Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert Had the Best Rivalry in Tennis — Here's When It Began

An inspiration both on the court and off, Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert went from fierce rivals to great friends.

Brandon Charles - Author

Feb. 29 2024, Published 12:13 p.m. ET

Martina Navratilova, Serena Williams, Chris Evert 2014 US Open
Source: Getty

Bird vs. Magic is the greatest NBA rivalry. Frazier vs. Ali is the greatest boxing rivalry. Palmer vs. Nicklaus is the greatest golf rivalry. And Navratilova vs. Evert is the greatest tennis rivalry.

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Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert faced each other 80 times from 1973 to 1988. 60 of those matches were finals. At an all time head-to-read record of 43 to 37, Martina over Chris, it’s the most captivating and longest running tennis rivalry.

Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova 1986 French Open
Source: Getty

Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova playing in the 1986 French Open

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Chris was originally ahead in the best rivalry in tennis.

The rivalry officially began in 1973. Chris was ahead in the first six years, until 1978. Martina took over in 1979 and never looked back. Some of their most famous matchups are the 1978 Wimbledon final, 1981 Australian Open final, 1982 Australian Open final, 1984 US Open final, and 1985 French Open final. All of the matches are available on YouTube.

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Since stepping away from the courts, at least professionally (1989 for Chris and 2006 for Martina), the two have often spoken out on issues related to tennis and helped support each other in cancer battles.

From rivals to friends, Maria and Chris are forever tied together.

In July 2023 The Washington Post published an extensive profile on the former rival and their 50 year friendship, "Bitter rivals. Beloved friends. Survivors." The piece documents the parallels between their lives, becoming neighbors in multiple states, Martina delivering eggs to Chris and both going into tennis broadcasting. All was great until both received cancer diagnoses in 2022.

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Martina is now cancer free, but unfortunately, in December 2023, Chris announced that she’s been diagnosed with ovarian cancer for a second time. Once again, her friend is standing by her side.

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A new documentary about Martina and Chris is in the works.

On Sep. 26, 2023 Deadline announced a documentary was in the works about the athletes. “EverWonder Studio is teaming with John Skipper’s Meadowlark Media on its first project, a feature-length documentary examining the dynamic relationship between tennis legends Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova, which it will finance and co-produce.”

In the announcement both participants commented on what they hope the film achieves. “I’m looking forward to sharing our story with global audiences – not just with tennis fans, but with anyone who appreciates an inspirational journey through rivalry and to mutual respect and friendship,” said Chris

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“This film has been decades in the making, and EverWonder and Meadowlark are the right studios to finally take it from a concept to a reality. It was important to us to work with storytellers who will honor the true power of our lives and careers together and tell our story in the right way,” said Martina.

Based on how often the two are in the news, on Jan. 25, 2024 the AP published, “Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova urge women’s tennis to stay out of Saudi Arabia,” the documentary about the two could easily turn into a regular docuseries.

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