WTA Greatest Rivalries – Graf vs. Navratilova

AP Photo/Robert Dear

WTA Greatest Rivalries – Graf vs. Navratilova

It’s no secret that both Navratilova and Graf are considered two of the greatest tennis players in the history of tennis. However, their generations didn’t really cross over – on paper that is. For one, Navratilova is around 12 years older than Graf, so you’d think that someone at the latter half of their career would not be competitive against someone like Graf. But Navratilova is not just any “someone.” She is a tennis player that has competed at the highest levels well into her 40s. She won the mixed doubles title at the US Open as recently as 2006! 


So, then it’s no surprise that this rivalry was as close as any in the history of the sport. Let’s get into the numbers. They played 18 times and split their matches 9-9. In Grand Slams Navratilova has a 5-4 edge, while Graf got the better of Navratilova at the smaller WTA events.


These two legends contested six Grand Slam Finals between 1987 and 1989. Graf leads 4-2 in that category, beating Navratilova at Roland Garros (87), Wimbledon (88,89) and the US Open (89). Meanwhile Navratilova got the better of Graf at the Wimbledon (87), and US Open (87). Many of their matches would go the distance, and the contrast in styles was fun to watch. Navratilova would serve and volley, and chip and charge at any opportunity, while Graf would stay in the baseline and look for the passing shot. 


Navratilova’s last win came in 1993 at the Pan Pacific Open semifinals. She got the better of Graf 6-3 in the third. In 93’ Navratilova was approximately 37 years old. Imagine, the fact that Navratilova was that competitive at 37 is incredible, and reminds me of another great champion by the name of Serena Williams, whom at 37 is consistently making Grand Slam finals.


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