year is 1980 – the city of Sydney has just celebrated its first “Gay and
Lesbian Mardi Gras” parade, liberal Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser is in power,
and a wave of decriminalization campaigns are about to take off in the fight
for LGBTQ rights in Australia – a better stage could not have been set for
tennis star Hana Mandlíková to dominate the Australian Open.
Mandlíková competing at the 1980 Australian Open.
in Prague to a former-Olympian mother, athleticism was in Hana’s blood. Like
most tennis icons, she started out in the junior league, and in 1978 when the
International Tennis Federation started the world junior rankings, Hana became
the very first person, and thus the first woman, to hold the spot at number
one. That momentum would follow her into her professional career and, of
course, into Melbourne where the 1980 Australian Open was held. She ended up
beating Brisbane native Wendy Turnbull in straight sets in the final of the
women’s single division.
would go on to repeat that win at the 1987 Australian Open, taking home the
Grand Slam title once again. Although this was the last big win of her tennis
career and she retired soon after in 1990, she then began coaching Jana Novotna (whose relationship with Hana was long gossiped about…)
and steered her to a Wimbledon championship in 1993. As for Hana’s personal
life, she announced in 2001 that she and her partner Liz Resseguie were
expecting twins. Read about The Daily
Mail’s shock at the phenomenon of a two mom family here. Today, Hana has proudly
labeled herself a Tennis Mom™ and gave an interview in 2015 to Sun
Sentinel about how she has been coaching her 14-year-old son and daughter, Elizabeth
and Mark Mandlík, as they follow in their mother’s tennis shoe clad
Mandlíková, right, watches her daughter, Elli
Mandlík, play in the USTA National Clay Court Championship Girls 14. (Maria Lorenzino / Sun Sentinel)
people may argue that Hana not being out of the closet at the time of her big
win in 1980 makes her legacy meaningless to the advancement of LGBTQ rights, and while yes it’s true that there wouldn’t have been any
headlines proclaiming that a gay athlete had just won the nation’s highest tennis
accolade at the time, the 1980 Australian
Open served as the kick start to Hana’s decade-long career, a career that
proves LGBTQ people have always been here, living, thriving, and making history regardless of whether the straight world around them has noticed or not.