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The Rivals: Chris Evert vs. Martina Navratilova Their Epic Duels and Extraordinary Friendship Paperback – June 13, 2006

4.5 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For 16 years, Evert and Navratilova faced each other on the tennis court; they met 80 times—and 60 times in finals. Newsday columnist Howard captivatingly tells the story of how these two women came together from disparate worlds and founded a complicated though lasting friendship. Evert, the charming, ponytailed daughter of a middle-class, all-American family, captured many fans' hearts when she arrived on the scene at 16. Navratilova, on the other hand, exuded seriousness; her determined look and sturdy frame matched her history, a dramatic, heart-wrenching one that involved leaving her family behind in communist Czechoslovakia. Howard shows how Evert and Navratilova's paths slowly merged, until they finally faced each other for the first time in 1973. From then until 1988, they traded leads, with Evert winning most of the early matches and Navratilova dominating in later years (overall, Navratilova held a 43–37 advantage). Howard is equally adept at covering the athletes' personal lives (she interviewed both players) as well as their competition and divergent playing styles. She also pays homage to stars like Billie Jean King, who was committed to promoting women's tennis, so this work makes a fine contribution to the history of women in sports.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Of the great individual rivalries in modern sport--Ali-Frazier, Borg-McEnroe, Nicklaus-Palmer, Chamberlain-Russell, for example--the greatest was arguably that between tennis champions Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, who played one another in 80 singles matches (60 of them finals) during the years 1973-88, Martina winning 43 and Chrissie taking 37. As Newsday sports columnist Howard ably shows, the rivalry was epic because both were the dominant players of the time, a title was usually at stake, together they elevated the game, and, perhaps most important, their sportsmanship toward one another fully transcended their on-court battles. Howard traces each player's early development--Evert in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, and Navratilova in the small Prague suburb of Revnice--their careers, their personal journeys, and their classic matches. She fully covers Martina's controversial relationship with lover and personal-trainer Nancy Lieberman, who helped mold Navratilova into the forceful player she became. And Howard provides sizzling reportage of Evert-Navratilova's most famous matches, including the 1985 French Open final, which Evert won 6-3, 6-7, 7-5. Highly recommended for anyone looking to understand the essence of a champion. Alan Moores
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Three Rivers Press (June 13, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0767918851
  • ISBN-13: 978-0767918855
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,818,832 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Johnette Howard is an award-winning writer and author who has worked as a senior writer for Sports Illustrated, a feature writer and columnist at The Washington Post and Newsday, and an enterprise writer for The National Sports Daily. Her columns were nominated for the 2000 Pulitzer Prize in general commentary. She is currently a columnist for ESPN.com.

Howard's work has been included in seven anthologies, including "Best American Sports Writing of the Century."

Howard's inspiration to write "The Rivals: Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, Their Epic Duels and Extraordinary Friendship" (Broadway Books) came from watching Evert and Navratilova's many showdowns on Saturday mornings at Wimbledon. Seventeen years after covering her first match there, Howard still thinks Centre Court is one of the two or three most perfect sports venues in the world.

You say hello or follow Howard on Twitter at @johnettehoward.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Martina Navratilova had the physical edge. As a child she was selected by the Communists as a potentially prize-winning athlete, based on bone structure and musculature. She was a fighting machine who quickly mastered any sport she was exposed to, and when she was willing to concentrate no one could beat her on Center Court. Chris Evert by contrast was all concentration. She didn't have the latent strength and pounding ability of her most famous rival, but she had a mental game that wouldn't quit. She knew how to be efficient with every shot, she was patient, she could come back to win slowly after initial defeat, and do it with a little-girl innocence that made her the press's darling.

Martina was the woman the press loved to hate. They hated her for saying she was a lesbian (others were but no one said so, and Billie Jean King famously tried to cover up her sexual history when confronted with a palimony suit). They hated her for looking mannish and acting like a bully against pretty girls like Chrissie and Tracey Austin. They hated her for her big mouth and her uncompromising kookiness.

No one suspected that Chrissie, as tall and dominant as Martina, was not all Pollyanna. She had her affairs, her rages, and her wild moments on tour. The women, thanks in large part to ground broken by Billie Jean, were superstars. They were as adored as many rock musicians. Chris had only to pen a short note on a napkin to land a date with Burt Reynolds, known in his heyday as a Hollywood sex machine. Martina was coached by a woman who had been a man, Renee Richards --- dated by the mercurial author Rita Mae Brown --- who put a bullet through her car windshield, and was followed by the secret police when she went on a world tour.

They were grand figures living in grand times.
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Format: Paperback
This book offers an insightful look into the lives of Martina and Chris.

If you're a fan of either you'll enjoy their perspectives individually.

If you're a fan of both...all the better for you. You will read how each supported, coaxed, teased, fought, encouraged and ultimately validated each other and each other's career.

I think this book de-mythologizes much of what we've heard before about Chris and Martina's relationship. At the same time, it re-inforces things we already knew, but adds a little more depth: incredible friends, incredible rivals...A friendship that transcends their rivalry and a rivalry that transcended sport.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
after attending so many of the matches between chris and martina described in this book - i just had to read and remember along with the author - tennis has become a different game...
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Format: Hardcover
Given the high octane, big-money state of womens' tennis today, this book is a quaint look back at how things used to be in the 70s and 80s when tennis was more popular, but still much less sophisticated, than today's game.

The writing is high quality. The author spoke with Evert and Navratilova at length, including many of Martina's ex's, but not Jimmy Connors, Evert's most famous flame.

While their rivalry makes great history, watching it unfold was not the drama this book would like to recall it as. Most matches were boringly lopsided, especially when Evert was dominating the early years.

Women's tennis today is much more a game of equals where anything can happen. When Chrissie and Martina ruled, the only question was what time was their final because they were usually in it.

Still, the book pays homage to a nostalgic era, and recounts with great drama the slow build of a female rivalry and friendship for the sports ages.
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Format: Hardcover
Johnette Howard's The Rivals captures the historic rivalry between Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova with the perfect balance between social import and the drama of sport. The author pens a vivid portrait of the two women as individuals with their own unique struggles and challenges who became champions in every sense of the word either because of, or in spite of those challenges.

Howard gives proper due to the contributions of Billie Jean King to sports (I do not qualify that as "women's sports", because indeed the real strength of King's legacy is that it enriched ALL sports) in general and tennis in particular, and both Evert and Navratilova are generous in describing the debt they owe to King, a refreshing attitude given today's generally unappreciative athletes.

In their own ways, both Evert and Navratilova serve as irreplaceable role models, Evert making it OK for parents to allow their little girls to aspire to athletic greatness, Navratilova raising the bar as to just how far one can push the limits of physical training...not to mention her amazing courage as an "out" gay athlete during an era that wasn't very forgiving.

The balance Howard strikes between narrative and oral history is remarkable and makes the book even more entertaining. Her interview subjects are candid without being lurid, and it is obvious that all of the contemporaries of the rivals have arrived at a healthy level of respect and admiration for the two women who smashed and rewrote the record book of women's tennis.

But Howard's most striking accomplishment in the book is her ability to bring some of the duo's epic matches to life.
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