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When she walked onto the court to face Helena Sukova in the 1984 Australian Open semifinals, Martina Navratilova was as close to unbeatable as anyone has ever been in the Open Era.
Navratilova had won 74 consecutive matches, still an Open Era record by a wide margin, and had won the last six Grand Slam titles. She was No. 1 in the computer rankings, well ahead of No. 2 Chris Evert, and the gap between Evert and the No. 3 player was even greater.
The 1984 Australian Open was the last Grand Slam event of the year at that time, and Navratilova needed that title to complete a single-year Grand Slam. And it was played on grass, Navratilova's best surface.
It was also the best surface for Sukova, but she was just 19 years old and was only seeded No. 9. She had lost to Yvonne Vermaak in her opening match of her prior tournament in Sydney on grass, and she had lost all three of her previous matches against Navratilova by scores of 6-2, 6-1 and 6-2, 6-1 and 6-3, 6-3.
It looked like it would be more of the same when Navratilova won the first set of the Australian Open semifinals 6-1. Sukova then began playing brilliantly, winning the second set and racing to a 3-0 lead in the third.
At that point it seemed the magnitude of the moment would doom Sukova. Navratilova fought back to tie the set at 4-4 and fought off five match points against her in the 12th game. However, Sukova persevered and finished off the 1-6, 6-3, 7-5, upset on her sixth match-point opportunity.
That loss, on Dec. 6, 1984, was Navratilova's first defeat since her loss to Hana Mandlikova on Jan. 15, 1984. In between, Navratilova beat Evert six times. Navratilova went 128-1 from the 1983 French Open to the 1984 Australian Open.
That is why losing to a 19-year-old who was seeded No. 9 was so stunning.