Looking back: Navratilova expands her realm to Montréal

Thursday, Jun 13

For this fourth edition of our Into the swing of things series to mark the 40th anniversary of Rogers Cup, we’re returning to our roots—or just about—and rewinding all the way back to 1982. Just picture it: the who’s who of women’s tennis in attendance for the second edition of the Player’s Challenge at Parc Jarry.

After attracting only sparse crowds at the inaugural event in 1980, tournament organizers were aiming to capitalize on the star power of WTA headliners including Billie Jean King, Tracy Austin, Andrea Jaeger, Hana Mandlikova and Martina Navratilova. Having won 59 of her last 60 matches, Navratilova was playing like a boss. When the competition got underway, the question wasn’t if the 25-year-old would dominate but rather how and who.

Photo: Armand Trottier / La Presse

As predicted, Martina picked off her opponents one by one with remarkable ease. In the semis, she was pitted against Mandlikova, then ranked World No.4, for what was touted to be an epic battle. But things weren’t meant to be. Two quick sets later, all hopes were dashed.

Only one hurdle stood in the champion’s way: World No.3 Andrea Jaeger, whose run had been just as impressive as Martina’s. Two totally opposite playing styles collided: offensive power versus backcourt doggedness. When asked about her rival, Jaeger qualified her as unbeatable even before the first ball had been put in play. Navratilova ended up taking the first set 6-3 and then fell behind 3-5 in the second when her opponent managed to secure a break, but the ace’s commanding volleys and prowess at the net saved her from mishap.

Four games later, it all added up—literally! As she raised the winner’s trophy, Navratilova became the first woman to earn over $1 million in winnings in a single season. And she wasn’t done yet. With fellow American Candy Reynolds, she doubled down in doubles and proudly declared to the media that she could play two extra sets, just like the men. The next day, headlines in Montréal and around the world all agreed: Martina ruled women’s tennis.

 

(Feature photo: Bernard Brault)

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