Chris Evert doubles memories
Call me an oddball, but as much as I enjoyed watching Evert play singles, in a interesting way I found her doubles play equally enthralling. No, she wasn't "classic" dubs player in the conventional sense, but I was intrigued by watching Chris force herself to take additional risks, and attempt shots from every position/angle of the court on a far more regular basis. In short, her aggressive side was constantly on display, as she consistantly forced herself to just "go for it." Her laser-like return of serve, perfectly executed lobs and deft of touch all made for intriguing doubles play. Two particular doubles matches played in the mid 70s are particulary etched in my memory:
The year was 1975; the event, the WITC Invitational Classic. Chris was partnered for mixed doubles play with the legendary Arthur Ashe against Rosie Casals and Ilie Nastase. Although not a match of any historical significance, I am quite certain that Evert still recalls this day, just as any fan fortunate enough to watch the match live. In a duel of dozens of classic, breathtaking rallies, one specific point stood out to me in particular, so much so that I consider it one of my all time favs. The point occured at 4-3, love 15 on Casals serve. Evert returned serve as the rally began to pick up intensity. Several shots later, Evert retrieved a series of five overheads in a row - four of them hit by Ilie Nastase. When Nastase eventually put the sixth overhead away, the crowd was on their feet shouting for more, while an exhausted Evert could only grin ear to ear at her partner Ashe. This point - almost more than any other - to me shows what made Evert one of the all time greatest players, male or female; her powers of anticipation were simply second to none.
On to my next doubles memory...this one took place during the World Team Tennis East vs West season ending championships in Oakland, California 1976. Evert's team was behind all evening, though slowly, gradually things began to inch closer as the event finally went into double overtime. At this point, it was announced that Evert would be partnered with Betty Stove against doubles extraordinaires Billie Jean King and Evonne Goolagong in a best of nine point super tiebreak to decide the evening's contest. On paper, it's likely few would be betting against such a wonderful team as King/Goolagong, but I had so much hope that Evert/Stove somehow could. Although I don't recall each point in the breaker, I remember that Chris and Betty were playing behind, actually saving a match point, as the contest spiraled in its intensity. Appropriately enough, the match went to four points all...a volley exchange began with King and Goolagong primarily aiming their fire towards Evert at net. Chris, however, more than held her ground, eventually forcing the opposing team into a volley error. I of course, cheered the tv (!), as the arena rocketed it's applause...Stove was so thrilled she immediately picked up the (in comparison) petite Evert, estatically twirling her around in utter joy.
Thanks for the memories Chris!