“He was a father to me in every sense of the word.” ~Martina Navrátilova
Living in a single room with her mom overlooking a red-clay tennis court, Martina began playing tennis at the age of 4. She is not the first tennis star in her family, following in her maternal grandmother’s footsteps and beyond. Yet, it was her “second” father who took the self-described court rat under his wing and became her coach. It was his energy and enthusiasm that gave her a chance at tennis. He would hit the balls with her for hours, telling her that she will be a champion one day. Happy and proud to be his daughter, Martina took his last name. Convinced Martina could win Wimbledon, her father took the then nine year old to George Parma, the best coach in the then former communist Czechoslovakia. Immediately recognizing talent, he refined her game but still let her play aggressive. Martina was proud to commute after her regular schooling to lessons with him in Prague, dreaming of being famous one day.
Photo courtesy of Martina Navrátilová archive
Martina pictured sitting next to her mother with her first tennis racket