Martina Navratilova won more singles and doubles titles than anyone – female or male – in the history of professional tennis.
While she has a lot of on-court achievements to be proud of, the tennis legend shared during an interview at the Australian Open what she’s most proud of achieving off the court.
‘My being out as a gay woman,’ she said during the tournament where she not only was coaching world number six Agnieszka Radwanska but also did television commentary and presented the winner’s trophy to Serena Williams.
‘I came out as an athlete when I was at the height of my career in 1981 – way before it was an okay thing to do. I (was) criticized for it then, I was an outcast. And now, I’m lauded for it. So it’s kind of funny how things have come full circle.’
Navratilova was virtually unbeatable from 1982-86 and was in high-profile relationships with women during that time. She didn’t realize at the time what kind of impact her openness was having on other gay people.
‘By being out, I have helped a lot of people deal with their sexual orientation and I’ve gotten letters over the years from men and women saying I saved their life – literally.
‘They were ready to call it a day because they thought they were the only one out there. Then they saw me on TV or read an article. This is from the days when the word homosexuality was hardly ever mentioned and when it was it was in a negative way.
‘That is something I didn’t think I was doing, I didn’t know I was doing but that’s pretty special.’