Can you imagine having to ask permission to leave your own country? When Martina Navratilova was young she couldn't leave Czechoslovakia without asking the government for permission.
Martina started playing tennis when she was very young. She used to borrow her grandmother's old tennis racket and hit tennis balls against a wall. She took her first lesson when she was only six years old. Her first teacher was her stepfather, Mirek. She played in her first tournament when she was eight years.
She joined the Czech National team and got to travel and see countries where people were free. It made her unhappy to live where she was not free. In 1975, she decided to defect. (Defect means to run away from your country.) She was sad but she knew it was the right thing to do.
In 1976, Martina lost her first match at the US Open. It really shook her up. She had been eating too many hamburgers and too much pizza. She really wasn't working very hard either. She decided that she needed to work as hard as she could and get better.
By 1978 Martina was back on top, winning tournaments and she was ranked the #1 woman tennis player in the world. In 1981 Martina became a United States citizen. She won the Grand Slam of tennis in 1984. In order to win the Grand Slam you have to win Wimbledon, the French Open, the Australian Open and the U.S. Open all in the same year. In 1984 Marina was made a member of the International Women's Sports Hall of Fame. The Associated Press and United Press International named her 1980s Female Athlete of the Decade. Martina Navratilova won Wimbledon nine times-a record. She retired in 1994 but she still plays team tennis and does exhibitions sometimes.
image purchased from Corbis
by Samantha, third grade, 2001