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The Rivals: Chris Evert Vs. Martina Navratilova - Their Rivalry, Their Friendship, Their Legacy Hardcover – 15 Jun 2005
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"Well told in an engrossing beach read." -- The Times
Two stories that, with thrilling inevitability, become one. Beautifully constructed...vivid and enthralling -- Simon Barnes, The Times
In March 1973 two women met on a tennis court in Akron, Ohio. Over the course of the next sixteen years, together they would change the world. In their long careers Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert played each other eighty times, sixty of those in finals. For twelve consecutive years, from 1975 to 1986, one or other finished the season ranked No. 1 in the world. Each set out to be the finest player women's tennis had ever seen; each goaded the other to greatness. Their contrasting styles - Martina, the epitome of serve-and-volley tennis, bravely charging to the net against cool and controlled Chris, the world's greatest baseline player - captivated millions across the globe. Tennis was a chauvinistic game when they arrived. But their brilliance demanded, and received, long-overdue respect for female sporting achievement. Their ability to forge a close friendship amidst their fierce competition still provokes wonder and admiration from fans. There has never been a sporting rivalry to match the intensity, longevity, public impact and emotional resonance of the years-long duel between these two great athletes.For nearly two decades we were transfixed by the struggle between the ice-maiden Chris - blonde, all-American, a nation's sweetheart - and the supreme athlete Martina, a Czech defector, the first outspoken openly gay athlete in female sport, and a woman who wore her heart on her sleeve at all times. Their lockstep careers played out against the backdrop of seismic change in sport and society: the women's movement; the gay rights' movement; the fall of the Iron Curtain; and the rise of women's tennis from backwater to big time (with a huge nod of gratitude to Billie Jean King). Thirty years on from the first meeting, both have become legends. Based on interviews with both Martina and Chris and those who knew them best, Johnette Howard gives us the story of these two remarkable women. Brilliantly researched, beautifully written, Unrivalled will be read by those who love sport for years to come. See all Product description
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All the basic ingredients for a great head-to-head provide a good foundation for this book - vastly different upbringings, different playing styles, different public opinions - but as author Johnette Howard conveys, there is a lot more to take in regarding these two seminal tennis icons.
Howard describes Evert's merciless advance to the top of the women's game from a very young age; and in parallel, takes the reader through the hell Navratilova was enduring in communist-ruled Czechoslovakia, and her subsequent defection to the USA. By the time one is halfway through the book, it is quite amazing to think how Navratilova could even concentrate on tennis, bearing in mind the complete turmoil of her personal life - far less become such a dominant player. Howard also charts, in a truly engaging fashion, how Evert and Navratilova perceived each other on the court, and how these perceptions changed over time.
A book about these players, who shared one of the longest rivalries in tennis, will have no end of riches to draw from (with them having played 80 matches, and amazingly, the split is close to even). Howard does a great job in highlighting the salient periods, when dominance shifted from one to the other, and some of the most amazing fightbacks in tennis between the two.
The focus on both players is set within the shift of the women's game during the late 70s/early 80s, and as a separate arc, the book charts the rise of Evert/Navratilova alongside the fight from Billie Jean King et al to put women's tennis on a more equal footing with the men's game. Howard's discussion on how Evert and Navratilova sometimes aided, and sometimes hindered this movement is of significant importance and great interest.
If I have a slight qualm it is that Navratilova gets more focus than Evert, both in terms of personal life and major career finals; but then that does stand to reason. Overall, this is an excellent read.
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