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Martina Navratilova Takes on Cancer with Same Spirit She Does Tennis, Life

LONDON - JUNE 28:  Martina Navratilova watches the action on Centre Court on day six of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Championships at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club on June 28, 2008 in London, England.  (Photo by Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)
Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
David BurnettCorrespondent IJanuary 3, 2017

Martina Navratilova is one of my all-time sports favorites.

Her courage to come out as a lesbian years ago, when she could have stayed in the closet, literally cost her millions of dollars.

Still, she didn’t flinch in speaking out about who she was and in support of others who didn’t have the same platform and influence that she did.

As a tennis player, she was not just good, but to my eyes the best I ever saw. The whippings she administered on her opponents were memorable and needed.

She won more tennis matches than any woman or man ever. In all she earned 167 singles titles, 177 doubles titles, 18 Grand Slam singles titles, and 31 Grand Slam doubles titles.

Female tennis players had to up their game just to be sure they were not embarrassed...including Martina’s archrival Chris Evert. Tennis was made better because of her athleticism and commitment. As a sports figure she truly had no peer. She played to win every time, and when she did lose, you knew it was not because she didn’t give her all.

As a human being, there have been few as outspoken and intelligent as Martina. She is simultaneously thoughtful and defiant. She didn’t only stand up for gay rights, but for human rights as well.

When she had something to say, she never ran it through a corporate filter or stuck her finger in the air to gauge public sentiment. She always told it like it was. She continues to tell it like it is. She talks and takes issue, when most other well-paid athletes and legends stay quiet and “corporately correct.”

On Wednesday, Martina once again told it like it was. She announced she has breast cancer. She also owned up to not having had a breast examination for nearly four years; had she done so, she said, she might have caught her cancer earlier. As usual she took responsibility for her actions and her words. She made the announcement on Good Morning America.

I’m rooting for Martina like I always have. I want her to continue to live with courage, dignity, and responsible outspokenness.

Get well, Martina. You can and will beat cancer like you have beaten everything else.

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