Tennis star divorce plays out in Florida
Updated: Thursday, 25 Jun 2009, 7:44 AM EDT
Published : Thursday, 25 Jun 2009, 7:00 AM EDT
SARASOTA – Tennis sensation Martina Navratilova was a winner on the tennis court, but some say she doesn't have the same success when it comes to love.
Sarasota court records show the tennis star is being sued by her wife after being dumped without warning following nearly eight years together.
Toni Layton, who married the Wimbledon champ in an official ceremony in New Hampshire, wants a share of the property and multi-million dollar real estate the two acquired while married.
Layton claims she suffered "emotional, mental and physical trauma" after being cast aside by Navratilova close to a year ago. And she warns, "Martina has got a fight on her hands."
Some of the property is here in Florida. It includes this home outside the coastal town of Nokomis near Sarasota, and another million-dollar home in Englewood.
There is also a 20-acre animal sanctuary the two set up together to save abandoned pets near Sarasota. Layton claims Navratilova is trying to sell it with no regard for what happens to the dozens of animals on the property.
In an ironic twist, Layton says Navratilova, who has always championed gay rights, is now hiding behind Florida's anti-same-sex laws, which don't recognize gay marriage.
After being served the legal papers, a spokesperson for Navratilova said, "this is a private matter and we don't comment on private matters. We do not accept her assertions and do not believe they merit a response."
They bought a $2 million property outside the coastal town of Nokomis, near Sarasota.
It was picture-postcard perfect, with a white picket fence and gardens adorned with bougainvillea and framed by palms. The happy couple shared their home with 17 dogs.
Later, they bought the smaller $1.5 million house next door and another house down the road to accommodate Navratilova's trainers and friends with whom she practised tennis.
Their cars included a sporty Range Rover, a convertible Mercedes and a Jeep. They also bought a $20,000 speed boat and a jet ski.
Toni had access to all Navratilova's money, as they had shared bank accounts.
Toni's marital home in New Jersey was sold in 2004. The money from the sale, says Toni, should have been split between her and her estranged husband, but when he refused to hand over her share, Martina urged her to 'let it go'.
The following year, the couple paid $1.25million for a 30-acre farm near their Florida home, which they turned into a sanctuary for abandoned animals.
'We had to hand-feed the 26 emaciated cows that came with it,' Toni recalls. 'Then came three baby pigs, Huey, Dewey and Lewey, and many more animals after that.'
'But as soon as Marti decided our relationship was over, it seems she decided the animals no longer mattered. She put the ranch up for sale at a knockdown price and doesn't seem to care about what will happen to the animals.'
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