LISTEN LIVE: All Things Considered


"The Rivals"

This article is more than 16 years old.

As a young star on the women's tennis tour, Chris Evert was so concerned about her image that when faced with temptation, she would ask herself "What would Chris Evert do?"

Martina Navratilova was so oblivious to or contemptuous of what others thought that she traveled with an entourage that included a female tennis coach who'd previously been a male tennis player, and a former Maid of Cotton.

Evert came from a supportive family headed by a tennis pro so thoroughly blue collar that he refused to raise the rate he charged for lessons just because his daughter was number one in the world.

Navratilova defected to the U.S. when she was 18, leaving her family behind. Then, years later, after she'd brought her mother and father to this country to live with her, they decided they didn't like it here and went back.

These days Chris Evert is happily raising three boys. Martina Navratilova is still raising eyebrows as a doubles player on the tour.

Of details like this is "The Rivals (Chris Evert vs. Martina Navratilova: Their Epic Duels and Extraordinary Friendship)" made. Author Johnette Howard had the cooperation of both Evert and Navratilova, though the latter told Howard she couldn't understand why it had taken so long for such a book to appear. Howard does a wonderful job of telling the story of how these two extraordinary athletes created and sustained a long and entertaining rivalry. She had exceptional access to the people who've been closest to both Evert and Navratilova since 1973, when the two first faced each other across a net. Howard argues convincingly that although Evert would have won a lot more tennis tournaments had it not been for Navratilova, and vice versa, neither would have become as good had it not been for the competition the other provided. That Evert and Navratilova also built a friendship based on respect and affection during the years of their competition is encouraging to those who look on the mighty works and workers of the current sports landscape and despair.

This program aired on July 8, 2005. The audio for this program is not available.