Coinciding with a tennis legend in your time as a player has good and bad things. What is negative? Obviously, her mere presence will make you meet her at some point, lose matches, give up finals, basically, have a less brilliant record. And what’s so good about it? Very easy, the same without that inspiration, without the motivation to beat it one day, you may not win even half of the trophies you managed to capture. Between one platform and another the trajectory of Hana Mandlikova, one of the great tennis players on the circuit in the 80s, although always in the shadow of the eternal Martina Navratilova. In an open letter published in WTAHana explains how she was tracing the relationship with her compatriot.

“She is six years older than me, but we grew up in the same tennis club, in Prague. I was her sparring when I had to play interclubs, I picked up tennis balls for her. The Sparta tennis club was always on top thanks to Martina. In those days, I remember that I was too shy to approach her, so it was funny when I read that she had written about me in her book, confessing that I reminded her of her when she was 12 years old. Despite this, at that age I was still too shy to say hello or confess that I liked how I played, ”wrote the champion of four Grand Slams.

Their paths began in Prague, the birthplace of both, although neither ended up growing roots there. “When she left Prague at age 18, I was playing a tournament in the Czech Republic, the national women’s championship. Suddenly, the news spread everywhere, I remember it as if it were yesterday. At that time we were in a communist country and I thought about everything that would have to happen in the future, things like not seeing your parents, not being able to return, it was something very brave what he did. I was only 12 years old but I understood it as an almost heroic gesture“Appreciates the Czech, who would later end up nationalizing Australian.

“Another five years passed before I was able to meet her on the tour. I saw it on television when I could, another player that I really liked to see was Evoone Goolagong, I always wanted to have the opportunity to face them. Martina and I played for the first time in 1980, in Amelia IslandI lost in three sets, but the game I really remember was the second one we played that season. It was in Manwah, New Jersey, a tournament prior to the US Open where I was able to defeat her for the first time, ”she fondly recalls of that unforgettable duel.

“The day before, after winning my quarterfinal match, I felt like I couldn’t move. My foot started to hurt so much that I said to my coach: ‘Sorry, there is no way I can play tomorrow, impossible to move.’ In the end I decided to try, it was Martina who was waiting for me on the other side, in the semifinals, I had been waiting for that moment for a long time. And well, if later I was not able to play, I could always retire. Luckily, from one minute to the next my foot was fine, it was fun, I don’t know how I could do it adding the injury and the nerves. I think waiting so long for that game helped me recover”, Recognizes the woman who today has 58 springs.

“Interestingly, two weeks later we returned to play in the US Open and I beat him again, the second time in a row! The next time we play in the US Open it would not be until 1985, a crazy party. Everything I touched in the first five games of the first set was inside, whether it was the rest, volleys, absolutely everything. Martina couldn’t do anything, you couldn’t believe how she was playing that way, but she quickly managed to equalize the score. In the end he ended up winning the second set 6-1, but I managed to take the third set 7-6. It was possible that day I played the best tennis of my career, the United States Open it was always my favorite grand slam”, Celebrates the champion of that edition.

In total they were 36 games (H2H 7-29) those who played between them and, although Martina was victorious 80% of the time, fate did not prevent them from even playing together. “The doubles was not really my thing, but Martina and I were also able to play together sometimes, we even won the 1989 US Open together. I always liked sharing the track with her,” says the former World No. 3.

“In my time I was very ambitious, but if you look at my record against her, I almost always lost. We played a similar style, although she was a better player, this being young was always difficult to accept. Now I am almost 60 years old and I see everything differently, as you get older tennis matches are not so important. Now the most important thing is to enjoy your life and be happy. She was a tremendous player, she was an example for me, so I can only take off my hat for everything she achieved ”, she concludes.