"The girl next door vs. The communist muscle lesbian" - Martina Navratilova opens up about how Chris Evert rivalry made fans dislike her

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

Former tennis player Martina Navratilova recently suggested that tennis fans judged her based on her background amid her rivalry with Chris Evert.

Born in Czechoslovakia (now Czechia), Navratilova was raised in a country which was governed by communist leadership. Moreover, Czechoslovakia was known around the globe as a satellite state of the USSR.

After taking up tennis professionally in 1974, Navratilova emerged as a force to reckon with on the women's circuit. She made a name for herself among the likes of Billie Jean King and Chris Evert, both of whom had already won Grand Slam titles.

The Czech-American won a total of 18 Grand Slam singles tournaments during her career and in the process, developed a rivalry for the ages with Evert. She played against the American a staggering 80 times and collected 43 wins.

In a recent episode of the On with Kara Swisher podcast, Navratilova shed some light on how she was perceived by the tennis world when her rivalry with Evert peaked.

"It hurt. I literally asked Chris, ‘What do you do with your fan mail?’, because no matter what I did, the fans were cheering for her. You know, Chris, the girl next door versus the communist capitalist muscle lesbian," Martina Navratilova said.

The 67-year-old further said that Chris Evert told her that she didn't pay any heed to the fan mail but still received more support.

"So, I really didn't have a chance, but I asked her, ‘What do you do with your fan mail?’, she just kind of did this… she chucks it into the trash. And I'm like, great. I'm answering all these letters, sending people photos and posters and everything. I can't win them over no matter what," she added.

Martina Navratilova: "I gave up trying to please others"

Martina Navratilova
Martina Navratilova

Martina Navratilova has said that there came a time in her career when she stopped focusing on how tennis fans looked at her to liberate herself from the burden.

"So I think at that point, I just kind of gave up trying to please others and just say, 'Okay, you know what? Either you like me for who I am or you don't. I cannot change, I cannot do anything'. And that was that. But it was frustrating," she said.

Navratilova drew curtains on her singles career in 1994. She continued to compete in doubles and mixed doubles until 2006 whereas Evert stopped competing in 1989.

The duo developed an amicable bond following their retirements. Over the years, they have made several public appearances together and the warmth between them has been evident.