THE SHRINE: FAN MEMORIES

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Chrissie’s 50th BIRTHDAY was on December 21, 2004. The visitors of ChrisEvert.Net sent in match memories, anecdotes, and recollections from over Chrissie’s playing career, and entries were collected from the UK, Australia, Belgium, France, Italy, Canada, South Africa, and across the United States.

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These were bound into a leather book with leather strap, a wood binding and photo sleeves, and was named “CHEERS!” for both the applause and toasts that were presented on those pages, with each memory printed on transparent honey vellom afixed to a warm textured paper that could be separated to read.

 

This was presented to Chrissie for her 50th birthday, and here is a look at the results!

Thanks to everyone for making Chrissie’s latest milestone an enjoyable passage.

 

 

Here are the pages & the entries:

 

World Team Tennis East vs West season ending championships in Oakland, California 1976
Evert’s team was behind all evening, though slowly, gradually things began to inch closer as the event finally went into double overtime. With Billie Jean King being brought in as a substitute in the final tiebreak to partner with Evonne Goolagong, it was announced that Evert would be brought in as a substitute to partner with Betty Stove!

In a best of nine point super tiebreak to decide the evening’s contest, it was likely, on paper, that few would be betting against such a killer doubles team as King/Goolagong, but I had so much hope that Evert/Stove could somehow pull it off. Although I don’t recall each point in the breaker, I remember that Chris and Betty were behind, actually saving a match point, as the play spiraled in its intensity.

Appropriately enough, the match went to four points all…a volley exchange began with King and Goolagong primarily aiming their fire towards Evert at net. Chris, however, more than held her ground, eventually forcing the opposing team into a volley error, taking the match! I cheered the tv (!), as the arena rocketed it’s applause…Stove was so thrilled she immediately picked up the petite Evert, twirling her around in the air in utter joy.


Counting the score against Golarsa
One of my greatest Evert memories is the famous Golarsa match at Wimbledon ’89. I was doing an internship in Austin, TX and the match was played on my day off. It wasn’t televised, but there was a sports news station that played nothing but written sports info during the day. At the bottom was a running scoreboard that flashed live scores of the Wimbledon results. I sat for what seemed like an eternity watching from 5-2 in the final set. I kept hoping Evert would come back and win. I would’ve never imagined I could be so into a match that I wasn’t watching. I remember being so thrilled when she came back. Going out to Steffi in the SF’s was a much more classy ending to a Wimbledon career than a QF loss to Golarsa. Chris once said she made her comebacks by envisioning the smiling face of her opponent at net if they had won. Though I couldn’t see the match, I was thinking Chris was definitely smiling.

 

1984 Aussie Open Final
When I first got into tennis around 1982, and became an instant Chrissie fan, one statistic on her career I found amazing was her streak of winning at least one Grand Slam title each year since 1974. As she continued in 1983 on that amazing streak, it was getting more and more attention. And Jack Nicholas in 1984 was quoted as saying he felt that streak was “the greatest record in sports.”

As Chrissie played in 1984, I watched her lose the French, Wimbledon and US Open fnal’s to Navratilova, and it was very difficult as a fan of her’s, especially at the US Open where she was so close. I knew her last hope was the Australian Open.

In December that year, I began basic training in the Air Force. With all that basic training brings, I had forgotten about the Australian Open, and one night, while being assigned to clean the office where all the drill instructiors worked, I saw a tv, ahh tv. How I had missed it! I looked around, and at this hour, no one was around. Longing for one minute of normalcy, one minute to relax my mind of all the stress I had been under, I went over and turned it on….. and I see green….. a tennis court! The announcer says something along the lines of “Helena Sukova has just won the first set over Chris Evert in the finals of the Australian Open”! Ahhhhhh! My mind began racing…. where was Martina? Then I heard footsteps! I quickly turned off the tv and furiously got back to work. A normal person would have worried “did someone see me?”, but noooo, not me, I was only concerned with will Chris continue her amazing streak.

The next day, knowing I didnt have access to newspapers or anything, I HAD to know who won that match, and since my squad was being punished for something another guy had done, we weren’t allowed any phone calls, I knew there was only one possible way of maybe finding out what happened in that final. As I looked at my drill instructors office, I swallowed hard. He was one mean guy, but I had heard he did have a soft spot if you caught him at the right moment.

As I walked up to his office, I asked him if I could speak with him for a moment. He snapped back “make it quick airman”, closing the door behind me. Without letting him know about last night, I knew I had to generalize my question. I took a deep breath and said something like: “Sir, I realize this is a very unusual question, but sir, I am a big fan of Chris Evert and I was wondering if you knew how she did at the Australian Open”. His jaw dropped. For what seemed like an eternity, he yelled “YOU WANT TO KNOW…. WHAT”! I froze.

What was I thinking! I gathered myself and said that I was sorry to have disturbed him. He got up, took my arm and walked me out to the barracks in front of everyone and said “attention all airman, this one right here just came into my office and asked me if I knew how Chris Evert did at the Australian Open!”. I never knew 50 people could be so silent. I couldn’t believe what was happening. He then took my arm, brought me back to his office, and told me to wait there.

As all these thoughts kept running through my mind, “can they hit me? Can they discharge me? Is he bringing every drill instructor in the United States Air Force back to say again what question I just asked? Can I crawl into a hole somewhere and die?” He comes back a few minutes later, with this mean smirk on his face, and says to me: “You’ve got a lot of nerve coming in here airman, asking me what you did, a lot of nerve, … the kind I need in my squad leaders”. I said “sir?”, and he said “you’ve just been assigned squad leader……, and one other thing airman: Chris Evert won the tournament”.

 

Eastbourne 1979
Chris’ classic victory over Martina Navratilova at Eastbourne in 1979 (7-5 5-7 13-11) was the first time I ever heard John Barrett utter the words, “I don’t believe that angle exists!”

That comment was my favorite moment, to cap off a perfect passing shot in a perfect match.

 

Evert/Barker – 1980 Wightman Cup
This was the first, and only time, I ever saw Chris Evert play live.

I took my younger sister to The Royal Albert Hall to watch her play Sue Barker. The atmosphere was terrific, but very pro British. Chris played her usual calm, effortless game, which made it look deceptively easy. Sue played well, though the end result was never in doubt.

What I remember most though, was seeing her after the match, signing autographs. She was much prettier and petite looking than on TV . OK, she was gorgeous! I’ve grown out of my teenage crush, but I still enjoy watching her matches on tape now and then, and the same charm is always there.

 

June 1985: French Open Final
The summer of ’85 will always be memorable for me. On a hot, humid day I sat my finals at university, and as soon as the examination was over I rushed for the door and made my way to the High Street, desperate to find a television. Being a poor student I did not own a television and I was forced to stand outside a department store and watch the television that was on display in the window – the French Open Final was being contested. At the start of the match I stood alone outside the High Street store, totally transfixed, and by the beginning of the second set there was a growing crowd, which was becoming more vocal with every point. We cheered, we enthused and ultimately we celebrated as Chris Evert lifted the champion’s cup! I had followed Evert’s career closely, I was even a member of her fan club as a teenage boy! Winning her sixth French Open was a glorious moment in Evert’s career, and it was a golden moment in my earlier years; I will never forget the winning back-hand passing shot that secured Evert the title. I now have that match on video, along with many others, and whenever I sit down and watch an Evert game, I am filled with the wonderful memories of that halcyon day, when a small crowd of Evert supporters shouted their icon to victory outside a department store on a High Street in England.

1977 World Team Tennis – the Beer Moment!
It was the 1977 world team tennis singles match with Chris playing for Phoenix. I was sitting in isle 3…and after a tough win over Virginia Wade, I watched Chrissie almost pour beer on top of the television announcers head! It was so unlike the ‘stoic’ image the media liked to present of her as being. I later learned they were asking her why she didn’t serve and volley more. Then, it made sense: “I won didn’t I??!!” The guy deserved it…even if she didn’t drop any on him!

 

FRENCH OPEN 1983
While not a memorable final against Mima Jausovec (6-1 6-2), the milestone of the time very much was. Chrissie defeated Evonne Goolagong-Cawley, Helena Sukova, and avenged her losses of the two prior years to both Hana Mandlikova and upstart Andrea Jaeger en route to the final against Jausovec, who had herself both won the event before and reached the final on another occasion. With that French Open crown, Chris not only took her third grand slam title in a row, but at the age of 29, solidified a magnificent 273-7 career record on clay. And tied the all-time record for most French Open singles titles that year (with 5), which would of course escalate in total to a record 7 in the upcoming years!

 

The Knock Out In ’84!
I have always been a huge Chris Evert fan. I am in my thirties now, but while in high school, I was a Chrissie fan in the biggest way. My locker senior year was plastered with over 100 pictures of Chris I clipped from every tennis magazine.

I especially remember the 84 final against Martina. Well…kind of. I was home alone watching the match, and when Chris won that set, I was so excited that I jumped up, hit my head on the ceiling ( a rather low ceiling) and literally knocked myself out. I eventually woke up and saw the end of the match…

Months later when Chris beat Martina for the first time in a long time I was on cloud nine and posted the headlines cut from all the newspapers in my locker as well…

 

1986 French Open Final
How this ’86 recording of mine has lasted so many years is a mystery, especially since I watched the match over and over again as a 12 year old back then! I remember the match as clearly as daylight. I had been playing tennis for just over a year, and had quickly excelled to join Third Division County Tennis league. Chris Evert and Jimmy Connors were my first two tennis idols. An interesting connection, I later realized, considering they were such a serious item 12 years beforehand!

There had been talk of Chrissie’s imminent retirement at the end of ’86. She had just come off a great season in ’85 and may have wanted to end on top (she regained the #1 position until November of ’85). She hadn’t played particularly well from then onwards, and the ’86 French Open looked rather bleak from the start. Martina pummelled Chris 6-2 to take the first set (Chris had served 4 double faults in her first 2 service games). The weather looked rather gloomy, and the wind swirled the clay around the court – a metaphoric disaster from the onset. It looked all over for Chris Evert-Lloyd. As we watched the first set go by, the conversations in our lounge became rather non-existent – rather strange for a tennis family of 5 kids in Durban, South Africa.

Suddenly the match came alive. Chris took the second set 6-3, and then it was on to the third. At 3-3 in the third, the atmosphere changed entirely. The sun came out from behind the clouds, and the wind seem to die down. The next three games would prove to be the most exciting I had ever watched in the Evert-Navratilova rivalry. At 3-3, Martina served to Chrissie’s backhand before rushing the net; it was returned to Martina, who promptly hit a beautiful backhand volley into the ad-court. Chris responded with a pin-point accurate backhand down the line, quite reminiscent of the final winner she played in the ’85 French Open final. One of the most remarkable points came at 15-30 in the same game. Martina served deep to Chrissie’s backhand, which Chrissie barely returned; Martina placed a backhand volley deep into the deuce court, and it seemed almost impossible that Chris would reach hit. Never mind reach it, she lunged a topspin forehand winner down the line, to an eruption by the French crowd! It never even seemed possible that she would reach the ball, let alone hit a remarkable winner. That, to me, was the turning point of the match. Chris broke to lead 4-3, won the next game, then stormed the net on every opportunity, completely catching Martina off-guard. The match ended with a beautiful forehand drop-volley by Chris, which resulted in a desperate but unsuccessful lunge by Martina.

This match meant so much to me at that age. I remember being flabbergasted by the amount of rallies that took place in these three sets. What amazed me most though, was that the girls were out there hitting lots and lots of balls – but never ‘pushed’ it back – they really nailed those shots! I would never look at tennis the same way again!

Evert/Wade – Wimbledon 77
Great Britain June 1977 – Nationalism is rife due to the Queens jubilee, the Sex Pistols are outraging the world with their own rendition of ‘God save the queen’ , so with the nation firmly placed in 2 categories; a / Those that are in nationalism overdrive and b / Those that could not care less, Wimbledon creeps towards us and a Chris Evert fan is about to be born.

On a personal note, June 1977 was the month that I got hayfever so bad that I could barely open my eyes. This meant no school, so for the first time ever I could watch Wimbledon.

At the age of 9, I laid on the settee in my pyjamas to watch this game I did not really understand with a ‘lazy eye’. Don’t misunderstand me, I knew some players and had watched a few games before but had never had the time (due to my educational obligations & not wanting to get into trouble for truancy) to watch with interest.

June 21st – and Wimbledon is under way! – First sight of Chrissie and an easy win against Ruta Gerulaitis, the next sight I get is while watching Sue Barker v Ann Kiyomura (I hope that’s how you spell it) and on changeover the cameras look around and Chris Evert is 6-0 2-1 ahead of Winnie Wooldridge and cruising to victory. After losing the first game to a 14 year old Tracy Austin, a 6-1 6-1 win takes her on to Saturday.

Now, I have read Chrissie’s books and the Greer Stevens game has no mention as part of the Wimbledon she describes as ‘the one with the most highs and lows’, but as Ilie Nastase v Tom Okker was on Centre Court that Saturday, once again my views of Chrissie were limited to whenever the BBC felt like keeping people in touch with what was going on. What actually was going on was Chrissie was 5-1 down. I thought there was something wrong with the television, which indeed there must have been because the next thing you knew it was 5-5 (really, it did seem like a minute later), the of course 5-5 became 7-5 to Chrissie. She went on to win, and next it was Billie Jean King. After watching Chris lose only 3 games to BJK, I was convinced that winning the championship was a certainty.

Then came the June 29th, 1977 Semi Final v Virginia Wade, St. Peter & Paul’s day, so even if I didn’t have hayfever I still would have been able to watch. After shockingly losing the first set, normal service resumed with Chris up 5-2 and serving to make it 1 set all. But hold on! Virginia’s broken serve and held, so now it’s 5-4 with Chris to serve. Nerves are going haywire and this is playing havoc with my hayfever…but everything’s OK. 6-4 to Chris, 1 set all, stick that in your Strawberries & Cream.

Final set, “Come on, Chrissie, do your stuff!” Then my television’s on the blink, it’s 2-0, 3-1, 4-1, 5-1 to Virginia. At this point my Mother who was supporting Chris now at 5-1 final set changes to Virginia. I was furious how in my greatest hour of need that my Mother could support the enemy.

’15-0, 15-all, 30-15, 30-all’ announced the Umpire and I was still convinced Chrissie would triumph, but a missed return and loose forehand later and the announcement was ‘Game, Set & Match to Miss Wade’. I was gutted, mortified, the lot… & to make things worse everybody else in Britain was delighted. Just like Chris I watched highlights of the match and then sulked off to play my new ‘Motown Gold’ album.

For the next 13 Wimbledons, I was to experience highs and lows but none is as memorable as the first Wimbledon I watched. Yes, each championship has their own unique ‘Chrissie’ story but this for me is the one that got the ball rolling.

 

OMG, this woman has guts!
I grew up watching Chris and she became my all-time fav. I first saw her when I was 8 years old playing the Wimbledon 73 final against BJK. I enjoyed all Chris’ Grand Slam wins with special thoughts to Wimbledon 76 the first complete tennis match that I saw on TV and RG 85 when I was clenching my fists at every point she won in the third. But to me, irrespective of her tennis results and her position as one of the best players in tennis history, she is unique just by the way she was; extraordinary will power, good balance in emotions, and had this extraordinary capability of putting things in perspective.

And she was an ever-renewing source of aesthetic pleasure to watch…the way she walked, her gracefulness, the hip movement on the follow through on the double fisted backhand, and above all this superior and confident look, sometimes to (slight) arrogance, that she showed in between points, holding her head up high, flicking her hair, pursing her lips, and occasionally raising her eyebrows to raise to the challenge. This made you think “OMG, this woman has guts!!” In other words, A True Queen.

 

Round Robin Meadowlands 1981 – Evert/Austin
My match memory is about the one I never saw, and never will, since there were no cameras in the stadium that night! I will never forget the description of the match by a writer in Sports Illustrated the week after the tournament. In that article Chris herself said “that was the most grueling match I’ve ever played.” Bjorn Borg said of the match that it was a “tennis clinic”; Pam Shriver said she was “hyperventilating just watching what they were doing out there.” Needless to say, those accounts of the match were burned into my memory and I always hoped that someday I would be able to see it …I collected every article from all the papers I could find, and even asked my grandpa to send me the article from HIS sports section in Tulsa!!

 

The Long-Distance Winner
I was a late bloomer to the fold, and really became aware of Chrissie from her gallant loss to Martina in the 1981 USO. Therefore, I missed the “dominating years”, though thanks to video technology, I would be able to revisit some of her finest 1970s moments.

Chris’ impact on me after that 1981 loss however was dramatic. Gone was my wayward flat single-handed backhand to be replaced by a reliable, and sometimes spectacular double fisted, straight armed backhand (no western grip for me!). In came my crafty inside out forehand with a bit of slice. I even had the stop palm!

Because of when I began watching, my memories of Chris are dominated by her struggle to get back to the top of the rankings. The fact that she was able to do it against changing technology and a super-Martina, and the fact that she had already been number 1 for so long, not only earned the permanent respect of her fans, but also the respect of all tennis fans, for her application, dedication, and skill. Regaining the crown after the age of 30 definitely established Chris as the long distance winner.

Oddly, the time that most stands out in my mind from her illustrious career was the last Wimbledon.

 

The Wilson ProStaff crack heard round the world!
Being a child of the BJK/Riggs tennis boom of the mid-70s, I remember watching Chris at Forest Hills and Wimbledon on TV at a very early age. But not until the mid 80s, when I was in the Navy stationed in Jacksonville, FL, did I have the great pleasure to actually see Chris play for the first time live – at Amelia Island. She was playing the evening session doubles with Carling Bassett, and randomly, her opponents were none other than Billie Jean King and Rosie Casals! I saw how serious they were, and how much fun Chris and Carling were having while beating the veteran team in a drizzle. My attention was re-drawn to tennis, and I picked up a racquet again and learned how to hit a two-handed backhand, and then was sooo happy when I saw her hit that backhand passing shot down the line on match point in the 1985 French Open final – the Wilson ProStaff crack heard round the world!

Then Chrissie came to my home town of Reading, PA for a Tennis Legends Exhibition 2 years ago, and brought her little sister Clare along with Wendy and Ilana, and when I saw ger make the effort to get out on each of the 10 courts to hit a few balls with each and every one of the many local sponsors of the event, and she actually stayed 1/2 hour later and finished playing an extra set with a few of the girls at the club (making Wendy, Ilana and Clare wait out in the van), I was hooked all over again.

 

The Fashions of Chris Evert
WOW! If there’s anything I love about Chrissie, it’s her fashion and playing style. She had perfect form–in more ways than one. Chris fans probably find that they have photographic memory of what Chris wore at each match they’ve seen of hers, still after all this time!

I loved the Ted Tinling years too, of course…with most of the girls, he had his work cut out for him. Respecting Margaret Court as I do, I can admit that “fitting” her is like slipping a dress on Ivan Lendl. It was hopeless. But Chris was all polish and glamour, with a will of steel and a heart of gold. Every once in a while one of the girls today will have 1 or 2 of her great qualities…but never close to the whole package she was!

 

Evert/Margaret Court – Wimbledon 1973
One of my favorite Chris Evert matches is one that I only got to see a couple of years back on video. This was the Wimbledon 1973 semi-finals against Margaret Court, then world number 1 and still at or near her peak. Grass was also Margaret’s favorite surface and she is of course one of the game’s great players. But Chris seemed to care two hoots about her opponent’s reputation.

Chris was simply awesome in her 6-1 destruction of her opponent in the first set. It was one of those times when Chris made about 1 unforced error and controlled the pace strictly from the back of the court. Evert won 6-1, 1-6, 6-1, but it is that first set that just stuck in my mind.

She was only 18, but already it was the classical Chris Evert – excellent anticipation and return of Margaret’s big intimidating serves; superb passing shots and devastating lobs that moved Margaret back and forth, up and back, and side to side, and made Margaret look silly for even coming in to the net, even though she had to do it to have a chance at winning.

The fit and athletic Margaret Court looked like she needed oxygen after Chris raced to a 4-0 lead in the first set!! Margaret was hopelessly out of her depth and Chris made it look so easy! It is no surprise that Chris has such a good record against Court (9-4).

 


Evert/Shriver – Wimbledon/Newport 1985

Pam Shriver, back then ranked 3 or 4, Chris #1, was complaining to the press that she never got to play Chris, but always Martina, inferring she could possibly win more if she got to play Chris instead. She had not played Chris in almost 3 years and had never beaten her. I think she had lost in the semis or quarters of Wimbledon to Martina and made the comment then. So a month later, they got to play in the Newport finals. It was on grass, Pam’s favorite, and Shriver went up 2-0. But Chris was on one of those ‘I will not give you one point’ frames of mind when she thought someone had been “out of line” as Pam had been in suggesting she might beat Chris. From 0-2, Chrissie lost only 3 more games, and won 6-4, 6-1 with some of the best tennis I ever saw her play. When she got riled, there was no one who could beat her.

 

The last hurrah!
When Chris announced that 1989 would be her last year on the tour, my family (at my suggesting) decided to take our annual summer vacation to New York so we could see Chris play in her final US Open. We’d never been to a professional tennis tournament before and I was excited to see Chris live. We went to three days of the tournament during our trip back east from Utah. In between Chris’ first and second round matches, I went to “scout” Chris’ second opponent. The players were on an outside court and during a changeover I went in and sat about four rows up. During the next game, I realized that I had sat right behind Chris’ parents (since they didn’t need to be scouting Chris’ future opponents, I just determined they were as big a tennis fans as we all are). At the next change over, I got brave and said hello to them, telling them how far I had traveled to see Chris’ last Open and expressing how much following Chris’ career had meant to me. Colette and I chatted at each changeover during the remainder of the set and I was very appreciative to her for opening up to me like that. It certainly made the trip to see Chris an even more personal experience and I will always be glad I made that trip out to NY!

 

Family Circle 1985: Arrival of Sabatini
One of my best memories of Chris was actually the arrival of a 14 year old Argentinian girl who showed up in the final of the 1985 Family Circle Cup after finishing off her QF against Pam Shriver and completing a semi over tough clay-courter Manuela Maleeva in straight sets, earlier that very same morning! The final against Chris began at 1 pm, and understanding that the match would be televised live on national televison, Gabriela agreed to play—and I believe she DID want to– in this third match of the day against the world’s best clay player, Chris Evert.

Gabriela was flowing and beautiful, and had already beaten other great clay court players earlier in the week; a truly stupendously difficult draw, with wins over Kathleen Horvath and Zina Garrison prior to her ambitious wins on this Classic Super-Saturday of sport! Chris was way too much to handle, winning the first set 6-4 and then rolling over a then-exhausted foe 6-0 to close it out.

After the match, Chris commented that Gaby already reminded her of a Maria Bueno. I remember checking the papers for the results the very next week at Amelia Island, and they met—with equal rest before the match—in the QF, and this time Chris won 6-1 1-6 6-3. Clearly a real struggle had ensued, and you knew that something good for women’s tennis had arrived. Somehow I always relate this memory with Evert as much as Sabatini…it was like a birth.

 


The Nerve of Evert!
The nerve of her! How many times I had to sit in my chair and watch her comeback from impossible deficits! Whether she was down 0-5 in the 2nd or 1-5 in the 3rd or just 3-5 0-40 in the first, she didn’t look like she thought she planned to lose. How rude, I thought. How arrogant she is. She won’t even give her opponents the pleasure of thinking they have her beat, even if they don’t.

How dare she retire and leave us with only match memories. Not even time can beat her. Long live the Queen!

 

Evert/King 75 – Evert/Navratilova 85 – Agony and Ecstasy
King beat Evert at Wimbledon 1975 – this was my worst moment during Chris Evert’s career. I lived in the UK, we only saw tennis on television when Wimbledon was on, and there was no internet. The rest of the year I had to search the newspapers, usually The London Times, for results and my best friend had to be ‘reuter’ because he was the only one that sent the results. So when Wimbledon came round, I skipped school to watch Chris Evert’s matches and sat right up to the TV in a big chair. My parents were banned from the room during her matches so I could concentrate.

She must win this match I thought, she had played poorly in the quarterfinal just beating Betty Stove but looked good in this match, playing much better. The rest is history of course as the 3-0 lead in the final set slipped and Billie Jean came rolling back. I was devastated, I raced into the bathroom and had a terrible tantrum, shedding tears and I felt bad about this result for a long time.

10 years later – I was in France on my year abroad, living in Rouen, and watching Chris Evert against Martina Navratilova in the French Open Final on television. The only thing that had changed was that my flat mate was banned from the room during the match. This was a massive match for me, I wanted Chrissie to win so much, but knew it would be tough. I remember the terrible tension I went through making coffee after coffee to ease it. Chris played very well of course, but so did Martina and it was a very nervy affair – and that dramatic love 40 come back at 5-5 was almost too much to bear – remember that funny bounce – yikes. When Chris got to match point, I held my breath and waited for the passing shot to come – it must have been one of her best ever under pressure – and the sweetest one of all. As she hit that final backhand, and jumped in the air arms raised, many of us were jumping all around the world with her! It was a defining moment in her career and for her many fans. After that, it was tears and screams of joy as my flat mate thought I had gone mad – I will never forget that match and the joy it brought me.

 


Evert/Austin ’80 US Open
The build up to this match was so dramatic that beforehand, Chris later wrote, she told her father she would admit that Tracy was a better player if she could not beat her in this semifinal match.

After falling behind 0-4 in the first, Chris says she heard a friend of hers yell, “OK, Chris, start the match now!” and she began again, winning 4 of the next 6 games, but losing the first set with positive momentum.
I never saw Chris look more beautiful–wearing a pink satin trim on her white summer dress–and more reptilian all at the same time. Her lovely blonde hair hung perfectly down to her shoulders, but her eyes! They were squinted as they were during any intense match, but they were reptilian in an almost scary way in contrast to all the beauty that otherwise was shining out of her. They were like the eyes of Godzilla looking out over Tokyo, slowly and methodically deciding which area of the city to destroy next.

She only lost 2 more games in the final two sets as she steamed ahead 6-1 and 6-1, leaving Tracy and even Tracy’s parents shaking their heads in admiration and disbelief. Three perfect drop shots in the final game alone showed how perfect her touch was, how unreadable, and how accurate the rest of the match had been for Chris that day. I will never forget how she claimed the backcourt throne for good with that victory.

 

Chris turned me onto tennis
I’d just like to say thanks for a gift Chris Evert gave me: tennis, which truly is the sport of a lifetime. In 1971, I was a few days shy of my 10th birthday, growing up in a south Georgia farming community when I read a newspaper article about a 16-year-old kid making her debut at the U.S. Open in Forest Hills. A day or so later, she saved a zillion matchpoints to beat Mary Ann Eisel. It would be a year or so later before I actually “saw” her play, but I was hooked way before then — on the idea of this Chris Evert and on the game of tennis. I begin hitting a ball against walls at my house — inside, outside, anywhere I could — and learned to play the game that way. I followed her results with a passion for the next two decades, loving every win and agonizing over those rare losses. Twenty-three years after the fact, I finally got to see the Eisel match thanks to the ChrisEvert.Net website, and it was just as good as I had always imagined it would be!

On a personal note, I hate to admit this, but I was one of the autograph seekers that day Chris played the Peanut Tennis Classic here in Plains, Georgia! Haha…but I got my autograph! With so many years of consistent excellence and being the great champion she is, there’s no one I would rather have stood in line for.

 

She Was Approaching 30
I remember in December of 1984 during the Australian Open (played in December back then) that Chris was about to turn 30. This was on the heels of the devastating loss at Flushing to Martina in finals of the US Open. I was thinking that Chris might start to wind down and give up with the encroaching 3 – 0 coming up. Chris beat Sukova in Australia that year and kept her Grand Slam winning streak alive. She would of course turn 30 later in the month and keep her “streak” alive for another 2 years.

As I look back now I understand that what I appreciated in Chris was not just the two-handed backhands and color-coordinated fashion statements, but her strong desire to perform at a consistently high level with class and grace. If you will notice in so many of the matches Chris would always say, “Yeah” after her opponents hit a good shot or the way she would give her opponents a little pat on the head or a pat on the back after a really close match. These are the gestures of a person with dignity and class… qualities that often go unnoticed and unmentioned.

I feel certain that today these qualities still burn brightly in Chris because they were a part of who she was as a person, not just as the player of a sport. She probably doesn’t play as much these days, but we all know she’s still got it, and she’s still a true champion.

 

Hana! – at Wimbledon 84
Hana made the fatal error before she even walked onto center court, talking up to the press that she would play Martina in the final, overlooking a need to beat Chris in order to get there. Evert had steamrolled Hana in major finals, like the two US Opens in 80 & 82. There were very similar patterns to those matches, or as Virginia Wade put it at the time, “I don’t think Hana has any idea really how to play Chris. She just goes out and hopes for the best and that’s not enough against Chris. You need a plan, and to stick to it very well, to the very end, if you want to have any kind of chance.” (from the 82 US Open broadcast). Well, Chris never played a more polished match in all her life than during this 84 Wimbledon semi massacre, losing only 8 points on SERVE all match! Afterwards, the announcer said “They lied and told us there had not been a public lynching in England in (however many) years, but you wouldn’t have thought so after today’s semifinal match at Wimbledon.”

 

French 85…now and forever!
Obviously, this match is the one that many of us Chris fans point to as our favorite moment. Chris was always like my big sister. I got so nervous for her matches, it was almost odd. I had followed Chris since her debut and had watched her win the 1983 French while visiting Paris, but the 1985 final is the topper, mostly because it was against Martina and because it was such a wonderfully dramatic match. I recorded it (VCRs still weren’t all that prevalent so I was happy my dad had just purchased one), and for the last 19 years have watched it in preparation for each year’s French Open. (Even though Monica/Steffi in 1992 and Jennifer/Kim in 2001 were great matches, they just don’t compare when your all-time favorite is playing). I cursed NBC for years for showing us the edited down version, but finally this year I got to see the whole match thanks to ChrisEvert.net. What a special treat. The drama is much more evident when seen in its entirety. Anyway, my mom and I watched the match in 1985 and I could not sit down the last 15 minutes. We were both applauding each winner of Chris’ and when she had rifled that blazing backhand down the line, my mom and I both jumped and yelled in delight and I started to tear up and had to leave the room to have a good cry in my room. And I’m not even embarrassed to admit that.

Chris meant a great deal to me as a teenager and young adult as a great example of how to carry oneself in the public eye (not like the majority or the current crop), how to fight as a player, and how to be gracious in victory and defeat. And, when I couldn’t hit a one-handed backhand to save my life as a youth, it was imitating Chris’ two-handed gem that got my ability to where I could be competitive at a high level of play.

Merci beaucoup Christine Marie Evert  !!!


1986 Wimbledon QF against Helena Sukova

For someone who hated to lose, I believe that Chris Evert had a real feeling about those whom she competed against. I’ll never forget her 1986 Wimbledon quarterfinal against Helena Sukova. Chris really had to dig deep down to come up with some great shots to beat the young and hard-charging Sukova. At the end of the long three-set match, Chris immediately felt for her defeated opponent. For those few moments between the walk to the net and the traditional handshake, it almost appeared to me that Chris was admiring how well Helena had played and was genuinely relieved to have survived yet another test. Her handshake and the look on her face sort of acknowledged the respect for the match that Sukova had just played and compassion for her having coming up just short.

Chris was all about grace and femininity. But she was also tough and classy. Many, many tennis fans still miss seeing her out on the courts today. But she left us many treasured matches and memories for us to enjoy. For that, I will always be grateful to her.

Evert/Seles – US Open 1989
I love Chrissie!! This site is great! Anyway, a match memory…OK, I was there, so maybe that’s part of it. But it was Chrissie’s last Open, she had lost to Seles earlier in the year and people thought she may lose to Monica at the Open…she had played inconsistently in that last year, and it was always hard to say. But Monica was TOUGH and you just got a sinking feeling like…that was gonna be it. So Chris demolishes her 6-0 6-2. Who could believe it?

I taped the match at home to have a copy, and in the interview afterward, she says to Carillo, “I concentrated like I was 17 years old out there.” And that always made me think…people say how power-heavy the game became and that it was so tough for Chris to handle the change of pace. But that match showed it. She could play her game just as it was, and if she were young like all the young hard-hitters, with her full focus, motivation, and nerve, Chris would’ve been just as deadly as she was in the 70s. It wasn’t her fault she was 34 when the ‘new generation’ came along!!!!


Brighton 1985 – Chris vs Lindqvist
Chris arrived in the 85 Brighton QF to meet Catarina Lindqvist, and found herself in the surprising situation of a third-set tiebreaker. Chris won the match, but my match memory is of what happened afterwards.
While being known to distance herself from a lot of the other players, Evert had so admired Lindqvist’s fight and had felt so bad for her clear disappointment, that she reached out to her by inviting Catarina to dinner afterwards.

This is not so odd for Chris in some ways. In 1987, Pam Shriver mentioned, after she finally beat Chris, who was 32 by then, that a note was waiting for her when she returned to her hotel room—it was from Chris, wishing her luck in the final.


Bassett 83 Amelia Island
After being down 6-3 2-0, 15-year old Canadian teenager (and practically Beauty Queen) “Darling” Carling Bassett turned things around against defending champion Chris Evert, who had never even lost a set in the tournament’s history up until this match! That left Chrissie with simply no option but to come back from a 2-6 2-4 third set deficit to Bassett, and it is one of my most treasured matches; the tape of which was viciously stolen from my home back in 1986 by a crazy Bassett hound…I mean, fan.

But alas, the memory remains. I remember Dick Enberg with this surprised tone in the third set before a commercial break saying, “Well, maybe we really DO have a story here!” vaguely admitting that they had merely been hyping Carling for the sake of ratings, and then here she was, on the verge of beating Evert ON clay AT Amelia (Chris’ home court) where, as I mentioned, she had never lost before; not even a set. QUITE dramatic!!

Without any slipping from Bassett’s prowling play, Evert just refused to be the one to make an error, and pounded winners after deathly long rallies, and going it mainly error-free to the end. This match had some of the most enjoyable baseline exchanges I’ve ever seen and Evert’s stirring come back on national television, posting a 6-3 2-6 7-5 win, will always be an inspiration to me for why I love Chris and tennis!

 

Chris was funny
Rosie Casals once said, “Chrissie was funny off the court but not so funny on the court.”

Chris’s sense of humour never ceased to amaze me, really, no matter how serious matters may have been during a match. Her sense of fun was as sharp as her backhand. I remember a time when, just after Chris won a semifinal match, Mary Carillo asked if she would be watching the next semifinal match on television.
“Yes,” Chrissie quipped. “With the volume down.”

You knew she wasn’t zinging Carillo’s commentating, but they both had a good laugh, as it really was so unexpected.

Another time, after a very intense Wimbledon Final against Martina, a great 3 setter which had me on the edge of my seat, Chris ended up losing and on her way to the dressing room, Bud Collins was waiting to interview her with his crazy print pants. You thought she’d be too disappointed to make light of anything, but she approached him and without missing a beat, said, “Nice pants, Bud.” It set a whole different mood. You were always so ready to respect her, it was sometimes hard to remember her lighter side.

 


WITC & “Mixed” Doubles!

In a particular match from either ’75 or ’76 (Evert/Ashe vs Nastase/Casals), Chris amazingly retrieved a series of FIVE overhead smashes in a row, four of them from the powerful racquet of Nastase, with wonderful anticipation and agility, though eventually Nastase did finally put it away. Chris playfully tossed her racket towards his final shot’s direction as the crowd roared their appreciation of the deer-like Evert’s resilience. Not a match of any historical importance, but raises an interesting point.

Mainly what I recall about Chrissie’s doubles is that I never felt like she found the perfect foil for her own brand of doubles, though she had some good success with Turnbull in the mid-80s. But rather than just storming net, Chris still liked to lob, hit great passing returns, and even sharper short angles from inside the court, and maintain her Evert style in a doubles context. But her partner’s often were so used to the same old ‘rush the net’ mentality that they didn’t know how to respond to Chris’ somewhat dynamic understanding of doubles! So she got a rep for not being a great doubles player, but I still think that perception is false.

In fact, you look at the players in doubles today and one wonders if Chris was not ahead of her time in this regard: more and more, they are realizing the power of return of serve and backcourt aggression with the larger amount of court-space to whack those winners with!

 

The Narrowed Eyes…
The narrowed eyes…like a cat watching for one false move from its prey, the pursed lips…shut tight to keep all the senses focused on the the sight and sound of the ball, that walk…dismissive confidence but never arrogant…..classic Chris Evert.

Inspiration in life for me in making the most of yourself in every way with whatever skills you have.

Fave shots – inside out forehand down the line, cross-court backhand, drop shot and lob. (I think they were her favorite shots too!)

 

Virginia Slims Championships 1976
What an amazing match.

Chris had beaten Evonne about 12 straight times between 1975 through 1976, and Goolagong finally broke the streak in the indoor Virginia Slims Circuit in Philadelphia. While Chris was trying to maintain her dominance, she was likewise finally breaking off a second engagement to Jimmy Connors, and this time for good. So her heart could not have placed her in the best possible condition to take on this challenge to the Throne.

But in typical Evert valiance, Chris took to the task against the sometimes blinding talent of Aboriginese-born Australian Evonne Goolagong, who herself was newly married and reaping –in tennis results– the benefits of its stabilizing presence on her life.

A match with points almost entirely won by winners from one side of the court or the other, this was a high quality duel, and though I hate to see Chris lose, she had no shame in her 6-3 5-7 6-3 loss to Goolagong, which she avenged with the Wimbledon victory a few short months later.

But what I remember best is that last point, where on the heels of a defeat she thunderously fought against, BOTH were so brilliant …but Evonne simply made the final shot; that was the only difference. And in the spirit of “Well, you can’t do any better than THAT!” Chris tossed her racquet in the air with a smile. She had given it her all and her best; and that was good enough for all of us!!

 

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