iconimg Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Sharmistha Chaudhuri , Hindustan Times
Singapore, January 28, 2014
Their rivalry is what legends are made of. While Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe’s rivalry culminated in only 14 matches, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova went into battle, 80 times! While she was the ice maiden, cool and calm with a devastating double-handed backhand, Navratilova’s fast-paced style of serve and volley won her more matches (43-37). But, if you ask Chris Evert today, she doesn’t believe the Czech was her toughest opponent. “We had a close rivalry for a long time and we ultimately ended with the same number of Grand Slam titles (18, joint second behind Steffi Graf’s 22 in the all-time list of the Open Era) but I won’t call her my toughest opponent,” said Chris Evert, eyes sparkling.

Present at the launch of the ‘Road to Singapore’, a year-long journey to the WTA Championships to be held in October, as the legend ambassador for the event, the ever-smiling former American world No 1 believed it was who knew her game best. “I wasn’t the strongest, the fastest or tallest. But I had a dream. If you work hard towards it, it will come true is what I believed. I was determined and hungry to win matches,” said the lady in yellow, who statistically has a 90.05% winning percentage in singles, the highest-ever in men’s or women’s tennis.

The game has changed drastically since the days of Chris Evert vs Navratilova or Evert vs Graf (they played only 13 times). “The athleticism has brought a change. When I was playing, I would probably practice two-three hours and that would be a big day. Today, the girls have an eight-hour day regularly with practice and off-court workouts. I would even eat steak and baked potatoes before a match,” said the 59-year-old, generating laughs from the audience.

“Martina brought about athleticism then, Serena and Venus (Williams) generated a power game while today Li Na’s boldness and efforts have made a breakthrough in this part of the world. Tennis has become a global game with so many different Grand Slam winners.”

Also in attendance was 2014 Australian Open semi-finalist Eugenie Bouchard.

The writer’s trip has been sponsored by the Singapore Tourism Board