Tennis great Martina Navratilova was honored Monday evening at the U.S.
Open in New York, where she credited a positive attitude and love of
tennis with helping her through the challenges of coming out and her
current battle with breast cancer.
Introduced at the opening ceremony of the tournament, Navratilova received a rousing welcome inside Arthur Ashe Stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens. She and other honorees were celebrated for their ability to dream and inspire people.
In a brief speech, the Czech-born Navratilova credited tennis and a positive attitude with helping her field some of life’s “nasty curveballs," including her upbringing in a Communist country and her health battle. The 53-year-old was diagnosed with noninvasive breast cancer this year and underwent surgery and six weeks of radiation, returning to the court in June to win the Wimbeldon ladies' invitation doubles.
"Those two things, attitude and tennis, have really been a constant for me," she said. "Attitude is a choice, so remember to always keep a positive attitude."
The four-time U.S. Open champion also addressed coming out as an athlete in her prime.
“In 1981, I came out as a gay woman,” she said to strong applause. “That was not a good thing to do back then. There were a lot of doors that were shut in my face because of that, but you know what, I could still play tennis, no matter what.”
Her famous on-court rivalry with friend Chris Evert is the subject of a new ESPN documentary, Unmatched, which will premiere September 14.