Chris Evert

By Neil Amdur, World Tennis, December 1989

By remaining true to herself, Jimmy Evert’s little girl gave new meaning to the word champion

For two decades she was Our Girl, Chrissie, Chris America, The Girl Next Door. She amazed us with her carriage, consistency and cool. And as she matured before our eyes, from a relatively shy 16-year-old Cinderella to the princess of women’s tennis, Chris Evert‘s style became the standard for others to emulate.

Great champions are measured not only by their titles but by their impact: Did their presence influence and enrich the sport? Arnold Palmer popularized golf for millions. Muhammad Ali designed new dimensions for the dweet science. Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers stretched marathons from agony to ecstasy.

Few people have been scrutinized more on and off the field than Evert. Sure, she won Wimbledon? And Forest Hills, Flushing Meadows and Paris. But in 1974, it was “The Love Double” – Chrissie and Jimmy. Then came Burt and his “Babe”, a frolic in the Ford White House, a fairy-tale wedding with a British Knight, separation, divorce, and a mile-high romance with current husband, Andy Mill. And each time Evert added tournament titles and fresh story lines, her faithful wondered whether she was truly happy – or little girl blue.

It may have been destiny that brought Evert to tennis in 1971. It was the perfect time. Even with the most successful sports marketing program in history, women’s tennis would not have gained the same overwhelming acceptance without her. If Billie Jean King was the pathfinder, blazing the trail for equality, Evert’s longetivity and feminine image shaped the tour’s identity. She was the surrogate daughter for many newly liberated women and gave curious, tennis-playing males a reason to speculate about “what Chrissie is really like.”

Mary Ann Eisel, the victim of Evert’s amazing comeback from six match points at the 1971 US Open, can still recall that historic occasion.

“If it hadn’t been me,” Eisel said recently, referring to the match that launched 1,000 wins, “it would have been someone else. Chrissie was so mentally tough.”

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