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Old Feb 22nd, 2004, 11:21 AM   #1
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The Tracy Austin - Chris Evert rivalry : eyewitness accounts needed!!

The Tracy Austin - Chris Evert rivalry is one that has always interested me for some reason. When people talk of Graf-Seles being the biggest rivalry circumstances robbed the game off I would also add in Tracy's injuries as preventing one of the greatest rivalries - a three way Navratilova - Austin - Evert.

I never really saw Tracy play at her peak due to being a bit too young to remember her plus in those days UK tv really only showed the Eastbourne final & Wimbledon.

How did she manage to beat Chris at Chris' own game, seeing as Chris is viewed as the ultimate baseliner? For argument's sake ( and not to piss off Chrissie fans ) if you consider the period of 1979 - 1981 as the only period when Tracy and Chris played on a level playing field due to both being fit plus Tracy being old enough to compete on a level playing field then Tracy was dominating the Austin - Evert rivalry, leading 9-3 for that period and ending up retired with a 9-7 advantage over Chris.

What was Chris' reaction to Tracy? Were they friendly?
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Old Feb 22nd, 2004, 05:31 PM   #2
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Well, it's a tricky issue and needs a whole thread to address it as a topic. Good idea! Hmm...well, the shift in the rivalry toward Tracy occurred at the us open '79 and lasted through '81 to be specific (because it was the last quarter of '79, not the full year). And Tracy grew up idolizing Chris and her style of game. Chris took a liking to her, not just because Tracy idolized her, but she liked the factor in Tracy's play that is REALLY like Chris' game (a deep competitive determination to win and an unflappability under pressure...which in addition to the style of play, you could say were qualities that occurred to Tracy to have as a player by seeing them first in Chris.) With that said, Tracy took the model and 'improved' on it by hitting the ball on the rise, which added to the pace and also gave the opponent less time to react, whereas Chris waits for the ball to bounce up to her waist, which is both her power-zone and about the fact that she hits the ball very flat for those bullet-shots. Personally, while i think this added more zip to tracy's shot, this jerkier-motion adds pressure to the body and (MY OPINION) was responsible for her back-injuries and early-career end. But that's a separate topic.

So at first they got along, but the competitive issue--of both vying for the top #1 ranking and of being mirrors of each other: 'who is the REAL godzilla?!' made for a cat fight. They didn't get along until they both had babies, and even then didnt discuss tennis. They discussed baby drool.

If I had any critique of Chris' MENTAL power in her career, it is that she seemed to give certain people, who she didnt see any shame in losing to, PERMISSION to win. She did this with Martina, Graf, and Tracy--all at different points, not permanently towards any of them. This 'permission' always resulted in some kind of losing streak over a year and a half or so period. But as you watch some of her losing streaks, you can also see an energy lull that seems strangely lethargic for someone who would never 'just let it happen' against any other player on the tour. That 'fight' in her would just not bare its teeth, but then after a while she'd turn it around, and all of a sudden, she'd become very competitive again. When she got it in her mind to take someone apart, she usually did it, and with Chris --more than ANY other 'best of all-time' player-- i'd say CONFIDENCE mattered the most to her results because her game was so much about her mental ability to determine victory, since it was not athleticism that made her great.

As for how did chris feel about it, she admits she was freaked out by someone who so obviously played her exact game and was playing it at her level. It is fairly telling that Tracy denies she copied Chris' game...that's like water trying to deny it is blue because of the color of the sky. But it made Chris a bit insecure, as she didnt want to be outdone by...herself. What a weird feeling to have a doppleganger. It got into VERY strange psychological territory. I mention godzilla because I think of "Godzilla vs. Mecha-Godzilla" with these two players, where the metal-Godzilla shocks Godzilla and wins a lot at first appearance but finally explodes and the real Godzilla goes on to terrorize til the end of time.

Bottom line: i think chris would basically have gotten through the block, just as she did with Martina, and figured out tracy's game in a more consistent way. But when Chris beat Tracy 6-0 6-0 in that 82 Slims Championships, it was the SF of the year-end championships... she was healthy enough to make it that far in the tournament and to be that highly ranked, so I wouldn't say she was just a girl standing on the court with Tracy Austin's name. She got blown out. Chris' coach, Dennis Ralston, said that week, "Chris' accuracy has been SCARY" so she was playing pretty well.

I know a lot more, but it is only right to now leave room for the many others who will have their own slants on this, and who have much more information.

Last edited by daze11 : Feb 22nd, 2004 at 09:57 PM.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2004, 06:29 PM   #3
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Thanks for your reply. Feel free to write as much as you like on the subject

I know Chris was resolute and probably would have found a way somehow to get in the hunt for #1 again but definitely it seemed at one point that she was going to have to settle for being an exceptional #3 behind Martina & Tracy if you go strictly on head to heads. I sometimes wonder if Tracy hadn't have gotten injured and stayed on the tour as Martina's biggest threat for a couple more years if Chris would have kept the motivation to prolong her career as long as she did. I'm sure Tracy thought she had time on her side and I'm sure if she had been able to play there would have been a few epic matches at Roland Garros between herself and Chris.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2004, 06:46 PM   #4
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I think that right there is the saddest of what we all missed out on. Austin & Evert at Roland Garros. I'm seeing an 8-6 in the third that no one ever takes out of their VCRs. (Tracy's good record against Chris was almost all indoors, which--as I've mentioned a lot in threads--was Chris' worst surface by 4 times any other, including grass.)

I don't think Tracy would have won that meeting if it had occurred in 1981; Evert had just finished bashing Navratilova 6-0 6-0 at Amelia Island a few weeks prior. Ironically, Hana took Chris out of the FO that year in what was probably Hana's best match ever, but when Hana played in that dream-state she would get into, I'm not sure anyone could beat her. I would love to see goolagong in her dream-state vs. hana in her dream-state... it usually didnt last past 3 games, but sometimes, yes, a whole match.

The terrible thing with Austin is just that we can't know. Chris was slumping in general in 79 and 80, so she wasn't at her best anyway (just got married; had other distractions, and maybe was havng a let down from spending 6 or 7 years at #1 and looking for new motivation). But case in point, actually is Hana. At the 81 Wimbledon, everyone predicted she'd beat Chris in the final. And they also talked a lot about how many Hana would win in the future because her future ws so bright. This was felt by everone at the time based on hana's first 2 or 3 years of big results, that she was a meteor about to illuminate the sky in just a few more strides. But those strides never came. She was always a fine player, near the top, but didnt fill in the blanks to true greatness. Tracy was remarkable. REEEEEmarkable. But motivations, outside-career distractions, and the degree to which the 'new kid on the block' makes a big splash but begins to be 'read' a lot quicker by the established top players...all these things play a factor.

To suggest anyone can predict what might've been is too far a leap for anyone war-worn enough to have seen the battles with 'fame' in every field, sport & otherwise.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2004, 06:50 PM   #5
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This is a good idea for a thread, not just because it's a fascinating rivalry in itself but also because of the current interest on these threads in Chrissie. A few reactions to what Daze11 wrote:
I'd disgree that the rivalry started in the last quarter of 79. What really kicked it off was Tracy's victory over Chris in Rome in May 79. That was HUGE as Tracy had beaten Chris in her own claycourt kingdom. Chrissie pulled out a victory over Tracy in three at Bergen that summe and then lost to her on hard courts having held the title for four consecutive years. With Martina dominating indoors and on grass at that point, Chris' career seemed at a crossroads. Tracy was also beating Martina at this point (their h2h in 79 was 6-5 in martina's favour), so the future seemed to have Tracy written all over it, with Chris yesterday's #1.

Tracy was indeed more powerful off both wings than Chris (at this point - we know that Chris became much stronger later in her career), though Chrissie had the better net game of the two, IMO. The trouble was that Chris wasn't confident enough in her net game at that point to exploit it fully and she didn't have a serve to take her there. In the face of Tracy's returns and passing shots, she played very conservatively and, as had happened against Nancy Richey, another indomitable baseliner against whom Chris had real problems early in her career, she came off worse. I'd say that Chris was a better mover than Tracy too, not so much in terms of speed but more in the sense of diagonal and front-back court coverage. Tracy also had a rigidity in the way she hit her groundstrokes, arms out very straight, especially on the backhand, that Chris' didn't.

I fully agree with Daze11's take on Chrissie's mental frame of mind in this period. She had enjoyed a long period of dominance and azll of a sudden was being squeezed out by Martina on the fast stuff and Tracy on the dirt. Plus her focus was perhaps less intense because of her marriage with John Lloyd. In fact, she took time out in early 1980 to reassess her goals. Tracy, on the other hand was new and very very hungry and brimful of the carefree confidence of youth we later saw in Graf, Seles and Hingis.

Two other aspects of the psychological battle are, I think, these: Chris had not really faced a baseliner of Tracy's calibre for several years. King, Wade, Navratilova and Goolagong were all of a different type altogether and Fromholtz, Barker, Ruzici and Jausovec, were not in the same league and all had single-handed backhands. It took Chris a while to work out how to play this mirror-image, the first of the Chrissie-clone generation. Secondly, against any new star, the older player has much more to lose and is bound to feel defensive. Both Chris and Martina suffered from this nervousness (Martina even more so, IMO) at times.

Well that's my tuppence worth for now. I must say I always rooted for Chris against Tracy, so I may not have been totally neutral above...
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Old Feb 22nd, 2004, 06:50 PM   #6
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AndyT, I hear you but...beating Chris 7-6 in the third (in Rome) is not exactly turning the rivalry around. People do beat other people. But I used the Us Open as the period where Tracy started winning in straight sets and it became a consistent thing. THAT'S dominating a rivalry. Previous to that, Chris clearly had the upper-hand, and at the 79 Open it was mentioned many times that the spectaters were 'silenced and stunned by what they were seeing' and the TV announcers were very surprised by the result. I do think that shows no one suspected that Tracy had gained significant ground on Chris until that point.

Also, AndyT, that was a good one with Hingis. Yeah, she's a really good example of what i meant. Three great years does not tell us the future.

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Old Feb 22nd, 2004, 06:59 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daze11
AndyT, I hear you but...beating Chris 7-6 in the third (in Rome) is not exactly turning the rivalry around. People do beat other people. But I used the Us Open as the period where Tracy started winning in straight sets and it became a consistent thing. THAT'S dominating a rivalry. Previous to that, Chris clearly had the upper-hand, and at the 79 Open it was mentioned many times that the spectaters were 'silenced and stunned by what they were seeing' and the TV announcers were very surprised by the result. I do think that shows no one suspected that Tracy had gained significant ground on Chris until that point.
I take your point, Daze11: I think I misread your post. I meant to suggest the rivalry really started in May 79 as previously Tracy had never beaten Chris at all: it was all one way and Austin had never taken more than 6 games in any match. I don't think Tracy got the upper hand until that US Open win, as you said. Sorry!
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Old Feb 22nd, 2004, 07:02 PM   #8
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OMG Darren, you're right: Tracy did beat her in the RR at the slims final! I missed that completely. I'll have to eat Humble (toe)pie now ;-)
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Old Feb 22nd, 2004, 07:06 PM   #9
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here are the scores, chris did beat her in the match prior to 79 rome:

1978 Hilton Head, SC SF Evert d. Austin 6-3, 6-1
1978 U.S. Open QF Evert d. Austin 7-5, 6-1
1979 Avon Chanpionships RR Austin d. Evert 6-3, 6-1
1979 La Costa, CA SF Evert d. Austin 6-1, 7-5
1979 Italian Open SF Austin d. Evert 6-4, 2-6, 7-6
1979 Mahwah, NJ F Evert d. Austin 6-7, 6-4, 6-1
1979 U.S. Open F Austin d. Evert 6-4, 6-3
1979 Filderstadt, Germany SF Austin d. Evert 6-3, 7-5

Not exactly humble pie, Andy! OMG, Darren deleted his post! Now THAT'S humble pie. (But I'm sure he's regrouping his forces! )

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Old Feb 22nd, 2004, 07:08 PM   #10
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I looked it up: it was 61 75. The 61 63 came at the series champs in January 1980 (along with a 63 60).
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Old Feb 22nd, 2004, 07:11 PM   #11
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we crossed each other on that post..chris is the one who won 6-1 7-5 prior.

BY THE WAY, to illustrate the 'frame of mind' issue, Chris ALSO lost to Dianne Fromholtz 6-2 6-3 in that same round-robin, and lost the week prior to SUE BARKER 6-3 6-1. I wouldn't quite say tracy was the only one beating a LANGUID Chris at that point in the year!
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Old Feb 22nd, 2004, 07:18 PM   #12
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My views on Tracy Austin have really changed over the years. When I first saw her as a teenager I was no fan of hers. I just saw her as this pesky, cocky teenager who broke my heart when she beat Martina Navratilova at the US Open in 1981. I hated her for that. Now that she's older I've gotten over it and think she's a very lovely woman and it's a shame we couldn't see her play more. Anyway, with Tracy I think what helped her at the start was the fact that like so many really young players she just had no fear of these champs. Tracy could play with abandon and just go for it. Chris had already been on the tour for years and then she found herself being seriously challenged by Martina who was forcing Chris to make changes in her game. By that I mean develop a better serve. And then along comes Tracy to put even more pressure on her. I forget which player said it, but I recall a few years ago a player pointing out how different it is when a player first comes on tour and is making their way up. As opposed to the player who's been on tour a while and is standing out there on court with all of those points to defend and realizes the importance's of the match. Whereas a kid doesn't.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2004, 07:20 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daze11
here are the scores, chris did beat her in the match prior to 79 rome:

1978 Hilton Head, SC SF Evert d. Austin 6-3, 6-1
1978 U.S. Open QF Evert d. Austin 7-5, 6-1
1979 Avon Chanpionships RR Austin d. Evert 6-3, 6-1
1979 La Costa, CA SF Evert d. Austin 6-1, 7-5
1979 Italian Open SF Austin d. Evert 6-4, 2-6, 7-6
1979 Mahwah, NJ F Evert d. Austin 6-7, 6-4, 6-1
1979 U.S. Open F Austin d. Evert 6-4, 6-3
1979 Filderstadt, Germany SF Austin d. Evert 6-3, 7-5

Not exactly humble pie, Andy! OMG, Darren deleted his post! Now THAT'S humble pie. (But I'm sure he's regrouping his forces! )
i deleted it cause it wasnt worth hashing back and forth who won the prior match...ok, so i dont have EVERY single score in history memorized so i requote myself

Tracy won the match 2 matches before her win in rome.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2004, 07:21 PM   #14
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The importance that Chris attaches to her sf victory 46 61 61 over Austin in 1980 at the Open is also testimony to the intensity of their rivalry. I would LOVE to see that match and have never even seen any highlights of it. I bet it was electric. Chris must have played out of her skin. Has anybody seen it? I'd love to read a blow-by-blow account of that one.

Re that US Open final in 1981, RoanHJ, I hear you. I called Tracy every synonym for the word prostitute that I knew at the tender and innocent age of 15 that night and she momentarily ranked alongside Margaret Thatcher as most hated devilspawn in the universe. I too have grown up a bit since then and learned to appreciate her.

I recently got my hands on a copy of her sf vs Goolagong at Wimbledon in 1980 and it's a great match to watch because of the huge contrast in styles. It does underline a certain 2-dimensional aspect to Tracy's game at that point. Evonne was too wily and creative for her on that day and tracy seemed at a loss as to how to handle the variety. She was often drawn forward and then lobbed or passed and had trouble handling Evonne's phenomenal array of spins.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2004, 07:22 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andy T
The importance that Chris attaches to her xx victory over Austin in 19?? at the Open is also testimony to the intensity of their rivalry. I would LOVE to see that match and have never even seen any highlights of it. I bet it was electric. Chris must have played out of her skin. Has anybody seen it? I'd love to read a blow-by-blow account of that one.
you can watch any match i have when you come visit this summer!

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