Serena Williams ‘paved the way’ for mothers to keep playing tennis, says Martina Navratilova
For much of the past century, tennis was only for men. Then, in 1973, it became the first sport to have a women’s division.
In a rare moment during the Women’s Tennis Association’s year-end press conference on Thursday, Martina Navratilova — the former world champion — summed up why women’s athletics has become so mainstream. She said that many sports have grown out of the women’s movement.
“But one thing we have done that is very different is create a sports movement, something really new and fresh,” Navratilova said. “It is a sport for all women, all children, all children of all countries and all races and all religions, and that’s very important.
“Every time we put on a tennis match, every time we put on basketball, football or baseball or football, people feel more connected to us, and certainly to these girls and women.”
“Tennis is so much more than a game for the elite — and for us,” Navratilova added. “It’s a way of life. It gives you a sense of who you are. It is an important part of our culture, especially on the level of our children.”
Navratilova, who won Wimbledon in 1959 and three doubles Grand Slams as well, is speaking four weeks after Serena Williams, her 19-year-old partner in the professional tour’s top competition, defeated Maria Sharapova on the grass at the Australian Open.
Williams, who is ranked No. 1, has won seven Grand Slam singles titles and five Grand Slam doubles.
But she does not have to be on tour to be a champion — she can play at home, at the school or club level — because she is a woman, a former first-generation college student, and a member of a generation that has grown up with the expectation that women are powerful equals.
“It has always been a game for men, and a sport for men,” Navratilova said. “But we have