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Exclusive interview with Martina Navratilova

   

When Petra Kvitova won Wimbledon last summer, the inevitable comparisons were made with Martina Navratilova, who won the title a record nine times. In February, the pair had the chance to tour the All England Club and discuss past memories. It was an experience both women enjoyed and The Tennis Space caught up with them to discuss it. In the second part, we speak to Navratilova.

How was the trip to Wimbledon with Petra? “It was fun for me. It’s always nice when the younger generation feels connected to the older generation. And I was always connected to the older generation. I was like, oh God, Rod Laver, I was on the court with him…I was 32 years old, I’d won eight Wimbledons and I played tennis with Rod Laver and that picture still hangs in my house. So I was always connected and respectful of the elders. With some of the players you feel like they’re not getting that and when somebody like Petra gets it, it’s nice. Kind of symbiotic, mutual admiration society. It was nice, it was great.”

Anything special you told her that amazed her? “I told her something she didn’t know, but I can’t remember now. We had fun, talked, walking round. It’s always great to be on Centre Court when there’s nobody there. There was a new little concoction that was there in the corner that they were doing for some promotion, but it’s not going to be there during the tournament.”

She said seeing your name nine times was interesting, wonders if she could do the same? “Well, she got started the same time I did, with the first one and you never know. These days it’s hard to stay healthy long enough because the game is so much more physical, but the way she plays, if anybody could do it, it could be her because she plays such a powerful game, points are short, she doesn’t really have to exert herself that much. But let’s let her win the second one, then we can talk about more. It was a great effort and she wants it badly and that’s a step in the right direction.”

When were you first aware of Petra? “I think it was in Paris a few years ago. I saw her name but I didn’t see her play and Jana Novotna was telling me about her. Then I saw her here and I thought, God, if this girl gets it together, there’s going to be trouble.”

You got out of your country and she didn’t need to. Are there still similarities between you? “I had to leave. She came at a different time. I think I still would have ended up doing the same thing had I born 20 years later. I am just glad the communism is over and the players don’t have to deal with what I had to deal with. I’m pissed that I had to deal with it but I am glad they don’t. People say, do I have any regrets. I say I regret what I had to do. I don’t regret that I did it, but I regret the years that I lost, that I had to do it. And I’ll never forgive the communists for that.”

What’s the next step for Petra? “She’s fit but I think….she’s slow twitch. She’s a big woman, but use that to your advantage and make it as little a disadvantage as possible. I think she just needs to get a little lighter on her feet. Petra doesn’t need to re-tool but she can definitely improve and again, she’s 22 years old. I was clueless at that age so she’s way ahead of me on that one.”

How often do you talk to her during the year? Does she call you up? “No, she doesn’t but she’s probably too shy for that. I’m sure she will as the years go by. I am sure if she needs to, she’ll call.”

She does seem genuinely like a nice person? “Yes, she is. She is a good egg.”

 Have you hit with her? “Not yet but I am sure we will. I’ll look forward to it. I’ll have to practice some.”