MARTINA by Martina with George Vecsey Navratilova


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Navratilova takes her turn, tells the story her way, and is revealed, surprisingly, as personable, straightforward, giving. Bits and pieces on the tennis star in other players' biographies, and works by those close to her (basketballer Nancy Lieberman, nutritionist Robert Haas, physician/coach Renee Rickhards, novelist Rita Mae Brown, among others) have not countered the press and public image of Navratilova as a hard, robotic foreigner--but this much fuller picture will. Most important to her is to establish her identity as an American (she was naturalized in 1981, six years after seeking asylum): ""I didn't feel I belonged anywhere, until I came to America. . . With all due respect to my homeland, things never really felt right until the day I got off the plane in Florida. . . This country was waiting for me. It would give me the friends and the space and the freedom and the courts and the sneakers and the weight machines and the fight food to let me become a tennis champion. . ."" Navratilova is equally frank about setting the record straight on her sexuality. She recounts experiences both with men and women, but realized in her late teens that she felt more comfortable with women. ""It wasn't disillusionment. . .or any generalized resentment toward men. . .I still liked men; I just liked the company of women better. . .I came to realize my attractions--social, emotional, professional, intellectual, sexual--were toward women."" The same straightforwardness runs through Navratilova's accounting of childhood in Czechloslovakia, her early tennis days, the decision to defect, and relationships with her family, other players, and friends. Navratilova comes across throughout as warm and easygoing--one reason why she has needed a disciplined trainer such as Lieberman--and Vecsey's hand is apparent in keeping any of this from turning sensationalist. A treat for her fans, obviously; and his engrossing and forthright account is sure to win Navratilova a wider following.

Pub Date: June 24th, 1985
Publisher: Knopf