Kolkata, Nov 25 (IANS) Eighteen-time Grand Slam winner and former World No.1 Martina Navratilova on Wednesday said she regretted having had to leave her country to pursue her dream of playing tennis — a game she still loves. Navratilova was born in then Czechoslovakia, and later moved to the United States to play tennis at around 18 years of age. She went on to become one of the most successful tennis players ever.

“I regret that I had to leave my country. I had to do it to achieve and to be free and decide my own fate. Democracy came 15 years too late for me. The Czech Republic is a great country, always was, but I just think it had the wrong regime. And then I did not have a coach. I was completely on my own for six years, I could not possibly create a coach where I lived,” Navratilova told media persons after the Tennis Masters event.

The 59-year-old was a little slow to react on the court but executed some delightful shots which brought cheers from the handful of spectators at the Netaji Indoor stadium. Asked why she was still so much into the game at this age, Navratilova said: “It is because of the love for the sport. I am still having fun and most of all I am healthy. I have had a few operations which includes my knee, hip and shoulders but I was doing just fine. We still have two more games to go (Hyderabad and Delhi) and hopefully I will get better.”

The tennis legend also said she had no intention of getting into full-time coaching as she was enjoying family time. “No (not interested in full time coaching), presently I am enjoying family time. I am doing a lot of commentary, addressing LGBT issues and I have a lot on the platter right now. But yes, later on, I would try and pass down the knowledge,” she said.

 

She also spoke fondly of Leander Paes, the city boy with whom she won a mixed doubles title, and said winning the first Wimbledon in 1978 was indeed special. “The first Wimbledon win and the last mixed doubles triumph was special. I also won a mixed doubles title with Leander which I fondly remember,” said the nine-time Wimbledon champion. Turning to the match, Navratilova expressed her frustration over not managing to reach out to some balls due to fitness issues. “I was the most frustrated on the court, because I wanted to reach some balls, but couldn’t.”

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