Action Replay: March 8 1986


Originally published on: 26/02/10 14:11

Martina Navratilova, aged 29 and the best female tennis player on the planet, becomes the first tennis player male or female to win more than $10 million in prize money when she claims the US Women’s Indoor Championships in New Jersey.

Her journey to reach this milestone has not been without drama. Just a few days before, having suffered a shock semi-final defeat to American Kathy Jordan in California, she is detained as she attempts to board a flight to the New Jersey tournament. The reason? Security officials find a pistol in her hand luggage.

She explains that she is permitted to carry the weapon under the laws of her adopted home state of Texas. She tells officers that she normally checks the gun into the hold and she is allowed to continue her journey.

Navratilova puts these events behind her and focuses on the US Indoors, held at the Rutgers Athletic Center. She notches up routine wins over Grace Kim, Andrea Holikova and Alycia Moulton before a straight-sets semi-final victory over friend and doubles partner Pam Shriver to book her spot in Saturday’s final against Czechoslovakia’s Helena Sukova.

Deep into the deciding set of the final, Navratilova stands at match point. This time, though, it’s more than just another singles title at stake. One more point and the winner’s cheque of $29,000 that she will collect from the tournament referee (along with a brand new mink coat) will put her name into the history books and her career earnings over the $10 million mark.

Navratilova walks up to the baseline to serve, 6-5 ahead in the final set tie-break. She takes a moment to steady herself and decides she’ll go with her trusty slice out wide to the Sukova backhand.

Navratilova’s delivery is as accurate as ever, clipping the edge of the sideline. Sukova is motionless. In her mind the serve is out. She doesn’t even attempt a return as she lets the ball fizz past her, expecting a call from the linesman. But the official remains silent and Sukova’s misjudgement has cost her the match.

I felt half of the ball was out but half caught the line, Navratilova offers afterwards. I thought she would have gone for it. She knew I’d be serving to her backhand.

Martina Navratilova has won her fourth US Indoors title with a 3-6, 6-0, 7-6(5) victory to take her on-court earnings to $10,006,424.

What happened next…

  • A few weeks later Martina loses to Chris Evert in the final of the French Open, but goes on to win her seventh Wimbledon crown and her third US Open trophy to end 1986 with 15 grand slam singles titles to her name.
  • From 1973 to 1982 Martina is no lower than No.4 in the world rankings.
  • In 1982 Martina becomes the first tennis player to earn more than $1 million in a single season when she pockets $1,475,055 for the year.
  • In a near-perfect season in 1984, Martina records the longest winning streak in tennis history. She wins 13 out of 15 tournaments and ends the year with a win-loss record of 78-2.
  • The same year she and Pam Shriver become only the second ever pair to record a doubles grand slam, winning all four major titles in the same calendar year.
  • During 1985, 1986 and 1987, she reaches the final of all 11 majors (the Australian Open is not held in 1986).
  • In 1994 she becomes the first player to pass the $20 million prize money mark and in the same year decides to retire. She changes her mind six years later and returns to the tour in 2000.
  • In September 2006, just short of her 50th birthday, Martina wins her 59th grand slam title when she and American Bob Bryan claim the US Open mixed doubles trophy. Finally, it is Martina’s last match as a tennis professional.
  • Martina has won 18 grand slam singles titles, 31 grand slam doubles titles and 10 grand slam mixed titles. She has amassed $21,626,089 in prize money.
  • She has reached the Wimbledon singles final 12 times, winning a record nine times, and her mind-boggling tally of 167 singles titles and 177 doubles titles is an Open era record.
  • In 2006 Billie Jean King, who, like Navratilova, has 20 Wimbledon singles and doubles titles to her name, needs only one sentence to sum up her peer’s achievements. “She’s the greatest singles, doubles and mixed doubles player who’s ever lived.”
  • In January 2008 Lindsay Davenport becomes the highest earner of all time in women’s tennis when she wins her first round match at the Australian Open. The victory puts her career prizemoney at $21,897,501, surpassing Steffi Graf by $2,224.


Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.