How two tennis legends forgot their rivalry and helped to defeat common enemy

Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova were two of the legendary names of women’s tennis. They were rivals destined to be each other’s fiercest adversaries. They hated each other’s guts, skills and stamina. Nothing gave them greater pleasure than to defeat the other.

They first met when they were teenagers. Conflicts began arising as both climbed up the ladder of international tennis together. Each wanted to be the world’s number one player and their rocketing ambitions would not allow anyone to stand in their way. They became bitter rivals, fighting each other tooth and nail for every point.

Over the years, they battled it out in 80 matches. Eventually Martina ended up winning 43 of their contests and Chris won 37. It was not much of a difference considering that the rivalry stretched out over many years and was fought in arenas all across the world.

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Martina diagnosed with cancer

After a glorious career as a top level professional player, Martina hung up her tennis gear in 2006. Hyderabad fans may recollect that in 2005 she took part in the WTA tournament at the tennis courts of the Lal Bahadur stadium. However after leaving the game, on April 7, 2010, she announced that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer.

As soon as the news broke, her one time rival Chris Evert called her. It was a pleasant surprise for Martina to hear from one of her greatest opponents. The words of morale boosting support cheered her up when she badly needed emotional courage. More such conversations followed and a great new friendship developed. During their playing days they had respected each other as great players but now a deep fondness blossomed.

The two started a new journey full of smiles as well as tears and the affection between them grew stronger. After a long period of treatment Martina announced that she was cancer free. But two years ago the complaint cropped up and again she underwent treatment one more time. She revealed recently that she was cancer free for the second time.

Meanwhile, Chris Evert too had been gripped by the same disease and had to face one of the biggest challenges of her life when she was diagnosed with stage one ovarian cancer in 2021. A year before that, her sister had died of the same disease and now it had caught Chris in its deadly grasp. Before telling anyone else about it, she told her greatest rival and now best friend Martina. And the latter was the first to offer advice and emotional support.

After a robotic-assisted surgery on her tumour and six rounds of chemotherapy, Chris too was relieved to hear that she was cancer-free. “The doctors said that there is a 90 percent chance that it will never come back,” said Chris happily. Today the two tennis greats are standing hand in hand and promoting awareness about the fearsome disease and the importance of early detection.

Now the bond is stronger

They were drawn closer together because life gave them a common enemy. They needed each other to battle that overpowering nemesis and eventually, they helped each other to emerge victorious. They have both experienced emotional and physical trauma and this time the duo climbed the summit together as a team. For a change, they battled as a combined force against a common adversary and not against each other. Thanks to that victory, the bond between them now is stronger than it used to be when they were young.

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