Martina Navratilova update delights tennis world after battle with cancer

The tennis icon has returned to work at the Miami Open after beating two forms of cancer.

·4-min read
Martina Navratilova, pictured here with wife Julia Lemigova in 2019.
Martina Navratilova with wife Julia Lemigova in 2019. Image: Getty

Tennis icon Martina Navratilova has returned to work at the Miami Open after revealing she's cancer free. The 66-year-old announced in January that she'd been diagnosed with breast and throat cancer, but revealed on Monday that she's beaten both.

"It's great to be back. Thrilled to be here," Navratilova said on the Tennis Channel on Tuesday. "So happy to be working. How many people can say that?"

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Navratilova told Piers Morgan in an interview on Talk TV on Monday that she's due to undergo further preventative radiation treatment, but after that she should be “be good to go”. A winner of 59 combined grand slam singles and doubles titles, the tennis pioneer said the initial diagnosis left her fearing she “may not see next Christmas”.

“As far as they know I’m cancer free," she said. “I was in a total panic for three days thinking I may not see next Christmas. The bucket list came into my mind of all the things I wanted to do.”

Navratilova didn't appear in her usual TV role during the Australian Open in January, or at Indian Wells earlier this month. "It puts you face-to-face with your mortality, number one, because at the beginning I wasn't sure if it was treatable, so that was hard," she said on Tuesday.

"But once I got into the program, it was a little easier emotionally, but more difficult physically. But I'm still standing."

Navratilova previously underwent treatment for early-stage breast cancer in 2010. She visited the doctor late last year after noticing an enlarged lymph node in her neck, and tests then confirmed the cancer.

“This was the first week in December. (I’m thinking) I will see this Christmas but maybe not the next one," she admitted.

“I knew it was going to be hard but I didn’t realise it was going to be as hard as it really was. I love to eat and eating was the hardest part of this whole treatment. I lost 15 pounds, not because I wanted to, but because I just couldn’t get enough food in my body.

“The radiation affects your throat and mouth which start closing up. I couldn’t even yawn or sneeze. And I only had three weeks of the proton therapy when the normal course is seven weeks."

Martina Navratilova, pictured here with Veronika Kudermetova and Elise Mertens at the WTA Finals in 2022.
Martina Navratilova with Veronika Kudermetova and Elise Mertens at the WTA Finals in 2022. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Tennis world reacts to amazing news about Martin Navratilova

At the time of her diagnosis, Navratilova said she wasn't "done yet", adding: "I'm hoping for a favourable outcome. It's going to stink for a while but I'll fight with all I have got."

The Czech-American's representative said the prognosis was "good" and that Navratilova had "great outcomes" because they'd caught the cancer early.

Navratilova won 18 grand slam singles titles, including a whopping nine at Wimbledon. She also won 41 doubles majors and is widely regarded as one of the greatest female players of all time.

The top grand slam winners in the Open Era of tennis, pictured here in an infographic.
The top grand slam winners in the Open Era of tennis (since 1968). (Photo by Mahmut Resul Karaca/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

She originally retired in 1994 with a record 167 singles titles and 331 weeks spent at World No.1. She returned to the tour to play doubles in 2000 and occasionally competed in singles as well.

Navratilova was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 2000. She has worked as a TV analyst and commentator for a number of years.

The news that she has beaten cancer again sparked a flood of reactions from tennis commentators and fans, with many hailing the development as 'amazing' and 'wonderful'.

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