COMING TO AMERICA
“From the time I was little, I thought of America as a magical place.” ~Martina Navrátilová
Martina was 11 when the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968 subduing a period of political liberalization known as the Prague Spring. Reflecting on the experience, Martina said, "I saw my country lose its soul." She saw how the society’s hopes were dashed and the people were gloomy and negative about the future. Coach Parma’s advice that sports is the way she will be able to travel resonated with her. Parma himself was in Austria when the tanks rolled in and never came back. Hence, her father again became her coach. Still, playing tennis in a communist-run state, she had to receive permission to travel abroad, being told how to train, what tournaments to enter. Being headstrong, Martina wanted to be herself, which she could in America. With only her father knowing her plans, Martina defected to the US while competing at the US Open in 1975 at the age of 18 to follow her aspirations of playing tennis, excelling in both singles and doubles.
Photo courtesy of Martina Navrátilová archive
Virginia Slims Tournament, Oakland, CA, 1977