girlfriends. 

‘I didn’t have to worry anymore,’ she told the New York Times. ‘I didn’t have to censor myself.’

Balancing her time as a commentator and tour player throughout the following years after that before hanging her racquet in 2006, Navratilova still didn’t shy away from expressing her thoughts. 

In 1991, she was asked about Magic Johnson’s AIDS diagnosis after the five-time NBA champion said he was infected through sex with women. Navratilova questioned why gay people with AIDS didn’t receive as much publicity as the LA Lakers legend, adding that if a woman contracted the disease from having sexual intercourse with several men, ‘they’d call her a w**** and a s***, and the corporations would drop her like a lead balloon.’ 

Navratilova once said in an interview related to Magic Johnson's HIV condition that if a woman had been diagnosed with AIDS after having slept with hundreds of men then 'they'd call her a w**** and a s***, and the corporations would drop her like a lead balloon'

Navratilova once said in an interview related to Magic Johnson’s HIV condition that if a woman had been diagnosed with AIDS after having slept with hundreds of men then ‘they’d call her a w**** and a s***, and the corporations would drop her like a lead balloon’

In 1992, Navratilova participated in a lawsuit against a ballot proposition in Colorado designed to prohibit sexual orientation from being a protected class, the New York Times reported.  

She even criticized President Bill Clinton for introducing the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy for non-heterosexual service members in the US military. The policy bans military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted homosexual or bisexual service members or applicants, while barring openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons from military service. 

Navratilova also campaigned for equal pay for women and slammed tennis parents who didn’t know how to behave while watching their children at games. 

In 2002, the tennis star faced backlash after being quoted by a German newspaper for saying America’s public policy focuses on money instead of ‘how much health, morals, or the environment suffer’ in her CNN interview with Connie Chung.

Navratilova, pictured at the US Open in 2010, has also campaigned for equal pay for women

Navratilova, pictured at the US Open in 2010, has also campaigned for equal pay for women

‘The most absurd part of my escape from the unjust system is that I have exchanged one system that suppresses free opinion for another. The Republicans in the US manipulate public opinion and sweep controversial issues under the table,’ Navratilova said. 

‘It’s depressing. Decisions in America are based solely on the question of how much money will come out of it and not on the questions of how much health, morals or environment suffer as a result.’ 

Navratilova was also quoted in 2007 as being ashamed of the US following two terms served by then-President George W. Bush because unlike the communist party in Czechoslovakia, Bush was elected by the people.  

Most recently, Navratilova became involved in the Women’s Sports Policy Working Group, formed in response to President Joe Biden’s executive mandate that offered blanket inclusion for all trans women athletes. 

The goal of the group is protecting girls and women in competitive sports categories, while, wherever possible, crafting accommodations for trans athletes into sports.

Last year, Navratilova was among 300-plus women who signed a letter addressed to the NCAA in support of an Idaho law that bans trans women student-athletes from competing in female sports.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk