Lesbian tennis hero Navratilova also talks about coming out, homophobia in sport, Margaret Court and global LGBT rights
Lesbian tennis superstar Martina Navratilova has given Gay Star News her prediction of who will win Wimbledon.
We caught up with the greatest female tennis star in history ahead of her appearance at the Out and Equal global LGBT workplace summit in London this morning (5 July).
And before we heard her interview in the conference room about tackling homophobia on the sports field and in the boardroom, we asked the question tennis fans around the world need to know: Who will win Wimbledon this year.
Her answer was Novak Djokovic in the men’s tournament and Serena Williams for the women’s contest.
‘My prediction was pretty much Djokovic and Sharapova or Serena Williams,’ Navratilova told us. ‘And I think that still holds. Sharapova is out but Djokovic is playing great tennis and will be hard to beat and Serena Williams has got the best serve in the game.
‘With that serve there is about 30 people who could win the tournament because it’s that good. If they had that serve with their strokes I think they would win. You can’t say that about any other shot. She’s got the most powerful shot in the game and it’s going to be hard to beat.’
Navratilova won at Wimbledon a record nine times and also won 18 grand slam singles titles.
Addressing the summit, she talked about homophobia in sport, including comments by fellow tennis star Margaret Court, who spoke out against gay marriage after it became an issue in Australia.
Navratilova has said Court had previously had a personal objection to her sexuality.
On same-sex marriage, she said: ‘I have tried to have a dialogue with Margaret Court but you can’t have a dialogue with a person who is completely closed to anything based on reality.
‘I wasn’t shocked. I just thought ‘not again’. She is on the losing side of history because it’s the right thing to do. I was disappointed that we couldn’t have a discussion.’
She was asked if coming out as openly lesbian in 1981 helped her performance. In the period immediately afterwards (1982 to 1987) she won a string of titles and was seen by some as unbeatable.
‘You can achieve some success without coming out but you certainly won’t achieve your potential.
‘For me it all kind of came together. Being out… and I started really physically training. Then I got a coach. Then I started beating everybody. I got stronger and did all the training and the tactics and the technique. So I had some pretty good years there. I was in the quarter-finals of Wimbledon 20 years in a row. So eat your carrots.
‘Initially [after coming out] I had nothing but great, great reaction and an outpouring of acceptance.
‘Later I saw it in the non-acceptance of the public when I was playing. A lot of people clapped but a lot were just sitting there and some were booing. And friends in the stands would hear these amazingly homophobic remarks about me. And I was thinking I am just playing a tennis match and you are judging me on this?
‘I never wanted to prove people wrong. I wanted to prove me right. It was about getting the best out of myself. Sometimes it would help when I was waiting for a match and I used that anger and I thought I will show them but mostly I was motivated by positive things.’
And Navratilova said employers, like those represented at the Out and Equal summit, were helping already but could do even more to promote LGBT rights around the world – a subject she is passionate about.
‘Get more political,’ she advised them. ‘Be more of an advocate on a bigger level. Stand up more to these really ignorant statements, whether it’s politicians or different churches. Because silence equals consent. So they [corporations] need to be a little more vocal in their support.’
Gay Star News will publish a full interview with Martina Navratilova soon. To find out about Out and Equal, read our interview with it’s director here.