Of Chris Evert, the sweet little rich girl, a critic once said that the only time Jimmy Connors showed any class was when he dumped her in favor of a movie actress. This was a fairly grotesque thing to say, yet it was almost complimentary compared to the abuse the reigning woman tennis player has been subjected to on her way to stardom and an avowed destination of marriage, family and a white picket fence all around.
For someone who grew up down the block from practically all of us—if Chris Evert is not the essential girl next door, you must have lived by a vacant lot—the divine Ms. E. has been vilified throughout much of the America she so innocently has come to represent. Why this is so is not entirely clear.
As a spokeswoman for trendy female consciousness, stirring things up while she was rejuvenating distaff jockdom practically by herself, Billie Jean King was often reviled. But B.J. luxuriated in controversy. She was rough, tough, full of brambles—both a pain in the neck and a remarkable woman.
On the opposite side of the court, there is hardly anything remarkable about Chris Evert, aside from her exquisite tennis. She is soft, simple, periwinkles and heather; a composite of Sandra Dee, the Carpenters and, yes, apple pie. As she goes about the tasks of growing up, making a living and trying to deal with the perils of romance all at the same time in front of 60 million onlookers, she appears to be both a throwback to pinafore days and a bedenimed example of contemporary womanhood.
Only the cloying Rod McKuen could have invented Chris Evert. "Listen to the Clay" perhaps. Or "Fuzzy Was the Yellow Ball." Or something. And that's the rub, isn't it? She is just too nice, too sweet, too, well, perfect. There. Chris Evert is too perfect. It is as Kristien Kemmer Shaw, her best friend and fellow tournament player, once told Evert after getting to know her mother. "Chris, I didn't like your mom at first," Kristien said. "I didn't believe anybody could be that nice and still be real."
One way or another, it must be understood that Chris Evert, a plainspoken girl from a simple tract home on a quiet street in Fort Lauderdale—this same lass who dates a President's son, charms talk shows, wears all those pastels and earns all that money—had spectacular timing. That she burst from a puff of smoke just as the game of tennis was shot from a cannon into the center ring may have been fortuitous. But whether she was more lucky than good doesn't matter anymore. She hits the doublehander, wins the tournament and doesn't smile much. If that is what arouses envy, even hatred, and turns everybody off, so be it. She is just Chris Evert and everybody else is not.
With all her victories and celebrity, her clothes and multiple images, she has always been just Chris to the tour-mates on the Virginia Slims circuit. Just Chris to Jeanie Brinkman, the promotions director for the Slims. Just Chris to Valerie Ziegenfuss, a borderline player shuttling between the big time and the satellite "futures" tour. Just Chris to Johnny Carson. Just Chris to Jack Ford.
"She's at her best with the No. 1 crowd," says Ziegenfuss of Evert. "To be with the elite, the famous, the show biz people, that's a challenge to Chris. She funnels her energies into that. And she carries it off beautifully."
But does the coach turn into a pumpkin? Not long after her short, roller-coaster fling with young Ford, Evert won a tournament at Sarasota for which Jack Drury did the publicity and subsequently received a bouquet of flowers with a card signed "Keep it up. Jack." She went into a dither trying to figure who the sender was until Jeanie Brinkman finally convinced her the gift was not from Jack, the publicist, but from Jack, the White House kid.
Similarly revealing of Evert's occasional fairy-tale-like existence was her reaction during a private dinner at Manhattan's cushy "21" club, which she attended with another Ford, Eileen of the modeling agency. Everything was sophisticated and just so until Chris started whispering to Kristien Shaw that don't look now, but over there is the star of a noontime TV soap opera.
"I bet Chris can name half the models in Vogue and most of the soap stars," says Shaw. "She is quite taken with fashion people and actresses and the entertainment life. But if she ever stopped to think how much more famous she is than all of those people, she might faint."
Chris Evert keeps saying she's merely a normal 21-year-old who happens to play tennis well. "I'm not glamorous. I'm not beautiful. I don't want to be on any plateau higher than anybody else," she says. "I don't want the younger girls to be in awe of me. I talk to them about their matches, congratulate them on key victories. I ask them to practice and hit with me. Not many of the older players came over and asked me to practice when I first came up. I think that's important."
Such efforts have made Evert far more popular among her compeers—Sue Barker, the young Briton, calls her "a bit of a god"—than with the public in general. Evert got the reputation of being a cold, heartless stroking machine at her first Forest Hills in 1971 when, as a skinny 16-year-old out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School, she kept coming from behind to beat everybody in sight until she was stopped in the semifinals by King. Back then, the crowds were so enamored of this cool, sparkling teen-ager that they cheered opponents' errors and hurled beer cans around the concrete stands.
Following the most perilous victory of that U.S. Open, in which she survived six match points to defeat Mary Ann Eisel, Evert revealed an almost mystical self-awareness. "The match points?" she said. "On the match points I was thinking how I would look during the handshake at the net. Would I be cute? Sad? Tired? Then when the ball came up, it looked so big, just like a huge balloon."
Billie Jean urged Chris to enjoy the adulation and support while she could; it would never be the same. Billie Jean was right.
Monikers such as "ice princess" and "metronome kid" were to dog Evert's trail in the ensuing years, mostly compliments of the British press. ("What's a metronome?" Chris wanted to know in London.) Slowly, the crowds began to turn from her. Engendered by her calm, impassive manner and repetitious baseline game, the appellations stuck, and they bother Evert. Often she mentions her desire to add adventure to her game, to try some passion, maybe even a new style.
Having been dragged through the publicity mills at such a tender age, perhaps Evert's only chance for survival in those days was to close herself off, withdraw behind a poker face and turn into a wooden papoose. She also developed a miniparanoia. After losing to Evonne Goolagong in their first classic meeting at Wimbledon in 1972, Chris came into the locker room, threw her rackets to the floor and said bitterly, "Now I hope they're happy."
Evert's distrust of—even disgust with—the fans during her many matches with Goolagong has not subsided. "I've tried to understand the public sentiment for the underdog," Chris says, "and I don't take it personally anymore. I root for all the best teams, all the favorites, in baseball and football now because I know what it feels like to be one. I am tired of beating Evonne and getting polite applause while she gets the standing ovations. If I played her in Fort Lauderdale, I think the crowd would still be for her. The only time I get standing ovations is when I lose."
"Don't say that." her father reprimands.
"I'm telling the truth." Chris snaps back.
It is important to keep in mind that Chris Evert has never suffered an image she wasn't in a way responsible for. Julie Heldman, for years a high-ranked player, says that as a young girl Evert seemed to have an inability to talk to people, a basic shyness and lack of confidence. But at the same time there was an unusual awareness of self that almost defied description. "She was not so much dull and boring as withdrawn," says Heldman. "Not so much withdrawn as separate. As a teen-age athlete, it is very difficult to achieve a balance between what I call sexual humanism and athleticism. The way she developed on the court was to consider all possibilities, wipe out the risks and only play the sure things. This philosophy dominated her life. Coming from the most conservative of families, Chris never gambled; she never took chances."
This attitude extended to the delicate process of making friends—always a two-way street. Except for Kristien Shaw, a few strays like Floridian Wendy Overton, and her girlhood pal Laurie Fleming, Evert refused to make headway in that direction. Tennis-dress designer Ted Tinling has compared the Slims circuit to "a pride of lions, where if one leaves to relieve oneself in the bushes, one has to be sniffed out, cleansed and approved all over again." It took Evert a long time to be accepted.
Still, independence was not without rewards. Women on the tour speak of several ways to win: by aggression, intimidation, quiet consistency, even some sneaky tricks here and there. Evert's way was to become, in the words of another prominent tour player, Lesley Hunt, "a myth. Chris fascinated me because she stayed unknown. She never cried, never cracked. Whether she was or not, she made everybody think she was so cold. That in itself was intimidating. It was like playing against a blank wall. In our matches I used to watch for the slightest sign of emotion as a hint of nervousness. Even a raised eyebrow would be a terrific breakthrough."
Fellow pro Rosie Casals says, "It was drummed into Chris how to react on match point. And that was, naturally, not to react at all. It carried over. For a long time she lived her life as one long match point."
In the context of this heavy matter, Evert was asked what there was about tennis that held her so. What was the attraction? The art, the grace, the flow of the game, the concentration? Just what? She did not hesitate. "The winning," Chris Evert said. "I always liked the winning."
Colette Evert, the mother, says she is tired of the press describing her house as a "modest bungalow." She reasons that any place with five bedrooms deserves more credit. The Evert residence in Fort Lauderdale is just a few blocks from Holiday Park. Jimmy Evert, the father, has run the pro shop and offered tennis lessons at Holiday Park for 28 years. It is the only job he has ever had. Last year Chris finally persuaded her father to raise his fee for hourly lessons. The price skyrocketed from $6 to $10.
The Evert neighborhood is populated mostly with older folks, some of whom have no idea that such a famous person exists within range of a lawn hose. Recently, a lost stranger looking for her house had to stop at three different front porches before finding anyone who had heard of Chris Evert.
The family has contemplated moving several times. Colette still slips away to price the homes in the more exclusive Coral Ridge section of town. But, having weighed the offers of resort hotels and spectacular condominiums and whole new countries presumably formed for their convenience, the Everts decided to stay put and add on to the old house—twice. Now Drew, the oldest of the children, has a bedroom back off the kitchen when he comes home from his studies at Auburn. Chris and her tournament-playing sister Jeanne, 18, share their own expansive suite upstairs.
How tough is it being Chris Evert's brothers and sisters? When Drew lost in the NCAA tournament last fall, somebody said he should give up tennis for the used-car business; he could sell all the cars his sister had won. A secure, normally subdued type, Drew exploded. He responded that he could beat his sisters anytime. "Not on clay," Chris said with a laugh.
John, 14, and even Clare, nine, undergo other forms of harassment from time to time. At John's high school matches, spectators sometimes shout. "Hey Chrissie, hit some double faults. Chrissie," and jealous playmates have been known to insinuate that little Clare "acts big" just because her sister makes all the magazine covers. However, none of them has to endure quite the same identity crises that Jeanne does.
The brighter of the two older girls, the personable, outgoing one, the more independent and, yes, even the better-looker, Jeanne at 14 also was considered to have more potential as a tennis player. She had wins over Margaret Court and Casals as a child, then suddenly stopped growing at 5'1½" Weight problems ensued and, while Jeanne has struggled along on the tour the past couple of years, the sisters have grown apart.
"It's very difficult sometimes when I get to the finals and I want so much for Jeanne to stay and watch," says Chris. "But I know it's better for her to go on down the road. She has her own younger friends on the tour whom I don't know very well. Jeanne doesn't make as much money as I do and our tastes are different. She goes her own way now. She has to have freedom and get away from me. She's her own person. But I think about her all the time."
Probably Colette has adapted to the family fame best; certainly she enjoys it most. A vivacious, laughing woman, the former Colette Thompson of Larchmont, N.Y., Mom Evert treats the big tournaments as joyous carnivals, her magnetic presence now a staple on the strawberry fields of Wimbledon and the tinkling verandas of Forest Hills.
Such social activity is not her husband's cup of tea. Although troubled by nerves and high blood pressure, Jimmy, 52, says Chris' success is "a dream come true." Thoroughly conscientious about the feelings of the rest of the family, he quickly points out that the success of "each one of them" is the biggest thrill. But Jimmy says that his family's fame has not been easy to handle.
"It is my nature to find things to worry about," he says. "I thought everything would be easier as I grew older. Instead it's gotten harder. Going to tournaments gets me too keyed up. I have the courts to take care of. I want to be concerned about the other children. I want to spend time with John and Clare. I think about not getting a chance to go watch Drew play at Auburn. I worry about Jeanne, her mental state. Then there's Chris and all the high-powered guys with the contracts."
Jimmy went to his first—and only—Wimbledon in 1975, and he has been to Forest Hills a couple of times, but Colette agrees that he doesn't enjoy tournaments anymore. Watching Chris' televised victory over Goolagong in San Francisco earlier this year, Jimmy had to get up and leave the living room; he couldn't stand the tension.
The agents and lawyers and reps and sharks have yet to get a hold on his little girl, though. Aided by his brother Chuck and a local friend, Jimmy himself negotiated Chris' early contracts—with Wilson rackets and Puritan dresses—and recently signed her on with Converse shoes and Borden's cheese. That is the sum of the endorsements. "You can get overexposed, spread too thin," Jimmy says. "We're big cheese eaters, but I don't want Chris getting into tennis clubs or vacation resorts. They demand too much of your time. She makes enough money for our way of living."
Rosie Casals has been after Jimmy to get Chris into tax shelters and permit her to join sister Jeanne in Casals' own condominium operation. Jimmy hasn't budged. Most of the net from the astounding, record-setting $425,000-plus that Chris won on the tennis court in 1975 was put into the family's own corporation, Evert Enterprises, which was formed when Chris turned pro and which includes pensions, trust funds, profit sharing—the works. "Our corporation is the best tax shelter there is," says Jimmy.
On her own, Chris recently sought out and got a contract with the Ford modeling people in a genuine attempt to broaden her horizons outside the game.
"My father is basically a very simple, conservative, uncomplicated man," says Chris. "All the other business that came with tennis was too much. It really aged him. He doesn't laugh or smile as much anymore. There was family, tennis and religion in his life. And that's all there ever was." And still is. Jimmy grew up in a strong Catholic family in Chicago, one of four brothers whose mother, Christine, got them in the habit of going to Mass every day. A Notre Dame man, Jimmy learned when he got in trouble to pray. His brother Chuck says Jimmy has never forgotten.
"Most parents bend a little or show some flexibility," says Chris, "but to this day I've never heard my mom or dad say a cussword and I never will. They just block everything out. I don't know anybody more conservative. It's amazing. Evil just never existed in our household."
The Everts sent their first two children to St. Thomas Aquinas High rather than to the more elite Cardinal Gibbons, "to keep them humble," according to Colette. Later, John attended Gibbons while Jeanne went to public school. If it is true that a person is shaped most by what happens in the home and the classroom, certainly the unique influences of a parochial education left a mark.
"When I think of childhood, I think of being protected," says Chris. "Protection first. Then Laurie [Fleming] and me. Laurie went to Gibbons but we saw each other every day. We played tennis every day. Away from school, where we wore those hot woolen uniforms, we dressed alike. We acted alike. We thought alike. We even liked the same boys. Boyfriends then were people you saw at the courts, watched their matches, spent the day hanging around and talking tennis with, then went home."
Chris' first real crush was a boy named Pike Rowley with whom she "went steady" until Laurie started liking him too much. Laurie eventually married him.
Growing up, Chris always was reserved, quiet, hesitant; clearly her father's daughter as opposed to the bubbling Jeanne, a ringer in personality for her mother.
"Chris hated excess," remembers Colette. "She thought it was wrong to kiss in public, or to cry. Crying was a sign of weakness. She was always dainty, peace-loving. Never had to be scolded. If three of the kids fought for a toy, Chris was the first to give in."
So this was Chris at an early age. She would not volunteer in class, or say hello unless she was greeted first. She had no confidence. "I was afraid of people," Chris says. "Then the better I got in tennis, the more pride and confidence I got in myself off the court."
The crunch came in the eighth grade when she had to make a choice between tennis and cheerleading. "I loved the uniforms, the noise and excitement. Away games and everything," she says of the latter. "But Dad got upset and I knew it would take too much time away from tennis."
In high school Chris made it to only one prom, to only one slumber party, to the Pizza Shack after a football game just once. It was a very big deal when she showed up at a social event. The kids couldn't believe that Chris Evert would waste her time just to have a little fun.
She was not permitted to go out with boys until the ninth grade, and long after that her father would sit up waiting for Chris to come home from every date.
"I know my parents were doing their best," she says. "But to miss the slumber parties! That was a time in my life when it was important to have friends. Kids are insecure then and need somebody to depend on. I was such a loner in high school. That just contributed."
Her parents' tight grasp persisted through Evert's tennis milestones. In 1970, when Chris was 14, they allowed her to fly on an airplane alone for the first time. She flew to a tournament in Charlotte with Fleming, where she beat Francoise Durr and Margaret Court on successive days. "Margaret said she was injured, so we didn't know whether the wins in Charlotte meant anything," says Jimmy.
The only thing those wins meant was that Chris Evert's world had changed forever, and the top hasn't stopped spinning. In 1971 Chris stunned Forest Hills. At the beginning of 1972 she embarrassed Billie Jean King on Florida clay, 6-1, 6-0, then set Wimbledon throbbing with her match against Goolagong, not to mention the beginnings of her relationship with Connors. In 1973 she toured the Continent, getting acclimated to the red, dusty surfaces of Paris and Rome, which she would return to and dominate during the next two summers. In 1974 she won everything worth winning except Forest Hills, and she nailed that one last September.
All along the way, Colette was always there to make sure the apron strings were—if not taut—available. But in Europe in the summer of 1973 Colette Evert realized she was losing her little girl.
"I knew I was becoming a fixture," Colette says. "I tried to stay in the background. I really did. But it was a stage of my own life as a parent when I wasn't sure what to do. Chris started ignoring me when the other players were around. She didn't want to seem like mama's girl. I was hurt, badly hurt. But I understood."
What happened was that the Connors episode was building. Word spread through the women's locker room that Chris was sneaking off with Jimmy behind her mother's back. Resentment flared.
"I really got to hate my mother always being around," Chris says. "My mother and I were never friends. She was just a, well, mother, tending to my ways. I must have been awful to live with that summer. For one thing, I was playing badly. The girls were losing respect for me. I'd come back to the room at night and want to go out with Jimmy, and there would be—my mother. I'd say to myself, 'Why are you here?' But I didn't want to leave her alone. Oh God, I'm so glad that period is over."
The climax came after Forest Hills that autumn of '73. Relaxing at home, Chris suddenly flew off to California to see Connors. She did not tell her parents. Instead, she left a note that said something to the effect of, "Don't worry; I'm O.K.; I'll call." Then she just went. "I still can't believe I did it," Chris says. "It must have really crushed them. But I had to. I knew they would never approve. Their grip was too strong. I felt tied down with no freedom whatsoever. Since then they've treated me like a grown-up. The best part is my mother became my friend."
Helen Wills went six years without losing a tennis match; before her, Suzanne Lenglen became furious if she even lost a game; the wondrous Maureen Connolly won the U.S. and World Championships practically in swaddling clothes before the horseback accident that struck down her career; Margaret Court won the Grand Slam twice, as well as a mess of Big Four titles; King, until she turned into a conglomerate, played some fairly historical tennis herself, winning 19 Wimbledon championships in all, counting singles, doubles and mixed doubles, in addition to 10 Forest Hills titles.
Yet not even these accomplishments overshadow what Chris Evert already has done. She has won Forest Hills once, Wimbledon, the French and Italian championships twice each, and the richest (and maybe toughest) of all, the Virginia Slims championship, three times—before her 21st birthday. She has a current streak on clay of 95 consecutive winning matches and 20 winning tournaments. Except for single-set contests with the Phoenix Racquets of World Team Tennis, she has lost only four times in the last year, and each defeat seems to be accompanied by presses stopping and the Dow Jones hurtling into the basement.
One can speculate that if Evert were not around. King still might be. Chris never beat Billie Jean on grass in three meetings, but she came awfully close the last time (Wimbledon, 1975). And B.J. never took Chris on clay; the only time they even split sets on the slow surface was in their very first match.
While Evert's current rival, the dazzling Goolagong, surely is playing the finest tennis of her life, their 1976 matches show Chris ahead four to two, including her Wimbledon victory. She has beaten Evonne nine of the last 11 times they have met, outside WTT.
Evert's match temperament, her attitude about the game, is something special. Tinling recalls a breakfast conversation with Chris before a match with Martina Navratilova. "Chris said she hoped they would have a good match," he remembers. "I have never heard a champion say anything of the sort. Champions always want to win love and love, win easy, dominate and then get off. This girl said she felt so much better after a good match. She is extraordinary."
While the Slims tour is full of future stars—a Navratilova and Barker here, a Dianne Fromholtz and Terry Holladay there—no one is likely to see the precision, efficiency, concentration and spectacular winning streaks of an Evert again soon. "Maybe ne-vair another Kwiss-see," says Francoise Durr.
That would seem to take care of the tennis; the romance is hardly so stable. If it is true that Evert came into Jimmy Connors' life at a difficult time for him, he also provided a secure shoulder for her when it was most needed. At 18 Chris went from total dependence upon her family to considerable reliance on Jimmy. When the two called off their engagement, Chris found herself completely on her own for the first time. It must have been quite a shock.
The engagement had been broken for two months when Evert came off the court in Sarasota one day to be met by a TV reporter seeking her reaction to the news that Connors' new partner was Mean Mary Jean of Dodge car fame. Though she was taken aback, Evert handled the interview with aplomb. But, says Kristien Shaw, she later threw a sobbing, moaning tantrum.
At Wimbledon in 1975, after Connors kept showing up with actress Susan George—the women players called this "Jimmy's alltime cheap shot"—Chris remained in seclusion, never gracing the players' upstairs tearoom where the tournament In crowd gathers. She was deeply hurt on that occasion. But at this year's Wimbledon, while Connors frolicked with yet another glamorous companion, Marjorie Wallace, Evert went her own way socially—dating, partying and showing up often at the tearoom. "Chris made up her mind to hold her head up, go anywhere she pleased and have fun this time," says Ziegenfuss. And, by the way, to win the tournament.
"When I had marriage to look forward to, I played looser; tennis wasn't everything," Chris says. "Jimmy was always security. Then when he was gone, there was limbo. That period is over now."
Since the estrangement from Connors, Evert has glided through much more than the usual growing-up procedures, especially in the last year. She has become independent, she makes her own decisions, she lives her own life. She has left the pain of her insecurities behind and matured into a warm, open human being—"blossomed like a flower." in Jeanie Brinkman's words.
Evert is one of the leading joke tellers on the circuit and one of its most popular members. "Is there anybody who doesn't like Chris?" Heldman says. "It's impossible not to like Chris."
Notwithstanding momentary lapses, it is intriguing that for the most part Evert has gravitated not so much back home during this period of adjustment as toward the friendship and life-style of Shaw and Brinkman, women who hold out the special allure of a glamour she never knew existed.
"You know, Jeanie is such a lady," Evert invariably says of Brinkman, the beauteous promotions director who always looks as if she has stepped out of a Cadillac ad.
Shaw, a former tour regular who has been playing World Team Tennis with Evert in Phoenix this summer, lives the plush life of a nouveau riche young married New Yorker with her husband Rick. Riverside Drive apartment. Dinners at Nicola's and the Palm. Shopping at Bergdorf's and Saks. Hair and nails by Jean Pierre.
When Evert has time off, she visits the Shaws more often than she goes home. Kristien has influenced Chris' wardrobe, taken her to an eyebrow-bleach man, introduced her to the Lazslo makeup line and finally ("after two years," Kristien says) persuaded Chris to cut her hair five inches shorter.
Shaw has become Even's sounding board, confidante, fashion setter and guru. "Chris told me that the first time she saw me I had on granny glasses with braids tied up around my head, and I was reading a French book," Kristien says with a laugh. "She said that impressed her. We're so alike."
Meanwhile, it has taken some two years post-Mom for Evert to weave her way into the basic fabric of the tour and achieve meaningful relationships with the players she leads (in title, at least) as the president of the Women's Tennis Association. Billie Jean King worries about the young prexy, worries that Chris may be too concerned about the future, what she will do after her tennis is over. "Are you happy?" B.J. asks Evert just about weekly. "That's the most important thing."
Casals, who has become a close adviser, thinks Chris is having the time of her life. "She's going through all the phases," says Rosie. "She's free for the first time. She can do her New York dolly number with Kristien, or go home and play house with the folks. She can spend time on backgammon with the girls or go out with different guys. Then, too, she's more knowledgeable about Jimmy now."
Ah yes, Jimmy. Still. Many years ago Evert ditched her high school basketball-player flame back home for a romp under the klieg lights with Connors. As Julie Heldman says, "The first man in a young girl's life remains the most important one to her for a long time." And, so, Jimmy.
Until last spring the sweethearts emeriti talked on the phone about four times a week—more often after Connors got testy about the Evert-Jack Ford publicity. But then Connors reneged on plans to meet Evert in Philadelphia and Los Angeles at her Slims events. Instead he took up with Wallace, the former Miss World who had been linked with Jimmy Brown and Peter Revson, among other athlete swains. And suddenly sports' quaintest couple busted up, perhaps for good.
Many who knew them well kept insisting all along that Connors and Evert would be married one day (Evert once told a writer. "The man I marry will have to be a great tennis player"). Now these people are not so sure. "Jimmy's going to run off and hurt her once too often," says an Evert confidante. "Chris is not exactly pining away. Next time he comes back, she won't be waiting."
"Let's put it this way," says Chris. "Jimmy and I are more solid now. We know how each other feels. I always thought I would play tennis three or four years, then settle down and raise a family. But each year I play it's going to be harder to leave. I'd be a fool to stop now with all this money around and waste my talent. I can see playing a few more seasons, then gradually slipping into retirement. But I don't know. I don't feel secure anymore about the future. My life isn't mapped out for me, and that's kind of fun. There is a certain excitement in not knowing what's going to happen. I guess I'll just have to wait to read the book."
In the meantime, Evert is charting her course as befits a true child of the liberated generation. This is no small achievement.
One day in 1969, when Evert was a 14-year-old wonder tot and had just gained one of her first important victories, her grandmother Christine, who was to die of cancer a few weeks later, whispered to her namesake, "Chris. Someday for me. No. 1."
Now she is that. It must come as sweet fulfillment to the family, the world of women's tennis and the girl herself that Chris Evert has achieved all this—and womanhood, too.
A skinny 16, two-fisted Chrissie stunned Forest Hills by reaching semis.
Star-gazing in Fort Lauderdale, athletic youths observe Chris on home court the way baseball players used to study Ted Williams during batting practice.
Jimmy Evert, 52 and hypertense, no longer sees Chris play big matches.