She said yes: Martina Navratilova's proposal to Julia Lemigova shown on big screen during U.S. Open men's semi-finals

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She said yes: Martina Navratilova's proposal to Julia Lemigova shown on big screen during U.S. Open men's semi-finals
She said yes: Martina Navratilova's proposal to Julia Lemigova shown on big screen during U.S. Open men's semi-finals

There are plenty of stories of marriage proposals at sporting events gone horribly wrong.

But when tennis legend Martina Navratilova's proposal to longtime partner Julia Lemigova was shown on the giant screen after the Novak Djokovic - Kei Nishikori match at the U.S. Open Saturday, everything went  – pardon the pun – without a hitch.

"I was very nervous. It came off, and she said yes. It was kind of an out-of-body experience. You’ve seen people propose at sporting events before, in movies, in real life, and here it was happening to me. So I was like watching myself do that. It was cool," Navratilova said.

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Shortly afterwards, she and doubles partner Jana Novotna won the women's invitational event by defeating Tracy Austin and Gigi Fernandez 6-4, 6-4.

She did it the old-fashioned way. She tried to keep the tears from coming, dropped down to one knee, and popped the proverbial question.

Tennis legend Martina Navratilova proposes to Russian businesswoman Julia Lemigova in the Tennis Channel suite at the U.S. Open Saturday (Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports)
Tennis legend Martina Navratilova proposes to Russian businesswoman Julia Lemigova in the Tennis Channel suite at the U.S. Open Saturday (Susan Mullane-USA TODAY Sports)

Navratilova's main concern was that it not disrupt the on-court drama, and an early suggestion that it be shown during a changeover was quickly nipped in the bud. Navratilova did ask that her scheduled match be pushed back from its scheduled 4 p.m. start time – but she was turned down.

"I couldn't tell them why. They said, 'No, that's the schedule,' " Navratilova said. "Tracy (Austin) saw me right after, and I was flying high. I had to go into the locker room to settle down, because I had a match to play."

Austin had no idea. She saw Navratilova walk in, they chatted about this and that for a few minutes, and suddenly Navratilova inserted this little detail into the conversation. "Yeah, I asked Julia to marry me."

"I made her re-enact the whole thing," Austin said.

Perhaps there was a sense of full circle in chosing this particular venue  – the stadium court at the U.S. Open, even if it isn't the same stadium as the one she played in during her career.

One of Navratilova's special memories in tennis was her loss to Austin in the 1981 singles final. Seeded No. 4, she defeated Chris Evert in the semis, but lost in a third-set tiebreaker to the younger American.

"I think after coming out, the crowd’s reaction was kind of mixed, and I’d been (in the U.S.) for six years, and after I lost, I got my trophy and they just kept clapping. They just kept clapping. And it was the first time I felt accepted as American – I got my citizenship that summer – and as a gay woman," Navratilova said. "I cried because of that, not because I lost. I would have cried had I won, for the same reason. So that was a pretty special occasion."

This was another pretty special one.

Lemigova, who has two children, and Navratilova have been together for six years. Navratilova said she hoped they could be married in Florida, where they live. But that the moment, that's still not possible even if she was hopeful that within a year the laws would be changed.

Shortly afterwards, the newly-betrothed Navratilova went out to play some doubles, her partner right there to cheer her on.

 

 

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