Last week we celebrated the 25th anniversary of Jim Courier rising to No.1 for the first time, and this week we’ve got another big 25th anniversary - it was on February 16, 1992, when Martina Navratilova broke the record for most career singles titles in the Open Era - a record that’s still standing tall.
It very nearly didn’t happen, though - in an absolutely grueling final at the WTA event in Chicago that day, a red-hot Jana Novotna actually served for the match at 5-4 in the third set, but Navaratilova hung tough, broke back and eventually closed it out after two hours and 22 minutes, 7-6(4) 4-6 7-5.
“I was lucky,” Navratilova told the New York Times after the final. “Jana deserved to win, and I know she’s going to beat me one of these days: I just hope I’m not around when it happens.”
By squeaking out that final, Navratilova lifted the 158th singles title of her career, breaking a tie with Chris Evert and setting a new record for most career singles titles in the Open Era, male or female.
And the pressure coming from the other side of the net wasn’t the only pressure on her mind.
“You can lie to yourself all you want, but when a record’s on the line, there’s pressure,” Navratilova declared. “But the moment took over the history part. I just wanted to win the match.”
Navratilova would win nine more titles in her career to raise her record to 167 career titles. Only three other players have won 100 or more career singles titles in the Open Era - two on the women’s side (Evert with 157 and Steffi Graf with 107) and one on the men’s side (Jimmy Connors with 109).
The active leaders are Roger Federer (89), Serena Williams (72) and Rafael Nadal (69).
Here’s a snapshot of what the world was like on February 16, 1992:
- Jim Courier and Monica Seles were No.1 on the men’s and women’s tours, respectively.
- Navratilova was ranked No.4 in the world at the time (after Seles, Graf and Gabriela Sabatini).
- Wayne’s World was the No.1 movie at the US box office that weekend.
- I’m Too Sexy by Right Said Fred was still No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 (just like it was when Courier rose to No.1 the week before!)
- Singer-songwriter, actor and producer The Weeknd turned 2 years old.