When Helena Sukova ended Martina Navratilova’s 74-game winning streak at the 1984 Australian Open
On December 6, 1984, Helena Sukova defeated Martina Navratilova in a classic Australian Open semi-final to end the longest winning streak in Open Era tennis. Navratilova had won six straight singles titles and was aiming to complete a historic Grand Slam calendar.
The 1984 Australian Open was the penultimate time the event was held as the fourth and final Major on the tennis calendar. The tournament was played on grass courts and took place at the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club in Melbourne from November 26 to December 9.
The Australian Open women’s singles draw consisted of 64 players and 16 seeds, and took place over six rounds. World No.1 Navratilova, 28, was the seed, while Sukova, 19, was ninth.
Navratilova is an 11-time Grand Slam singles champion, having won Wimbledon five times and the Australian Open, French Open and US Open titles twice each.
As of the 1983 Wimbledon Championships, Navratilova had won six Grand Slam tournaments. Prior to the Australian Open, the Czechoslovakian American was also on a 70-game winning streak, which began at the US indoor championships in February 1984.
Sukova’s best Grand Slam singles result before the event was to reach the 1983 Roland Garros fourth round. The Czechoslovakian had won two WTA singles titles at the time, including a turf event in Brisbane two weeks ago. before the Australian Open.
Road to the semi-finals of the 1984 Australian Open
Navratilova managed her first two matches at the 1984 Australian Open against South African Yvonne Vermaak and American Mary Lou Piatek-Daniels, losing just five matches. The No. 1 seed then came back from behind to eliminate 15th seed, American Kathy Rinaldi, 4-6, 6-0, 6-1 in the third round.
In the quarterfinals, the 28-year-old triumphed over another American, No. 12 seed Barbara Potter, 6-3, 6-2. This saw Navratilova’s record winning streak rise to 74, as she also won 45 consecutive Grand Slam singles matches, just as staggering.
Sukova beat American Elise Burgin and Australian Dianne Fromholtz in straight sets in the first and second rounds respectively. The 19-year-old then recovered to defeat fifth-seeded Germany’s Claudia Kohde-Kilsch, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 to reach the quarter-finals.
The No. 9 seed followed that up by knocking down another top-ranked opponent, third-seeded American Pam Shriver, 6-2, 6-7 (5), 6-1 in the last eight. Before the semi-finals of the Australian Open, Sukova had won nine consecutive matches, all on turf in Australia.
The match and the conclusion of the tournament
Prior to their thrilling 1984 Australian Open semi-final showdown, Navratilova had won the pair’s three previous encounters comfortably in straight sets. The world No. 1 triumphed 6-3, 6-3 in the previous 1984 US Open quarter-finals meeting three months earlier.
Navratilova continued the trend in Melbourne by winning the opening set 6-1, although six of the seven games ended in two. Sukova responded by taking a 4-2 lead in the second set, before withholding the serve twice to beat her legendary opponent for the first time.
The 19-year-old then continued to ramp up in the deciding set as she stormed a double 3-0 lead. Navratilova, however, struggled to extend her historic run as she returned to the level at 4-4.
Sukova then recovered to secure a third break in the final set, with a 6-5 advantage. Navratilova remarkably saved five match points with the forehand winners as the No.9 seed served for the game until she finally missed a backhand return on Sukova’s sixth chance.
The world number one’s back-to-back winning streak was interrupted at 74 games, while his quest for a Grand Slam schedule also ended. Sukova qualified for her first major final, which she lost 7-6 (4), 1-6, 3-6 to No.2 seed Chris Evert.
Navratilova and Sukova also faced each other in the Australian Open women’s doubles final, with Navratilova and Shriver beating Sukova and Kohde-Kilsch. The triumph completed an incredible doubles slam for Navratilova and Shriver in 1984.
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Navratilova went on to win seven more major singles titles to end her career with 18, while Sukova finished second in three more Grand Slam events.