On Wednesday October 18th, the Czech-born tennis legend, Martina Navratilova, celebrates her 50th birthday. Just a few weeks ago, she finally announced her retirement after winning the mixed doubles final with Bob Bryan at the US Open, bringing her Grand Slam titles tally to an incredible 59. But Martina is involved in many other activities, including arts. An exhibition titled Art Grand Slam is now underway in the Czech capital, featuring paintings co-created by the legendary tennis player and a Slovak artist.
Martina Navratilova announced the end of her remarkable career last month and told reporters at a news conference she was happy to be able to leave on her own terms after having played the best tennis in six years. But Martina Navratilova's schedule is still pretty busy, she says, even busier than when she was playing regularly.
Last week she made a brief trip to her native country to open an exhibition in Prague, called Art Grand Slam, showing paintings she created together with Slovak artist Juro Kralik. On the tennis courts in her hometown of Revnice near Prague, she showed the public how she gives the final touch to the pictures by hitting them with tennis balls soaked in paint.
The idea to combine tennis and art initially came from Juro Kralik, Martina's longtime fan. He approached her in 2000 and, Martina says, their cooperation turned into a much bigger project than either one of them had expected. The collection includes around 100 works which were created on the courts of the Grand Slam tournaments in New York, Melbourne, Paris and London.
They are pictures of different sizes, incorporating materials like canvas and paper, but also red clay and synthetic grass which are created by Kralik, and brightened by the colourful marks left by the tennis balls that Martina hits against the canvases. Martina says all of the pieces will eventually be for sale, with a part of the proceeds going to a charity.
The tennis legend, a US citizen since 1981, is going to celebrate her birthday in New York City with a circle of friends. In the near future she is planning to organise a proper promotion campaign for a lifestyle and fitness book she published earlier this year. Besides her charity work and numerous other activities, she is planning to work for television and start a tennis academy next year.
The exhibition Art Grand Slam at Prague's Congress Centre in Prague will be open until November 22nd. (More information at: www.artgrandslam.org)