TIME celebrities

Tennis Great Martina Navratilova Marries Longtime Love Julia Lemigova

Martina Navratilova and Julia Lemigova celebrate their engagement during day 13 of the 2014 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Sept. 6, 2014 in New York.
Uri Schanker—GC/Getty Images Martina Navratilova and Julia Lemigova celebrate their engagement during day 13 of the 2014 US Open at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Sept. 6, 2014 in New York.

Martina Navratilova and her longtime partner Julia Lemigova were married in New York City on Monday, the couple confirmed to the BBC.

Speaking to the news service shortly after the ceremony, Lemigova admitted she was “overwhelmed,” while Navratilova said her new status felt “just really odd.”

“I’m 58 years old, I got married for the first time – it’s about time, right?” said Navratilova, who began dating Lemigova in 2006. “Growing up as a gay woman you just don’t ever think about that, and then I thought, about 10 years ago, ‘You know, I think within 10 years gay marriage will be legal.’ And here we are, 10 years later, making it legal.”

Navratilova proposed during the U.S. Open last September, in a moment that was telecast on the Jumbotron at New York’s Arthur Ashe stadium.

The tennis legend was being interviewed in the Tennis Channel suite when she turned to Lemigova and said she would be asking the questions this time. Navratilova got down on one knee and offered her a diamond-studded ring.

“Originally it wasn’t the idea to do it at the U.S. Open, on the Jumbotron and all that, but then it was, ‘Why not? I’ve seen it in movies!’ ” Navratilova told PEOPLE afterward. “And it all came off, everything worked out perfectly!”

“I was so overwhelmed and completely surprised,” Lemigova told the BBC.

TIME tennis

Back Injury Forces Roger Federer Out of ATP World Tour Final Match

Roger Federer looks up during his singles ATP World Tour Finals semifinal tennis match against Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka at the O2 Arena in London on Nov. 15, 2014.
Tim Ireland—AP Roger Federer looks up during his singles ATP World Tour Finals semifinal tennis match against Switzerland’s Stan Wawrinka at the O2 Arena in London on Nov. 15, 2014.

Novak Djokovic has now won his third consecutive title, the first player to do so since Ivan Lendl did from 1985-87

Novak Djokovic won his third consecutive ATP World Tour title after Roger Federer dropped out before the finals because of a back injury.

33-year-old Federer, who who has won the tournament six times, confirmed his exit after the doubles presentation ceremony on Sunday, the BBC reports.

“I tried everything I could last night and today — painkillers, rest — until the very end, but I can’t compete at this level with Novak,” he said at the O2 Arena. “In a final like this and at my age, it would be too risky. I hope you understand.”

On Saturday Federer defeated Stan Wawrinka in the semifinal match, though he began showing signs of the injury toward the end. He later did not show up for a scheduled Sunday practice.


TIME tennis

Serena Williams Blasts Official’s ‘Sexist’ and ‘Racist’ Remarks

ROSLAN RAHMAN—AFP/Getty Images World number one Serena Williams of the US attends a press conference ahead of the Women's Tennis Association (WTA) championships in Singapore on October 19, 2014. World number one Serena Williams lashed out at "sexist" and racist" comments from the head of Russian tennis October 19 after he jokingly called her and her sister Venus the "Williams brothers". AFP PHOTO / ROSLAN RAHMAN (Photo credit should read ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Russian Tennis Federation head Shamil Tarpischev called the Williams sisters the "Williams brothers" and added "it's scary when you really look at them"

Tennis star Serena Williams commended the Women’s Tennis Association for disciplining the head of the Russian Tennis Federation for his “sexist as well as racist” remarks on a Russian television program.

The WTA suspended Shamil Tarpischev for a year and fined him $25,000 after he referred to Williams and her sister, fellow tennis champion Venus Williams, as the “Williams brothers” and said “it’s scary when you really look at them,” the Washington Post reports.

“I think the WTA did a great job of taking initiative and taking immediate action to his comments,” Williams said in Singapore on Sunday at the WTA Tour Finals. “I thought they were very insensitive and extremely sexist as well as racist at the same time. I thought they were in a way bullying. ”

Tarpischev, who is a member of the International Olympic Committee, said the comments were a “joke” in a statement.

“I didn’t want to offend any athlete with my words,” he said. “I regret that this joke has garnered so much attention. I don’t think this incident deserves so much fuss.”

[Washington Post]

TIME tennis

Li Na, China’s Tennis Superstar, Announces Her Retirement

Li Na of China reacts after defeating Paula Kania of Poland in their women's singles tennis match at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, in London
Stefan Wermuth—Reuters Li Na of China reacts after defeating Paula Kania of Poland in their women's singles tennis match at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, in London June 23, 2014.

"As hard as it’s been to come to this decision, I am at peace with it," Li said. "I have no regrets."

Li Na, the Chinese sporting superstar credited with buoying the prestige of Asian tennis to Grand Slam heights, announced her retirement on Friday, citing long-term and worsening knee injuries.

“Representing China on the tennis court was an extraordinary privilege and a true honor,” wrote Li in a letter to fans posted to Facebook.

But, she said, “my body is begging me to stop the pounding.”

“As hard as I tried to get back to being 100%, my body kept telling me that, at 32, I will not be able to compete at the top level ever again,” said Li, who has had four knee surgeries. “The sport is just too competitive, too good, to not be 100%.”

Li, who was recently profiled in a TIME cover article, has had a complicated relationship with her home nation, winning superstar fame as a rebellious, free spirit, and putting Chinese state-controlled media in the nebulous position of both applauding her accomplishments and castigating her for “unbridled willfulness.”

“The tennis star is more than a global sports icon — she inspires millions of Chinese as a symbol of independence and freedom,” wrote TIME’s Hannah Beech this spring.

In 2011, Li won the French Open to become the first Asian to win a Grand Slam singles title, and she went on to claim another Grand Slim title at the Australian Open this January. At the height of her career, she was ranked world No. 2, behind Serena Williams.

Meanwhile, the number of women’s tennis events in China has over the past decade gone up from two to 10, Li said in her post.

“I’ve seen change happening in front of my eyes, young girls picking up tennis racquets, setting goals, following their hearts and believing in themselves,” she said.

TIME Scotland

Tennis Champ Andy Murray is Backing Scottish Independence

Britain Scotland Celebrities
Sang Tan—AP In this Friday, June 27, 2014, file photo, Andy Murray of Britain gestures between points as he plays Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain in their men's singles match at the All England Lawn Tennis Championships in Wimbledon.

As polling opens, Murray uses Twitter to urge a Yes vote

Game, set and match to Scottish independence? Hours before polling stations opened in Scotland this morning, Scottish tennis star Andy Murray finally revealed his support for the Yes campaign, saying that the negative campaign tactics of the No camp had swung his views. “Huge day for Scotland today!” he tweeted to 2.71 million followers.

For much of the referendum campaign, the pro-union Better Together camp has been guilty of complacency, assuming that its hefty poll lead was solid. In the final weeks ahead of the vote, as the polls narrowed to within touching distance and then narrowed again, that complacency has turned to panic. The panic has revealed how little the No campaign understands about why it has lost ground.

In order to try to shore up support for the union, Better Together dispatched the very people that have helped push voters into the Yes camp—politicians from the U.K. parliament in Westminster—to trot out exactly the arguments that, if polls are right, have failed to convince at least half of Scotland.

So Scottish voters have been treated to a visit from Prime Minister David Cameron, who came close to tears in begging for them to preserve the union. (Inevitably voices in the Yes camp suggested he was crying because there will be calls for his resignation if Scotland goes.)

Cameron’s predecessor, Gordon Brown, a Scot, was also wheeled out to make a last-minute plea for unity. And the Labour Party leader, Ed Miliband, was forced to abandon a campaigning stroll in Edinburgh amid heckling, though not before he “made an ill-judged stop in front of a Supercuts hair salon, which prompted a cry of: ‘Supercuts, that’s what you get from the Westminster government’,” as the Daily Telegraph reported.

To be fair, the No campaign has always been at a disadvantage. Its leaders just didn’t understand that fact. All they had on their side was sober-sided logic and the law of unintended consequences that states an independent Scotland won’t be anything like the utopia its proponents suggest.

Supporters of independence have so much more than that: positivity—they get to vote Yes, not No—and romance, excitement, the shimmering chimera of something beautiful and self-created, plus some really powerful heroes. The most potent champion of the union is not even Scottish: it’s the English author J.K. Rowling, who is a longtime Scottish resident, and whose intervention earned her some trolling by so-called “cybernats” (technologically enabled, if emotionally restricted, Scottish nationalists).

The Yes campaign, by contrast, has been able to summon up a whole range of Scottish figures in its support, from the heavily mythologized “Braveheart” William Wallace and Robert the Bruce to the best-ever James Bond and a Hollywood actor who probably should have been James Bond.

Andy Murray—Olympic tennis gold medallist 2012, Wimbledon winner 2013—may not only be the last famous Scot to come out for independence, but the one with the greatest power to sway wavering voters, partly because, as his tweet made clear, he too wavered before deciding how he would vote if he could. (He isn’t a Scottish resident so doesn’t have a ballot.)

Murray also perfectly encapsulates the relationship between Scotland and the rest of the U.K. that is to be tested today. He didn’t like it when the Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond tried to use his Wimbledon victory to further the cause of independence, but he may have liked his coverage by the London-based British media even less. For years, these news organizations gave him a hard time for being, in their terms, too Scottish: undemonstrative, occasionally dour. Then he started winning and the same media tried to colonize him.

Now he may have delivered an ace.

TIME tennis

Who Is Kei Nishikori?

Kei Nishikori is Japan's newest super star, sky-rocketing to fame seemingly overnight, after beating Novak Djokovic and advancing to the U.S. Open Men's Finals


Remembering Fred Perry’s Reign of Dominance at the U.S. Open

Fred Perry: Sept. 3, 1934
Keystone / TIME Fred Perry on the Sept. 3, 1934, cover of TIME

The English star won three U.S. Open championships in four years to cement his status amongst tennis' all-time greats

In 2012, Andy Murray became just the third British man in history to win the U.S. Open title. The first was Lawrence Doherty in 1903. Neither repeated as champion and neither was the greatest British tennis player of all time. That distinction belongs to Fred Perry, who captured the U.S. championship three times in four years (1933, 1934 and 1936) to go along with three Wimbledon titles and one each at the Australian and French Opens. Each British star to gain some degree of prominence in that last 80 years has lived in his shadow — one that somehow seems to grow with each successive year.

But in 1933, Perry was no legend. When the 24-year-old arrived in Forest Hills, N.Y. — then the site of the National Singles Championship, as the event now called the U.S. Open was known until the 1960s — he had no Grand Slam titles to his name. He was simply trying to do what no British man had done in 30 years: win a U.S. title. He had come close in previous years, reaching the fourth round twice and the semifinals once, but had yet to make so much as a major final. That changed in September 1933, when he defeated Australian Jack Crawford, who had already completed three legs of the Grand Slam that year. It was no easy task for Perry, who had to come back from being down two sets to one to claim the championship. Here’s how TIME described the action after the third set was completed:

With judicial composure [Crawford] strolled to the marquee where his plump wife was smiling, chatted for ten minutes, while Perry went to change his flannels for ducks that would flap less in the wind. With a crowd to watch him, Perry, like Borotra, gives an impression of being debonair, lighthearted, only incidentally concerned with winning. In reality, even more than most crack players, he is deadly serious about tennis. Determined to win one important championship in 1933, he had trained a whole year for last week’s final.

Perry did win that championship, claiming the final two sets — ensuring that, though Crawford had been the tennis star to make TIME’s cover on the occasion of the 1933 Open, Perry was cover material in 1934. He lost just one more match at Forest Hills (in the 1935 semifinals) over the course of his amateur career. His five-set victory over Don Budge in 1936 was his last major victory before turning pro near the end of that year.

Though a Brit will not be winning this year’s U.S. Open (Murray was eliminated by top-seeded Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals), there’s still ample hope that the finals live up to some of Perry’s more epic matches on America’s grandest tennis stage.

Read TIME’s 1934 cover story about Fred Perry here, in TIME’s archives: Tennists to Forest Hills

TIME tennis

Martina Navratilova Proposes to Her Girlfriend on Big Screen at U.S. Open

2014 US Open Celebrity Sightings - Day 13
Uri Schanker—GC Images/Getty Images Martina Navratilova, right, and Julia Lemigova celebrate their engagement during the 2014 U.S. Open in New York City on Sept. 6, 2014

The tennis icon proposed to her longtime girlfriend, former Russian beauty queen Julia Lemigova, between the two men’s semifinal matches

There were probably few better places for Martina Navratilova to make a major life announcement than the U.S. Open, where she won four singles titles and nine doubles titles during a tennis career still considered one of the best in tennis folklore.

The Czech-American icon proposed to her longtime girlfriend, former Russian beauty queen Julia Lemigova, in a TV suite between the two men’s semifinal matches at Flushing Meadows, in New York City, on Saturday. Their engagement was broadcast on the arena’s big screen as legions of tennis fans cheered the couple on, Australia’s 9news reported.

“I was very nervous. It came off, and she said yes,” Navratilova, who still holds the records for most singles and doubles titles in the Open era, told the Associated Press.

Same-sex marriage is not yet legal in Florida, where the couple resides and hopes to tie the knot, but a judge recently ruled that the state’s ban is unconstitutional. Navratilova and Lemigova, who have been together for six years, said they expect the law will change within a year.

Coincidentally, current world No.1 Serena Williams equaled the Navratilova’s record of 18 Grand Slams when she won the U.S. Open a few hours after the proposal. Williams joins Navratilova and Chris Evert in the record books, and will surpass them if she wins another title.

However, that’s probably the last thing on Navratilova’s mind right now.

TIME tennis

Kei Nishikori Becomes First Asian Male Player to Reach Grand Slam Singles Final

Kei Nishikori became the first Asian male player to reach a Grand Slam singles men’s final Saturday, upsetting number one Novak Djokovic in the U.S. Open semifinals. Nishikori will now go on to play Marin Cilic, who bested crowd favorite Roger Federer at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing, Queens, at the men’s singles final on Monday.

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