40 greatest female athletes: Martina Navratilova

A slice backhand and a brilliant net game helped Martina Navratilova win a record nine Wimbledon singles titles. Getty Images

ESPN is marking the 40th anniversary of Title IX by unveiling the top 40 female athletes of the past 40 years.

Martina Navratilova arrived on the tennis stage as a 16-year-old in the 1973 French Open, where she made it to the quarterfinals as an unseeded player.

By the time she was finished after more than 30 years in professional tennis, she had amassed more singles titles (167) and doubles titles (177) than any woman or man in the Open Era.

The No. 2 woman in ESPN's countdown won 18 Grand Slam singles titles -- including a record nine Wimbledon trophies -- and 59 majors altogether, including the U.S. Open mixed doubles title in 2006, when she was a month shy of her 50th birthday. She claimed major titles in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.

Legend Billie Jean King calls Navratilova "the greatest singles, doubles and mixed doubles player who's ever lived."

Read the full story from espnW here.

Earlier in this series:

No. 40: Diver Fu Mingxia

No. 39: Jockey Julie Krone

No. 38: Gymnast Mary Lou Retton

No. 37: Hockey player Cammi Granato

No. 36: Soccer player Kristine Lilly

No. 35: Basketball player Diana Taurasi

No 34: Volleyball player Flo Hyman

No. 33: Soccer player Abby Wambach

No. 32: Swimmer Mary T. Meagher

No. 31: Marathoner Joan Benoit

No. 30: Sprinter Gail Devers

No. 29: Basketball player Nancy Lieberman

No. 28: Marathoner Grete Waitz

No. 27: Soccer player Michelle Akers

No. 26: Basketball player Chamique Holdsclaw

No. 25: Swimmer Dara Torres

No. 24: Golfer Nancy Lopez

No. 23: Swimmer Tracy Caulkins

No. 22: Soccer player Marta Vieira da Silva

No. 21: Tennis player Venus Williams

No. 20: Figure skater Michelle Kwan

No. 19: Skier Lindsey Vonn

No. 18: Softball player Lisa Fernandez

No. 17: Basketball player Ann Meyers Drysdale

No. 16: Basketball player Sheryl Swoopes

No. 15: Swimmer Janet Evans

No. 14: Figure skater Katarina Witt

No. 13: Basketball player Cheryl Miller

No. 12: Sprinter Florence Griffith-Joyner

No. 11: Tennis player Billie Jean King

No. 10: Tennis player Serena Williams

No. 9: Tennis player Steffi Graf

No. 8: Gymnast Nadia Comaneci

No. 7: Tennis player Chris Evert

No. 6: Speedskater Bonnie Blair

No. 5: Basketball player Lisa Leslie

No. 4: Golfer Annika Sorenstam

No. 3: Track star Jackie Joyner-Kersee