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The Rivals: Chris Evert Vs. Martina Navratilova Their Epic Duels and Extraordinary Friendshipby Johnette Howard
Synopses & Reviews
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 womens 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 Everts 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 werent mutually exclusive; Martina was portrayed as both emotionally fragile and some fearsome Amazon. Chriss off-court life was presumed to be bedrock solid, the stuff of Main Street America; Martinas 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 couldnt have reached without the other.
Womens 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.
"For 16 years, Evert and Navratilova faced each other on the tennis court; they met 80 times — and 60 times in finals. Newsday columnist Howard captivatingly tells the story of how these two women came together from disparate worlds and founded a complicated though lasting friendship. Evert, the charming, ponytailed daughter of a middle-class, all-American family, captured many fans' hearts when she arrived on the scene at 16. Navratilova, on the other hand, exuded seriousness; her determined look and sturdy frame matched her history, a dramatic, heart-wrenching one that involved leaving her family behind in communist Czechoslovakia. Howard shows how Evert and Navratilova's paths slowly merged, until they finally faced each other for the first time in 1973. From then until 1988, they traded leads, with Evert winning most of the early matches and Navratilova dominating in later years (overall, Navratilova held a 43 — 37 advantage). Howard is equally adept at covering the athletes' personal lives (she interviewed both players) as well as their competition and divergent playing styles. She also pays homage to stars like Billie Jean King, who was committed to promoting women's tennis, so this work makes a fine contribution to the history of women in sports. Agent, Mark Reiter. (June 7)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
The first book to examine the intertwined journey of legendary champions Chris Everet and Martina Navratilova, based on extensive interviews with each, takes readers on and off the courts with vivid, never-before-published material.
In sixteen years, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova met on the tennis court eighty times—sixty times in finals. At their first match, in 1973, Chris was an eighteen-year-old star and Martina, two years her junior, an unknown Czech on her first trip to the United States. It would be two years before Martina finally beat Chris, and another two—after Navratilova had dropped twenty pounds and improved her game—before Evert publicly betrayed her first hint of concern. By then, though, the women were already friends and sometimes doubles partners, and the story that would captivate the world was under way.
The Rivals is the first book to examine the intertwined lives of these extraordinary athletes, based on extensive interviews with both. Taking readers on and off the courts with never-before-published material, award-winning sportswriter Johnette Howard shows how Evert and Navratilova redefined women’s tennis against a backdrop of volcanic change in sports and society, from the fight for Title IX to the gay rights movement and women's movement to the fall of the Iron Curtain. But she also shows how enmeshed the two players’ personal lives became: Evert was one of the few who knew of Navratilova’s plans to defect during the 1975 U.S. Open, and Navratilova introduced Evert to her husband, Andy Mill. It was their very superiority over the rest of the tour that brought them together, for who else could really, truly relate?
Women’s tennis now is hotter than ever, thanks in large part to the trailblazing of Chris and Martina. Both women’s profiles remain high—Chris as a major commentator, and Martina as a headline-making forty-seven-year-old competitor. Though they no longer compete against each other, their names are inextricably linked in the public mind. Their rivalry, filled with so many grace notes, won’t soon come again.
About the Author
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.
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