Martina Navratilova's wedded bliss

  • 16 December 2014
  • From the section US & Canada
  • comments
Media captionMartina Navratilova married her long-term partner on Monday: ''I'm 58 years old and I got married for the first time''

She had been married less than an hour and Martina Navratilova sparkled, from her gleaming smile to her silver jacket. This was one very happy woman.

I met Navratilova and her new bride Julia Lemigova in a room at the Peninsula hotel in New York, just moments after the tennis legend had said "I do". Their delight was evident.

So how does the nine-time Wimbledon winner feel a few minutes into her new role as wife? Terrified and really odd are the initial reactions and then a slightly choked, "I'm 58 years old, and I got married for the first time. It's about time, right?"

This summer, 33 years after she came out as bisexual, Navratilova proposed to her girlfriend of six years. She did so on bended knee, in public, on camera, at the US Open.

"I was so overwhelmed and completely surprised," Lemigova says of the moment, "but I would not expect anything less from Martina."

Lemigova said yes, and that led to the Peninsula.

For Navratilova, there are actually two new roles today - wife and mother - Lemigova has two daughters. Navratilova reveals that Julia's younger daughter had been badgering to propose to her mother all year. And if Martina feels anxious about becoming a mum herself at 58, she doesn't show it.

This was a private ceremony for friends and family, but it is clear they both feel it is a public act too - one they hope will encourage other gay couples.

Navratilova has championed gay rights for decades. She says after so many years of not having marital rights, it is important for gay families to make their relationships legal, and her public proposal and wedding are part of that cause.

While public opinion has shifted with remarkable speed on this issue, there are still very few openly gay athletes, even in the world of tennis.

"I'm surprised more players haven't come out," says Navratilova. "Particularly no male players. They're so far in the closet, I don't even know who they are."

Navratilova has always been a trailblazer - off court and on. She is still an icon for millions of aspiring players. But today she is something more private and more romantic.

For the first time, she is a wife.

More on this story