Most players work their whole life for the chance to compete in one US Open, but Martina Navratilova has played in nearly three full decades worth of them.
Navratilova first competed at the US Open under then-Czechoslovakia in 1973 and played her final Grand Slam here as an American in 2006. Over the course of her 29 appearances in New York, she won four singles titles (1983-84, 87-88), nine women’s doubles titles (1977-78, 80, 83-84, 86-87, 89-90) and three mixed doubles titles (1985, 87, 2006).
Navratilova made 21 consecutive singles appearances at the US Open from 1973 to 1993, followed by a doubles-only appearance in 1995 and then seven consecutive trips as a doubles specialist from 2000 to 2006. She is one of a select few players to have competed in the US Open when it was contested on grass, clay and hard courts.
Navratilova has even won US Open titles on two different surfaces. Her first women’s doubles title came in 1977 on the clay courts of the West Side Tennis Club, the last year before the tournament was moved to the hard courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
But it was her 59th and final Grand Slam trophy that may have been the most symbolic testament to her staying power. Just a month shy of her 50th birthday, Navratilova ended her pro career under the lights in Arthur Ashe Stadium by winning the 2006 US Open mixed doubles title with fellow American Bob Bryan. Even more remarkable was that she lifted the mixed doubles crown 21 years after doing so for the first time.
"You can do great things regardless of your age if you just believe and go for it," she said afterward. "Don't get limited by people that say, 'No, you can't do that because you're too old or because you're heavy or you're not an athlete.' Whatever your limitations might be, don't let them define you. I didn't let it define me."