Although the Season 5 shooting of the "The Real Housewives of Miami" ended back in June and professional tennis has been in its fallow period (for another couple days), Martina Navratilova’s life is incessantly, well, lively. She and her wife, Julia Lemigova, one of the Housewives’ co-stars, have a lot going on.
As it turns out, the popular Bravo series has opened up a whole new fan base for Navratilova.
“I am recognized by people who watch the show, rather than by who I was beforehand, so that’s pretty funny,” she said, laughing.
Still, at the age of 66, Navratilova remains one of the most astute tennis analysts around. Recently, she found some time to address a handful of looming questions heading into the Hologic WTA Tour’s 2023 season, which starts this week at the United Cup in Australia. Her enthusiasm remains blessedly unabated.
Here is Navratilova’s first take of the new year on the WTA’s current top-five ranked players:
Iga Swiatek is defending a ton of points in the coming season. Do you see her retaining the No.1 ranking for the entire year?
Navratilova: I do, I do. I don’t see anybody knocking her off -- because she’s so consistent. She wins majors -- and she’s consistent. Usually, it’s one or the other. She’s got them both going on at the same time. I think to see if she’s making any changes, adding to her game again. This past year, she made more forays to the net, and it made a big difference.
It seems that’s becoming a trend, no?
Navratilova: I think you will see more players coming forward -- Maria Sakkari also does that with her quickness and she puts those volleys away so easily. Barbora Krejcikova, with her doubles, is a good volleyer. They definitely need to get more aggressive with their positioning. Because the women move so well on the baseline and you have to play lights-out tennis to win. You don’t need to play lights-out if you move forward more.
After a career-best year, how do you see No.2 Ons Jabeur’s season going?
Navratilova: She reached the final at both Wimbledon and the US Open. With so many people looking up to her, this takes a lot of effort to handle that pressure. She has good energy and the variety to frustrate her opponents. But now she needs to take that next step and come up big during the most pressure moments. If she can do that, Jabeur is someone who has the overall game and mindset to disrupt Swiatek’s dominance.
Jessica Pegula finished 2022 at No.3. She’s reached the quarterfinals at four of the past five majors. Do you see her taking the next during the biggest moments?
Navratilova: She needs to find a bigger weapon. Maybe the serve, work on that. She has to work so hard to win those points. Often times, it takes her longer to hold serve than her opponent. And it’s cumulative, right? It might not bother you in this match, but it might in the next. Overall, just winning points easier saves energy in the long term. I would concentrate on more variety on the second serve and a little more power on the first serve. That’s where she could make the greatest improvement.
How do you see WTA Finals Fort Worth winner and current No.4 Caroline Garcia’s 2023 season going?
Navratilova: Terrific end to the year for a player who has all the shots in the book. She wants it, though. She’s now believing she can do it. She’s one of the very best athletes out there, on par with Swiatek and Sakkari, Sabalenka and Coco Gauff. The obvious thing is that Garcia can’t fall off the map like she did before this past season. As we saw in the WTA Finals, when her game is on, she’s very hard to beat.
So excited to represent my country 🇫🇷 with my teammates for the @UnitedCupTennis in Perth !— Caroline Garcia (@CaroGarcia) December 25, 2022
Head to the @UnitedCupTennis page to gets your tickets 🎟️ See you there 🤗🐨🦘🎾
See you soon 🤗#flywithcaro
@Westernaustrali #WATheDreamState pic.twitter.com/J3hAoZQqRG
Aryna Sabalenka had her shares of ups and downs but is still No.5 in the rankings. How do you see her trending this coming season?
Sabalenka should take this past year as a plus overall. I think she’ll be a force. I wouldn’t put it past her to win a major because she seems to be more focused and mentally is making good progress. On a given day, maybe, but consistency-wise I don’t see anyone challenging Iga.
Coco Gauff’s year-end ranking has progressed consistently over the past five years -- 2018 (No.875), 2019 (No.68), 2020 (No.48), 2021 (No.22), 2022 (No.7). Do you see another leap for the 18-year-old?
Navratilova: Her serve has gotten better. Getting to the finals of the French, I think she has the best game for all surfaces. So with her, just get some clarity on that forehand and she’s home free. She could make another jump. I’d put more money on her to one day take over the No.1 spot than anyone else.
After winning one Grand Slam singles title for four years in a row, Naomi Osaka went 2-3 in the three majors she played in 2023. What’s ahead for the No.42-ranked player?
Navratilova: She’s a very unique case, in every way. So maybe you need to deal with it uniquely. Maybe she doesn’t have to play all those matches, but she certainly has to play more than she has played. With her, it seems to be the forces outside tennis are affecting her more than anything else. It’s baked in. How she’s set up her life with all those outside interests and influences and demands on her time greater than anybody else. If her priority is tennis, then step back a little bit. You don’t have to do it all. It has to suck your energy away from tennis. I’m all for broadening your horizons -- I was never a one-trick pony -- but tennis came first. It doesn’t mean training harder, necessarily, but maybe sometimes doing nothing at all. Put your feet up or go to the beach.
Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova won all three of the major doubles tournaments in which they played and made the final of the WTA Finals, losing to Elise Mertens and Veronika Kudermetova. Can you see a different team that could dominate doubles this coming year?
Navratilova: As long as Krejcikova plays enough doubles, they are the best team. They know best how to play doubles. They’re actually two good singles players who play doubles. Mertens and Kudermetova would be the closest to them -- and it’s not a coincidence that they are both strong singles players as well. Those two teams are head and shoulders above everybody else. It’s not even close. The rest are generally doubles specialists. Barbora might curtail her doubles play, but not at the majors where you have the energy for it, a day off in between singles matches. It can only help her. For her, it’s finding the balance of playing enough doubles, but not too much.