Print Friendly and PDF

While she is most famous for her remarkable tennis career, Martina Navratilova has also been a competitive bridge player. She has stated that her tennis coach, Mike Estep, along with his wife Barbara, taught her to play bridge in December 1983.1

Estep coached the then-WTA #1 ranked player between 1983 and 1987. During those years, Martina played with Barbara while on tour. Making up a foursome with other tennis players was not uncommon. In her 1985 self-titled autobiography, Martina noted that “I recently played bridge one afternoon with Marcella Mesker and then beat her in tennis that evening.” 2

Her competitive nature seemed evident at the bridge table. Martina quipped that she only smoked a couple of cigarettes a year - usually when being beaten in bridge or backgammon.3

In 1987 Martina penned the Foreward to Audrey Grant’s “The ACBL Club Series”, a bridge book geared toward beginning players. There, Martina expressed her philosophy of bridge as mental exercise: 4

I believe it takes a strong mind, as well as a strong body, to live life to its fullest.

Bridge is more than just a card game. It’s a cerebral sport. Bridge teaches you logic, reasoning, quick thinking, patience, concentration and partnership skills.

Last year at Wimbledon, when we got rained off, I spent my time playing bridge to keep me sharp and on my toes. An evening of bridge at home with family and friends is so much more enjoyable than sitting around watching TV, unless a good tennis match is on.

Bridge has meant a lot to me in my travels. No matter where I go, I can always make new friends at the bridge table.

You know, tennis is a sport for a lifetime, and bridge is a game for a lifetime. It can be enjoyed by young and old, male and female, weak and strong. It crosses all barriers!

The late New York Times Bridge columnist Alan Truscott observed that there may be a correlation between tennis and bridge. Many bridge experts play tennis enthusiastically for exercise. (Ed. note: the great Eddie Kantar comes to mind.) Conversely, many tennis stars like Martina Navratilova play bridge contentedly when they are not needed on court. 5


1 Thomas, J. (1984, June 25). Miss Navratilova Serves Notice: She’ll Improve. The New York Times.

2, 3 Navratilova, M. and George Vecsey. (1985). Martina. Knopf.

4 Grant, A. (1987). Bridge by Audrey Grant: The Club Series: Volume 1 - Bidding. The American Contract Bridge League.

5 Truscott, A. (1988, November 27). Bridge; Courtside Analysis. The New York Times.

Martina Navratilova

"No matter where I go, I can always make new friends at the bridge table."