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Evert and Navratilova: Their ‘Eerie’ Parallel Lives

“Our lives are so parallel, it’s eerie when you think about it.” That is tennis great Martina Navratilova talking about fellow tennis great Chris Evert to Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post.

 

 

The sentiment is at the heart of an in-depth look at the relationship between the women whose on-court rivalry defined the sport decades ago. “The shape of the relationship is an hourglass,” writes Jenkins.

 

 

“They first met as teenagers in 1973, became friends and then split apart as each rose to No. 1 in the world at the direct expense of the other.” They squared off in an astonishing 60 finals and fittingly ended up with 18 Grand Slam victories each. Upon retirement, the hourglass shape shifted again as they became close friends in Florida.

 

 

So close that when Evert, now 66, learned she had ovarian cancer in January 2022, Navratilova “was one of the very first people I told.” So close that when Navratilova, 68, learned later that same year that she had cancer, in her case of the throat and breast, one of her first calls was to Evert.

 

 

Both went public with their diagnoses, writes Jenkins, “because all those years that they were clashing over trophies, they also had a sense of a larger public responsibility, to ‘the game or women athletes or women,’ as Navratilova says.” Or as Evert puts it, “to help.”

 

 

Both women are now cancer-free. The story traces their tennis careers, the legendary rivalry (during which one of Navratilova’s trainers instructed her to be rude and aloof to Evert), and their cancer battles.

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