Re: Chris Evert Thread
Here's an old article by B.J. Philips from "Time" magazine, from 1981, on Chris Evert Lloyd as she prepares for that year's US Open:
Not Cinderella, Just the Best
At the Open, Chris Evert Lloyd is stalking more than a title
There are so many of them now, an army of little girls with braces and pigtails pounding two-handed backhands, that one tends to forget: until 1971, just ten years ago, there were none. When the U.S. Open Tennis Championships began at Forest Hills that year, there was merely a name in small print on the list of competitors: Chris Evert, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. She was 16, a champion junior player, the kind of promising youngster who is invited to play the tournament to gain a bit of big-time experience while being soundly thrashed in the opening round.
It didn't happen quite that way. Chris Evert demolished Edda Buding, 6-1, 6-0, then beat the fourth-ranked American woman, Mary Ann Eisel, in the second round, saving six match points with finely honed strokes that would soon become famous: cross-court forehands and sweeping, two-fisted backhands down the line. Suddenly she was "Little Chrissie, Cinderella in Sneakers," enthroned on center court. She whipped the fifth seed, Franchise Durr, and Australian Lesley Hunt. She reached the semifinals, the youngest player ever to climb to the final four, before finally losing to Billie Jean King, the eventual champion. A most extraordinary athletic career had begun.
A decade later, Chris Evert Lloyd is, for the fifth time, defending U.S. Open champion. At Flushing Meadow, she will have a lot of competition for the spotlight, not just from all those teen-age terrors but from the likes of defending Men's Champion John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg, who, incredibly, has yet to win the American crown after nine tries. She has long since yielded her claims to the title of "the youngest ..." to the girls in pigtails: Tracy Austin won the finals of the U.S. Open at 16; Kathy Rinaldi played at Wimbledon at 14; Andrea Jaeger was the youngest Wightman Cup player at 15. But the ultimate superlative is well within her reach. At 26, Evert Lloyd is just a handful of major championships away from being proclaimed the greatest woman player ever.
In addition to her U.S. titles, she has won the French Open four times and Wimbledon three. Her total of twelve singles championships in these three tournaments is exceeded only by Margaret Court (with 15) and Helen Wills Moody (19). In these most prestigious tournaments, she has never failed to reach the semifinals, winning 145 matches and losing just 14. She has held the world's No. 1 ranking in six of the nine years she has played as a professional. Says Martina Navratilova, one of the few foes to challenge Evert Lloyd successfully over the years: "Billie Jean King built the car, and then Chris drove it faster than it's ever been driven. She got the vehicle and propelled it to the masses."
The road was not always a smooth one. The oldest daughter of a teaching pro, she was six when her father first took her to the court and started throwing tennis balls at her. "In the beginning, quite honestly, I played for my father," she says. "There was another factor too. I was very, very shy as a younger girl, just petrified of people. Tennis helped to give me an identity, made me feel like somebody." The woman who now jets from one world capital to the next recalls another attraction of the sport, her first trip out of state for a tournament: "We went all the way to Chattanooga. We stayed at a Holiday Inn, and we'd go out to eat at night. That was such a luxury, such a treat for our family. Maybe I didn't like hitting tennis balls, but I liked what it gave me."
Though her father Jimmy and mother Colette were protective about her personal and social life, no one could insulate her from her own achievements. She played that first Forest Hills oblivious to the banner headlines she was creating; after every match, she went home to an aunt's house for dinner, TV and an early bedtime. But when she returned to St. Thomas Aquinas High School, photographers intruded on the classroom to snap photos of the phenom doing her lessons. For the first time she became conscious of her celebrity status. Says she: "That was the difficult part, walking through school and hearing, 'There's Chris Evert.' Chris Evert was somewhere else, somebody else. Chris Evert wasn't inside me. And then there were the people staring. I've never felt comfortable with that."
In ensuing years, her personal life received almost as much attention as her performance on the court. She was engaged to Jimmy Connors, then not engaged to Jimmy Connors. She dated Jack Ford, son of the President, and Burt Reynolds, actor and Cosmopolitan centerfold. The gentlemen maintained a gentlemanly silence; the gossips and tabloids did not.
She was at that time dominating the sport as no one else had, running off a string of 56 match wins that shattered the confidence of opponents. Never as athletically gifted as some of her rivals, she beat them with unflinching concentration. Says Virginia Wade: "Chris' mind is the most superior mind in tennis. That is why she has been the greatest champion."
Her steely reserve, unblinking will and emotionless court demeanor—together with a seemingly automatic baseline game—left the fans unmoved, then hostile. No matter that she is one of the wits on the women's circuit, capable of regaling friends with off-color stories, even carrying a joke book on-court with Doubles Partner Navratilova to read between changeovers. To the public, she seemed cool and haughty, and crowds reveled in rooting against her: "At a very young age, that's very hard to take every single week. And this went on for four years. I was the ice queen and they wanted to see me melt. They wanted to see me cry, probably, show some emotion. But I carried it inside myself."
Finally she could carry it no longer, "crying every day, two or three times a day for two weeks. I thought I was losing control." Mentally drained, she quit for three months during the winter of 1977-78. "It gets old, tennis 52 weeks a year, the strain of staying No. 1. People are always at your heels, younger kids trying to beat you."
Then she met John Lloyd, a rising British player, whom she married in 1979. Today they are stay-at-homes who avoid, according to Lloyd, "any place where there are cameras and people who like cameras." Their schedule rotates: two weeks on the men's tour while he plays, two weeks on the women's tour while she plays, two weeks at home in Florida, London or Palm Springs, where they keep apartments. Says she: "He plays the supportive role sometimes; I play it other times. At first it was difficult for my tennis because I was so happy, so mellow and content that I couldn't balance that contentment off the court with the killer instinct on the court. Now I know how to do it and my tennis has never been better."
Another three-month hiatus in 1980 produced a refreshed and refocused champion: "I just realized that I could change my priorities and not worry about winning, not worry about how Tracy Austin or Martina was playing. I could simply try to master my own game and try to reach my peak. Not once did I say to myself, I've got to come back.' At 21 I needed it. But I'm not obsessed with it now as I was then, when it was the only constant in my life."
After winning last year's U.S. Open and this year's Wimbledon, she has regained her top ranking from Tracy Austin. Some day one of her three-month breaks will stretch into a genuine retirement, and tennis will lose a great and gracious champion. But right now Chris Evert Lloyd is at the top of her game—and not ready to yield. "I've been in the public eye since I was 16, and that's hard. But when you struggle with something and come through, it means more. It means more now when I win. I'm just not finished yet."
Last edited by newmark401; Jul 21st, 2009 at 01:04 PM.