Martina Navratilova: ‘I’d love my wife, Julia, to do Strictly!’

Martina Navratilova and Julia Lemigrova at their New York wedding in 2014
Martina Navratilova and Julia Lemigrova at their New York wedding in 2014 (Image credit: BBC)

Wimbledon tennis legend Martina Navratilova told What’s On TV that she’d really love her new wife Julia Lemigrova to be a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing...

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova, who won a record nine Wimbledon singles titles, told What’s On TV she believes her new wife Julia Lemigrova would be a brilliant contestant on Strictly Come Dancing.

Martina herself did the American version of Strictly, Dancing With the Stars, in 2012, so knows only too well what could be in store…

“I think as I’ve done the competition in America, they wouldn’t want me in the UK version. But I’d love my wife Julia to do Strictly Come Dancing! She’d be brilliant!” insisted Martina of her Russian bride Julia, who was Miss USSR in 1990.

“When she saw me on Dancing with the Stars, she thought: ‘I can do that! And she’d be able to do all that dancing in high heels much better than me. If she does it one of these days, I’ll be there supporting… It was so nerve-wracking, oh my goodness, talk about out of your comfort zone! I’m glad I did it, but doubt I could do again! But I can help Julia if she did it.’

Martina chatted about her eventful life at the launch of a new BBC1 documentary, Just Call Me Martina (Monday, July 4, 10.45pm), that shows her greatest battles on and off the court.

It reveals what happened at her 2014 New York wedding, a marriage ceremony attended by Julia and Martina’s kids, Victoria and Emma, and Martina’s greatest tennis rival Chris Evert.

Martina Navratilova and Julia Lemigova

(Image credit: Startraks Photo/REX/Shutterstock)

Martina, Julia and Victoria and Emma

In the hour-long programme, Martina plays a charity tennis match with Elton John and joins BBC sports host and former tennis star Sue Barker – who Martina beat in the Wimbledon quarter finals in 1976.

“I’ll be 60 in October, so it was great to look back at all that’s happened to me,” said Martina.

“There’s some footage in the documentary I don’t think I’ve seen before. In the early days, I can see my English isn’t as good as it is today. But some things that happened to me really seem like yesterday. You see the good stuff in your life and also some bad, and it makes you not want to make the bad stuff happen again.”

Sue and Martina head to Revnice in the Czech Republic, where Martina shows Sue around the town in which she learned to play tennis under the guidance of her stepfather. The pair also meets Martina’s sister Jana, who’s a dentist.

Martina shares with Sue some of her toughest decisions, such as leaving behind her life in communist Czechoslovakia and defecting to the West in 1975. Living in America, Martina was cut off from her immediate family, but she threw herself into tennis, winning Wimbledon for the first time in 1978.

“It really was a different time back then, such innocent times,” said Martina. “It’s amazing to think I didn’t have a coach for six years. Even when I won Wimbledon for the first time I had no coach.”

Martina has faced other challenges too, and the documentary covers her decision to come out as lesbian in 1981, as well as her most terrifying battle of all, against breast cancer. It also shows Martina as a campaigner. She’s still very outspoken on political and human rights issues, but she told What’s On TV she didn’t think she’d ever run for political office in America.

“Since I can’t be US President, because I wasn’t born in America, there’d be no point!” she laughed. “I get that a lot, but I should never say never. I’m much too sensitive a creature, especially now in these days of such intrusion, it would be hard for me to deal with that.

"When you’re on Twitter and people are really nasty you can just block them, but you can’t block people in real life. And now having a family, I doubt it will happen. I’m more of an activist than a politician, because I’m not always too diplomatic in my statements. A lot of people on Twitter who don’t agree with my politics say stick to tennis, but others love it that I’m speaking out!”

Just Call Me Martina is on BBC1, Monday July 4, at 10.45pm


Nicholas Cannon
TV Content Director on TV Times, What's On TV and TV & Satellite Week

I'm a huge fan of television so I really have found the perfect job, as I've been writing about TV shows, films and interviewing major television, film and sports stars for over 25 years. I'm currently TV Content Director on What's On TV, TV Times, TV and Satellite Week magazines plus I previously worked on Woman and Woman's Own in the 1990s. Outside of work I swim every morning, support Charlton Athletic football club and get nostalgic about TV shows Cagney & Lacey, I Claudius, Dallas and Tenko. I'm totally on top of everything good coming up too.