AP Was There: Navratilova tops Evert for 1st Slam title

FILE - In this July 7, 1978, file photo, tennis star Martina Navratilova holds up her trophy after defeating Chris Evert in the women's singles final at Wimbledon. (AP Photo/File)
FILE - In this July 7, 1978, file photo, tennis star Martina Navratilova holds up her trophy after defeating Chris Evert in the women's singles final at Wimbledon. (AP Photo/File) (AP1978)

EDITOR’S NOTE — Tennis history is filled with wonderful rivalries, and so many are remembered because of matchups in Wimbledon finals. The AP is republishing stories about a handful of such matches while the canceled grass-court Grand Slam tournament was supposed to be played. One memorable tennis rivalry featured Martina Navritlova against Chris Evert. They met an Open era-record 80 times and each won 18 Grand Slam singles titles. The following story, about their first meeting in a Wimbledon final, was sent July 7, 1978.

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By GEOFFREY MILLER

AP Sports Writer

Stateless Martina Navratilova, who left her Communist homeland to play tennis in the west, fulfilled her highest ambition Friday by defeating Chris Evert 2-6, 6-4, 7-5 for the singles championship at Wimbledon.

The Czech left-hander — “I shall always be Czech, no matter,” she said — came from behind in the final set to win one of the closest Wimbledon women’s finals since World War II.

The tennis was not the greatest ever seen on center court, and in the end, the match was decided by errors. But the duel swung back and forth and kept the 14,000 fans in doubt until the last shot.

They could be in store for another see-saw battle Saturday when defending champion Bjorn Borg takes on Jimmy Connors in the men’s final. The Swede crushed the American last year but only after fighting through five grueling sets.