Martina Navratilova admits she is "jealous" of the affection Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer receive from every crowd they play in front of and believes she would have been looked upon differently during her career if she wasn't a lesbian.
Navratilova enjoyed success most can only dream of, winning 59 Grand Slam titles across the singles, women's doubles and mixed doubles competitions during a career that spanned four decades, but despite the countless trophies and never-ending glory the 61-year-old was constantly left longing for the unbridled support of those who watched her.
The Prague-born American, one of the first openly gay sports stars, believes the public's perception of her changed drastically when she came out during the 1980's and says she was not truly warmed to or idolised by tennis supporters until she entered the twilight of her career.
Winning over the sport's fans has never been an issue for Federer or Nadal, who have the crowd onside no matter where they play. The pair's strong bond with those in the stands is envied by Navratilova, who admits the disconnect between herself and those who watched her certainly had an adverse effect on her, even if the dominance she exerted on the court hinted otherwise.
"I always had a yearning to be accepted and loved, and I didn't get it for many, many years," Navratilova told Billionaire. "To this day I must say I am jealous of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, who are always the home team when they are playing. For much of my career I didn't have that. Even playing in the finals of the US Open in 1985, the home crowd was going nuts for Hana Mandlíková to win that match. It killed me.
"It was difficult times. I'm pretty sure that if I had been straight, the reception would have been quite different back then. But at the end of my career everyone loved me and now I am a hero. That's just how it goes."