Hi Renstar-and welcome to the Blast
Here is my take on Evert's slams. I'd like to hear others views too.
WTT? what is that? World team tennis? Why would you miss a grand slam, that is your best grand slam, for this?
Yes, World Team Tennis. Founded in 1974, WTT was originally designed to let the men and women take breaks for the French and Wimbledon. That was ok for Wimbledon, but the French, led by Philippe Chatrier, reacted by banning any WTT members. King and Casals were skipping it anyway, but Evonne Goolagong wanted to play and actually sued the French Federation. So did Jimmy Connors, who was REALLY hurt by it as he won the 3 other slams in 1974. This cost Connors his only shot at THE Grand Slam.
Chatrier's decision led to many players refusing to play the French in the future, and WTT went back on the original decision and only provided a break for Wimbledon.
Chris Evert won the French in 1974 and 1975 because she wasn't in WTT at the time. As late 1975 rolled around the French was a second class slam compared to 1973, when it was equal to the US. Wade had joined WTT, and after defecting Navatilova did too. Crazy as it sounds now, the prestiege and prize money at Roland Garros was so low by 1976 it not surprising Chris skipped it.
Chatrier realized his error and led the charge to put new life back into a European women's tour in 1979.
Prize money for the French Open jumped from $35 to 50,000 in 1978 to over $200,000 in 1979. He figured (correctly) that dangling money would lure the women back. Chris pulled out of WTT and committed to the European tour. She played Vienna, Rome, and Paris.
Evert pulling out did a lot to destroy WTT. At last Chatrier had his revenge!
I have heard an interview with Chris on Australian TV when she started to come back here and she said she hadn't come back for a while partly because it was Grass and the last time she was here all the crowd was rooting for Evonne etc, strange reasons if you ask me. I think the prestige level wasn't there at the time and the AO had been allowed to run down a bit and of course the travel.
Your last sentence hits it on the head as far as I'm concerned. The Aussie was sort of hit or miss at the time. It had a good field in 1974 when Evert faced Evonne. The prize money was tiny though, and to play the Aussie someone like Chris had to skip Christmas and then turn around to fly back for the pretiguous Virginia Slims events. It wasn't only Evert who missed the Aussie from 1976-1979-virtually all the top women did. Evonne Goolagong even threatened to boycott it at one point. "I no women's libber"
she said, and then went on to comaplain about how the women didn't have any matches on center court until the semis or final.
Chris has one odd gap in her resume as GOAT-she never won 3 slams in 1 year. She often won 2 of course, and had she played the French from 1976 to 1978 it's a good bet she would have 3 slams in 1976.
In 1980 the Colgate tour breathed new life into the Aussie tour. The Aussie Open was separated from the men, prize money went way up (from 50,000 to 200,00) and most of the top women showed except for Austin and Evert. As Chris already had 2 slams in 1980 this was her last chance to grab that elusive third slam.
Two other amazing Evert stats are realted to all those "missed" slams.
Her record of winning a slam EVERY year from 1974 to 1986-13 consecutive years-is unlikely ever to be broken. That's incredible enough under any conditions, but during many of those years Chris only played 2 slams! It makes this unique record more remarkable.
The other odd stat is Evert's record of NEVER failing to make the final at the Australian Open. 1974, 1981-82, 1984-5, and 1988. Given that 5 of those years were on grass it a testament to her greatness.
Consitency, thy name is Chris