In what may be the most famous breakup of a successful act since Sonny and Cher, Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver are no longer a doubles team.
Navratilova and Shriver have won a record 20 Grand Slam titles, but unless they get back together, they won’t win another.
They will part ways officially at the U.S. Open when Navratilova plays with a new partner, Hana Mandlikova.
Shriver, who is still looking for a partner, possibly Jana Novotna of Czechoslovakia, said she found out last week that Navratilova wanted to make a change.
“It came as somewhat of a surprise to me,” Shriver said.
Maybe it shouldn’t have, Navratilova said.
“I don’t have enough time to talk about everything that’s gone on,” Navratilova said.
“This has nothing to do with (Shriver’s) tennis,” she said. “I just needed a break. Right now, it’s only for the U.S. Open. I don’t have any plans for next year.”
Said Shriver: “I can’t tell if I’m on trial . . . It’s hard to tell if it’s permanent or not.”
However, women’s tennis historian Ted Tinling said the break appeared final.
“I think it’s over,” said Tinling, who noted that the legendary doubles teams of Suzanne Lenglen-Elizabeth Ryan and Louise Brough-Margaret DuPont never split.
“Life moves faster nowadays,” Tinling said. “You get stale quicker.”
Together, Navratilova and Shriver won four U.S. Open, five Wimbledon, four French Open and seven Australian Open titles. Their first Grand Slam title was at Wimbledon in 1981, and their last was at this year’s Australian Open.
They didn’t lose a match for more than two years, a stretch of 109 consecutive victories that ended when Kathy Jordan and Liz Smylie beat them in the 1985 Wimbledon final.
Both Navratilova and Shriver have other partners in the doubles of the Virginia Slims of Los Angeles. Shriver said she felt that she and Navratilova had been growing apart since their Australian Open victory.
“I can understand, certainly I asked for some of it myself,” Shriver said. “I wasn’t focused. I was all over the place.
“Eight-and-a-half years together is probably a record anyway,” she said. “If this is it, it’s been a hell of a race.”