Join Date: Feb 2004
Location: BrOoKLyN, NY
Re: Chris Evert Thread
We had to answer the question about WTT on Chrissie's facebook page, which they have since irritatingly erased by removing the 'message board' section of the pages! We had slightly different numbers on prize money than you have listed here Rollo - but I think we got that actually from a prior conversation on the topic here in THE BLAST... plus the book 'the art of team tennis' which says Jack Kramer (who turned out to be an arch enemy of the women's tour) worked to undercut the ITLF deal (which sanctioned WTT for $48,000 with the provision that WTT players could be excused from the league to enter the Italian and French Opens) - & persuading 14 European Federations to ban WTTers.
But anyway, this was what we wrote, with input from Steve Flink, Chris & others, regarding those World Team Tennis years:
"World Team Tennis was a very sticky situation. The French Open banned players who participated in World Team Tennis from playing, but only in 1974. The result of this is that Connors and Goolagong were banned. So Jimmy and Evonne sued to be allowed to play, as both were chasing Grand Slams. Connors then went on to win all 3 slams besides the French, so one can imagine how bitter he was. ‘Bitter’ and ‘Goolagong’ are two words that don't really go together, but still she did not return to Roland Garros until 1982.
So in retaliation against that decision by the French Federation, regarding those bans, certainly some players decided not to go back during those years. But as for Chris, she could in theory have asked for a modification of her contract with WTT in order to be able to play the French Open but she just was not interested, as she would not want ‘special treatment’ from what everyone else had to accept, plus she was clearly siding with the new WTA (which promoted the WTT) in building the new women’s circuit that was more determined to get higher prize money for the women & let them call more of the shots. In line with that, the money in WTT was just too much to pass up for a run at the French, which paid less than $6,000 to the winner. So the French Open's prize money was really representing the ‘old guard’ and so were in part responsible for the lowering in prestige of that event.
Add to this that already, the best female players were competing in WTT instead of the European tournaments on clay since the best players felt that they did not get enough money and recognition going that route. So this alone, with all other considerations aside, was enough justification to skip it, since Chris would have felt her wins at the French would have been cheapened, since the best competition was not there.
But the more positive spin is to see that in any battle, there are sacrifices, and by siding with the WTA that brought the prominence to the women’s game they were all striving for, that this is itself a worthy sacrifice of a few Grand Slam titles. It all goes with being part of foundational group laying the groundwork for the future of tennis, and Chris is certainly very proud of that."
Steve added separately, "Chris probably was sorry when her career was over that she missed out on an almost-certain three more French titles, but she had no incentive to play in such a weak field in Paris. In 78, for instance, there was that big struggle for No. 1 between her and Martina when Martina won Wimbledon and Chris took the Open. Even though Martina had won the Virginia Slims Championships in the spring, all of us considered the Colgate Series Championships in the fall to be the third biggest tournament of the year. Chris evened her record with Martina to 2-2 for the year by beating Navratilova in the Colgate final, and that was why our magazine (World Tennis), Tennis Magazine and almost all authorities gave Chris the No. 1 ranking for the year instead of Martina, who was ahead of Chris on the WTA computer. Chris winning again in straight sets in Tokyo at the end of the year further solidified it. So again, the French Open--- particularly for the women--- was hardly seen as a major in most of those years."
So anyway, I think we can agree, the Aussie Open even less so.... Chris actually stopped going because she was very similar in game & approach to Borg, and Bjorn basically said the tennis season is the only sport played year-round and his mind needed some kind of break in the year, and the AO being around xmas time then (late December), it was chosen as the time to 'take off'... Chris thought it was quite sensible & did the same. It did cost her the ranking on the Computer in 78 however because she did take off so much of the start of the year, and wasnt gaining points, even if everyone knew she was the best player still.
Its funny but back then 'human perspective' was still valued & honored, and not as much weight given to computerized interpretation. In any case, the computer nowadays takes way more variables into account, so who knows how it would have rated things back in '78. Chris would have been seen by today's computer as having played enough tournaments to have it not bring down her points, where then playing more equaled more points, period.
Last edited by daze11 : Jan 28th, 2013 at 09:52 PM.