You'd like Martina Navratilova, although she does suffer the character defect of having lived in Dallas long enough to think the Cowboys are heaven's idea of a football team. "Everything's Redskins here," she said the other day, sweeping her right hand from horizon to horizon. "You open the paper and there's Moseley and Gibbs and Theismann." Her brown eyes, ever the imp's, grew wide when, under questioning, she allowed that, yes, darn it, the Redskins are No. 1.
"For now," she added, whispering it.
Louder: "The only good team they had to play, they lost to, right?"
You'd like Martina Navratilova, who knows the Cowboys beat the Redskins this season (some things are inexplicable).
Laughter: "Don't quote me on that."
Whether or not Martina Navratilova wins her 10 zillionth tournament in the Virginia Slims shindig, the Redskins ought to know this: they are okay, as far as football goes, but when it comes to having the whole world a notch below you, the best show in town is Martina Navratilova, whose talent is as big as her heart, which is saying something.
She's 25, six years past her defection from Czechoslovakia, three times a winner of Wimbledon, now No. 1 in women's tennis. She earned more than $2 million in 1982. She won 11 of her 12 tournaments until the U.S. Open, where, sick, she lost to Pam Shriver. Four more victories preceded an Australian Open defeat by Chris Evert Lloyd, whom she promptly wiped out last month in the season-ending playoffs in New York.
Ask her about Chrissie and the No. 1 debate. No matter what the computer's statistics said, and they said Navratilova was No. 1 even if she lost in those playoffs, there existed yet an Evert clique insisting their heroine could be No. 1 by winning this last-gasp event.
Ask Navratilova about it, and stand back.
"Last year ('81), Wimbledon was the biggest. Chris herself said it means more than the U.S. Open. Then, this year when I won Wimbledon and she won the U.S. Open, we were even. We were even."
Put that last in italics, as if said in disbelief.
Navratilova is growing up. It isn't easy. You laugh a lot, you cry some, you go on. She resents the favor granted Evert, the princess of her game. No. 1 is a matter of talent, not a measure of charm. Chrissie has this smile. Sunrise could take lessons from Chris Evert's smile. Next to Chrissie, who is dainty and never argues, Martina Navratilova used to be 167 pounds of anger.
"I always wanted to be the best," she said this week, talking to two reporters. "But I tried to find the shortcuts, whether it's driving or playing tennis. I never had anybody to push me. I was over here on my own . . . It's so much easier when you have two people going after the same goal. All the other top players had somebody. They had a coach or friend they could lean on. I had nobody to lean on but myself."
A year and a half ago, Nancy Lieberman became Navratilova's taskmaster. Renee Richards became her coach. As Navratilova's success grew, so did she. She trimmed down to such an attractive 145 pounds that Newsweek made her the cover girl on its women-get-strong-and-beautiful story.
Here she is, the other night, talking about her defection during the 1976 U.S. Open: "It seemed awfully easy then. Now, when I look back, I say, 'Oh, my God, how did I do it?' But I know I would do it again. I think at 18 you're ready to take on the world. I had friends here, I had the money and I knew the language. It wasn't like a step for immigrants when they get on the boat and they don't know what's on the other side of the ocean."
She couldn't go home for five years, until she became a U.S. citizen. Her father had told her not to come back, no matter what he might say, because the Czech government might be luring her into a trap. And don't tell your mother you're defecting, he said. At 5, her parents and grandparents taught her to play tennis. She might not see them again. Ever.
We sat with Navratilova late one night, two reporters asking informal questions, enjoying her company. Her story is fascinating stuff. A report out of Australia, one fellow said, indicated she might go back to Czechoslovakia to see her parents (who tried to live in the U.S. with her, but returned home unhappy).
"I have second thoughts about going back there," she said. "I'd rather do it, I think, once I don't play tennis, because I know it would be emotional going back there. All the friends I had, Czech people that go back, are so depressed when they come out of there. They have a visa for two weeks and they come back after four days."
Then: "My parents can come out anytime they want. So can my sister. And they don't live in the same house we used to live in. So I really have nothing to go back for."
A reporter wrote that down. Did she mean to sound so cold? What did the chill mean?
A reporter remembered something, but only vaguely. "Did your grandmother's death have anything to do with that, your saying you don't have anything to go back to?"
"My grandmother passed away two years ago."
Her voice was flat.
"Was she kind of a last link . . . "
"Well, I still have one grandmother, but I'm not as close to her."
He asked the question gently another way, and Navratilova softly said, "Yeah, yeah." And when he asked if the grandmother was her mother's mother, Navratilova said, "No, my father."
Then, without speaking again, she walked away. She leaned against a wall and wept for five minutes. She said she was sorry, it wasn't anything we asked, it was something she didn't know would happen. She left then, down a corridor, stopping to sign an autograph for a small girl. We left her a note saying we, too, were sorry.
The next day, we found out about the grandmother. Andela Subertova was 84 when she came to Dallas in March of '79. Navratilova took her to the Czech community there, where the old woman signed autographs, and she introduced her to Chris Evert.
"She said when she gets home," Navratilova told World Tennis magazine, "she's going to brag that she met Chris."
The next year, a distant relative in Czechoslovakia sent Navratilova a black-edged card of mourning. It was the first word Martina had of her grandmother's death. 4130:Picture, Martina Navratilova retrieves a backhand during her quarterfinal. By John McDonnell -- The Washington Post