Martina Navrátilová regains Czech citizenship

Martina Navrátilová, photo: Michal Pohorelsky, CC BY 3.0 Unported

One of the world’s most successful tennis stars, Martina Navrátilová, is again a Czech citizen after more than 30 years. The nine-times Wimbledon champion made the announcement to journalists in Tokyo on Tuesday, but stressed that the move would have no effect on her status as an American national, nor was her decision politically motivated, as many had speculated.

Martina Navrátilová,  photo: Michal Pohorelsky,  CC BY 3.0 Unported
Martina Navrátilová, perhaps the biggest legend in women’s tennis, is again a Czech citizen after 33 years. She broke the news to journalists in Japan on Tuesday, adding that she had no plans to give up her American citizenship, which she was granted back in 1981. But, there has been widespread speculation that Ms Navrátilová’s decision to take back Czech nationality is linked with her disdain for the administration of American president George Bush and its decision to go to war in Iraq in particular.

Navrátilová originally applied to regain Czech citizenship five years ago. Last autumn she complained about the time that the process was taking, and about the fact that the Czech authorities had lost her documents. In fact, the Prague-born tennis legend regained her Czech citizenship on January 9 this year, but only made the announcement on Tuesday.

Martina Navrátilová was only 18 when she left her homeland. She defected because, she said, the communist authorities were putting pressure upon her not to play in the United States, where the majority of big tennis tournaments were held.

In the course of her career, which spanned over three decades, Navrátilová went on to win some 59 Grand Slam titles, making her one of the most successful tennis players ever. Following on from one of the final matches of her career, at Prague’s Štvanice arena in 2006, she told Radio Prague how it felt to be playing back on Czech soil, after years of exile:

“I just feel it’s a shame that there weren’t more opportunities for me to play in front of my home crowd. You know, most of my life, I’ve been playing in front of a crowd which was rooting for the other guy, because I was number one. So, I’ve never felt at home. Even playing in the States, they really started cheering me on only at the end of my career. And now I get the crowd on my side nearly everywhere that I go. But it would have been nice to have been able to play here more.”

Navrátilová insists that she is not thinking about leaving the United States – but the Czech Republic can expect to see more of her soon. She is planning to open a tennis academy for young players in this country in the near future.