Chris Evert vs. Martina Navratilova Their Epic Duels and Extraordinary Friendship
Three Rivers Press, Paperback, 9780767918855, 304pp.
Publication Date: June 13, 2006
In the annals of sports, no individual rivalry matches the intensity, longevity, and emotional resonance of the one between two extraordinary women: Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.
Over sixteen years, Evert and Navratilova met on the tennis court a record eighty times—sixty times in finals. At their first match in Akron, Ohio, in 1973, Chris was an eighteen-year-old star and Martina, two years her junior, was an unknown Czech making her first trip to the United States. It would be two years before Martina finally beat Chris, and another year—after Navratilova had dropped twenty pounds and improved her game—before Evert publicly betrayed her first hint of concern. By then, the women were already friends and sometimes doubles partners, and the colorful story that would captivate the world was under way.
The Rivals is the first book to examine the intertwined journey of these legendary champions, based on extensive interviews with each. Taking readers on and off the courts with vivid, never-before-published material, award-winning sportswriter Johnette Howard shows how Evert and Navratilova came of age during the rambunctious golden age of tennis in the 1970s, and how—together—they redefined women’s athletics during a time of volcanic change in sports and society. Their epic careers unfolded against the backdrop of the fight for Title IX, the gay rights movement, the women's movement and the fall of the iron curtain. Howard draws entertaining, intimate, and myth-shattering portraits of Evert and Navratilova, describing the personal migrations each woman made, and showing how enmeshed their lives became.
Navratilova and Evert’s ability to forge and maintain a friendship during sixteen years of often-cutthroat competition has always provoked wonder and admiration. They were a study in contrasts, a collision of politics and style and looks. Chris was the crowd darling while Martina, her greatest foil, was often cast as the villain. Chris was the imperturbable champion who proved toughness and femininity weren’t mutually exclusive; Martina was portrayed as both emotionally fragile and some fearsome Amazon. Chris’s off-court life was presumed to be bedrock solid, the stuff of Main Street America; Martina’s was derided as outrageous and sometimes chaotic, even during her invincible years. Yet, through it all, the two remained friends who lifted each other to heights that each says she couldn’t have reached without the other.
Women’s tennis now is more popular than ever, thanks in large part to the trailblazing of Evert and Navratilova. A rivalry like theirs, filled with so many grace notes, is unique in sports history.
JOHNETTE HOWARD is an award-winning sports columnist for Newsday who previously worked as a senior writer at Sports Illustrated and as a columnist at the Washington Post. Her work was included in The Best American Sports Writing of the 20th Century, and her columns were nominated for the 2000 Pulitzer Prize in general commentary. She lives in New York City.
“Together, match by match, final by final, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova changed women’s tennis forever. I watched their rivalry with awe and pride: two remarkable athletes, fierce competitors—and good friends. It’s hard to remember what it was like for women and women athletes in particular back then; Johnette Howard captures it all in vivid detail. The Rivals is must reading for anyone with a passion for tennis and for anyone curious about Evert and Navratilova’s utter transformation of the women’s side of the game.”
—Billie Jean King
“For all our seeming familiarity with Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, Johnette Howard takes us deep inside the greatest rivalry in tennis history to reveal how it took the two champions the length of their twenty-year tennis war to truly know and love each other and themselves. With diligence and skill Howard chronicles their magnificent battles on the court, their turbulent times off the court, and the civil wars they waged within their own fragile psyches. It makes the journeys taken and the destinations reached all the more remarkable.”
—Mary Carillo, CBS Sports
“With Chrissie and Martina as the leading ladies, Johnette Howard insightfully takes us on a marvelous tour through the panorama of the rise of professional tennis. She digs well below the surface of a tennis court to probe celebrated psyches as never before.”
—Bud Collins, Boston Globe/NBC
“Finally, here is the definitive, inside-out look at one of the most gripping rivalries and relationships in sports. Johnette Howard’s insightful and writerly book is the story of friendly enemies, and enormous friends—two women who were alternately competitors and confidantes. It places Evert and Navratilova alongside Palmer and Nicklaus, Magic and Bird, and Ali and Frazier, but it also, rightly, sets them apart, historically inseparable and unique.”
—Sally Jenkins, coauthor of It’s Not About the Bike and Every Second Counts