Conversations with Tyler: Martina Navratilova

Tyler Cowen explores the world of ideas in one-on-one dialogues with today’s top thinkers.

Mar 19, 2018
George Mason University - Arlington Founders Hall Auditorium 3351 Fairfax Drive Arlington, VA 22201

Event Speakers

Tyler Cowen

Holbert L. Harris Chair of Economics at George Mason University

Martina Navratilova

Tennis Player Extraordinaire

Martina Navratilova — record-setting tennis player, communist defector, author, and activist — will join Tyler Cowen for a wide-ranging dialogue as part of the Mercatus Center’s Conversations with Tyler series.

At the age of 18, Navratilova defected from Communist Czechoslovakia and was granted asylum in the United States. A dedicated activist, Navratilova believes that speaking out about political and social issues is a way to give back to the country that gave her so much. While she has involved herself with many charities and causes, she has been most outspoken about issues that hit closest to home: communism and gay rights.

Born in Prague, Navratilova began playing tennis at 7 years old and won her first singles title in Orlando, Florida, 10 years later. As her tennis career ramped up outside the borders of Czechoslovakia, officials in her native country began pressuring her to “behave,” warning her that she would not be granted travel visas if she continued fraternizing with tennis players from other countries or becoming too “Americanized.” Navratilova, a teenager at the time, began to feel a threat to her tennis aspirations and took the most courageous action of her career.  At the age of 18, she defected to the United States, leaving behind her family and native country to pursue her dreams.

“I wanted my freedom,” she said at the press conference following her defection.

Navratilova’s sacrifice paid off. Despite backlash from being one of the first professional athletes to come out as gay, she won the Wimbledon women's singles title a record nine times. In all, Navratilova has won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, 31 Grand Slam women's doubles titles (an all-time record), and 10 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles; in total, she has won 59 Grand Slam titles.  She continues to play at all the Grand Slams where she takes part in the legends doubles. 

Since retiring from tennis, Navratilova has written five books and is a commentator for the BBC, Tennis Channel, and BT Sport. She also devotes time to charity work benefiting animal rights, underprivileged children, LGBT rights, and the environment. In 2014 Navratilova married her long-time partner Julia Lemigova. They live in Miami with their two daughters and many animals.