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Tennis Rivalries

Updated on December 11, 2016

Evert and Navratilova

When we think of great rivalries in tennis, the first that comes to mind is Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. The rivalry is perhaps one of the most famous in sports. It lasted between 1973 and 1988. In their first few matches, Chris Evert benefited from being two years older and wiped the floor with a teenage Martina. In 1978, Chris Evert led their head to head record by 20-4, given that she had been the world number one for much of the early years of their rivalry.

However, in the 1978 Martina started to turn the tide of Chris. Martina beat Chris is a three set fight at the Eastbourne finals, on Martina's beloved grass. Two weeks later they contested their second Grand Slam final. Here Martina prevailed over Chris in a memorable, up and down, three set encounter.

From this point, Evert and Navratilova's rivalry became even until the end of 1981, when Martina took the women's game by storm. She developed her athleticism and endurance with an intense fitness regime, pioneering this movement for woman athletes. Martina soared to number one in the world and was seemingly untouchable from 1982-1984, only losing to Chris in the 1982 Australian Open final.

1985 French Open Final


1985 on

In 1985, Chris Evert developed her own physicality and started to adopt more all court tactics. Her plans paid off with a huge win over Martina in 1985 French Open final. She even re-established herself as the world number one.

In the end, Martina finished with a 43-37 advantage in their head-to-head. It was a great spectacle in personal appearance and playing style. Martina was athletic and capable of dominating matches with her strong serve and volley style. Chris relied on sound ground-strokes, passing shots and lobs.

Their last match was in 1988, but even it that year both players had significant wins over each other. Evert won the 1988 Australian Open Semi Final and Martina won the Wimbledon semi final. However, at this time they were no longer competing for the top position in the rankings, as both were superseded by the young German, Steffi Graf.

Fan favourite

There was a rivalry on the court, but the fan favourite was always Chris Evert. This was largely due to her commercial appeal and her general look. Martina was less appealing and also when a player becomes dominant the crowd often turns away from them. Steffi Graf, Monica Seles and Martina Hingis experienced this in the decade after Evert and Navratilova. Navtilova however gained greater following from fans in her latter years, after Chris Evert had quit from tennis.

Martina's career continued and she played some of the more modern tennis

Who was better overall between the two player over their whole careers?

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