Martina weeps over regime cruelty
Published 08/07/2012 | 00:12
Martina Navratilova broke down in tears as she described her "regret" that her parents missed her first Wimbledon win and described how the Duchess of Kent later helped her mother cross the Iron Curtain to see her claim another title.
The legendary tennis player, who won the Wimbledon women's singles nine times including that first win in 1978, wept as she told Desert Island Discs host Kirsty Young her parents were not allowed to leave Communist-controlled Czechoslovakia.
Navratilova, who defected to the United States as a teenager, said she would "never forgive" the Communists for destroying "so many lives".
She said: "My family couldn't be with me because I'd defected in '75 and my family couldn't travel to me.
"I could travel to them but I would never get out again so that was not an option and at the time I didn't even know if my parents were able to see it on TV, as it turned out they did watch it on German TV.
"They drove to the German border in Pilsen in west Czech Republic and ended up watching it on TV because the regular Czech TV wouldn't show it because I was a persona non grata in those days and then I spoke to them on the phone maybe a couple of hours later."
Choking back tears, she said: "They were thrilled, it was very emotional and sad you know because I regret ... when I see Petra Kvitova was playing on Tuesday, Petra's parents were watching her from the Royal Box you know ... and I never had that ..."
She told Young her mother came to see her win the next year after the Duchess of Kent intervened.
She said: "My mum came in '79. The Duchess of Kent actually intervened because she read the story how in '78 when I won I couldn't be with my family so she apparently implored the Czech government to let my parents out and they made a concession and they let my mother out for Wimbledon."