"Hate Chris, you'll play better" - When Chris Evert revealed how Martina Navratilova was able to overcome her losing record against her

(From L) Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.
(From L) Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.

Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova shared one of the greatest rivalries in tennis history, which ended with Navratilova winning more matches than Evert across their 80 career meetings. However, that win-loss record was highly lopsided in Evert's favor in the early phases of their rivalry, before Navratilova turned it around and began beating Evert regularly.

The 18-time Grand Slam singles champion did not overcome her losing record against Evert because of a change in fortunes. She received some game-changing advice from her friend and American basketball legend Nancy Lieberman, who urged her to develop a "killer instinct," particularly when playing against Evert.

Both tennis legends opened up about the same in an old interview, also admitting that their relationship had developed friction at the time. Chris Evert revealed how Lieberman influenced Navratilova and advised her to "hate" the American superstar to be able to get the better of her.

"Nancy pretty much drummed it in her, 'hate Chris, hate Chris, and you'll play better'," Chris Evert stated on the show 'Later' with Bob Costas, back in 1990.

Evert admitted that Navratilova's newfound strategy worked perfectly. While it affected their relationship, Navratilova's professional career was better for it.

"Unfortunately, it worked. It was bad for our relationship but she started to beat me once she got that killer instinct going," Evert added.

The seven-time French Open singles champion further reflected on how Navratilova was always nice and very respectful in most of their matches at the beginning of their rivalry. That was when Lieberman stepped in and asked her friend Navratilova to change her attitude towards her opponent. Evert stated that things changed drastically for her great rival thereafter.

"She (Lieberman) had this theory that Martina was losing to me because she was too nice to me and she liked me too much," Evert continued. "She had this theory that you really have to dislike your opponent if you want to win. You have to get that killer instinct going. I can see what happened because Martina had no killer instinct a long time ago. She was just so happy to be in America from Czechoslovakia."

"Nancy made me feel like Chris took something away from me" - Martina Navratilova on how she learned to beat Chris Evert

Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova - French Open finalists
Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova - French Open finalists

Martina Navratilova also shed light on the matter, further detailing how Nancy Lieberman helped change her mindset in general, but with a special focus when facing Chris Evert, who was the best player in the world at the time. Navratilova started to believe that Evert had stolen the World No. 1 ranking from her and she had to dislike Evert in order to get it back.

"It was not just with Chris, but with everybody else. But with Chris in particular," Navratilova said, during the interview with Bob Costas. "Nancy made me feel like Chris took something away from me, which was the No. 1 spot. To get it, you have to get it from her. So you have to not like her, because otherwise you won't get it."
"Nancy told me she would be talking trash on the changeovers. I was like, 'You can't do that, this is tennis'."

The nine-time Wimbledon singles champion echoed Evert's thoughts, admitting that her new approach affected their relationship.

"But she did get me tougher mentally when I just really wanted to win and I felt like Chris took it away from me and I have to get it back. So there was some friction because of that," Navratilova added.

Chris Evert won as many as 20 of the first 24 matches of her rivalry against Martina Navratilova. The Czech-American great then won 39 and lost just 17 more matches to her great rival. No two players in the Open Era, across men's and women's tennis, have faced each other on tour as many times as the iconic duo.

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