Martina Navratilova — record-setting tennis player, communist defector, author, and activist — will join Tyler Cowen at George Mason University’s Arlington campus for a wide-ranging dialogue as part of the Mercatus Center’s Conversations with Tyler series. The conversation is free of charge and open to the public.
Born in Prague, Martina Navratilova began playing tennis at 7 years old and won her first singles title in Orlando, Florida, 10 years later.
As her tennis career ramped up outside the borders of Czechoslovakia, officials in her native country began pressuring her to “behave,” warning her that she would not be granted travel visas if she continued fraternizing with tennis players from other countries or becoming too “Americanized.”
Navratilova, a teenager at the time, began to feel a threat to her tennis aspirations and took the most courageous action of her career. At the age of 18, she defected to the United States, leaving behind her family and native country to pursue her dreams.
Navratilova’s sacrifice paid off. Despite backlash from being one of the first professional athletes to come out as gay, she won the Wimbledon women’s singles title a record nine times.
In all, Navratilova has won 18 Grand Slam singles titles, 31 Grand Slam women’s doubles titles (an all-time record) and 10 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles; in total, she has won 59 Grand Slam titles. She continues to play at all the Grand Slams where she takes part in the legends doubles.
A dedicated activist, Navratilova believes that speaking out about political and social issues is a way to give back to the country that gave her so much. While she has involved herself with many charities and causes, she has been especially outspoken about issues that hit closest to home: communism and gay rights.
Navratilova’s activism and depth of thinking make her a prime candidate for the Conversations with Tyler series, which featured basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 2016.
In the series, George Mason economist Tyler Cowen talks to some of today’s most underrated thinkers about everything and anything. More recent guests include Malcolm Gladwell, Larry Summers, and Atul Gawande.