Class of 1995
World No. 1 (1975)
Grand Slam Results
21-time major champion, 18-time finalist
Overall Record: 1426-185
Singles Record: 1309-146
Doubles Record: 117-39
Member of the US Federation Cup Team 1977-1982, 1986-1987, 1989
Member of the US Championship Federation Cup Team 1977-1982, 1986, 1989
Overall Record 57-4
Singles Record 40-2
Doubles Record 17-2
Member of the U.S. Wightman Cup Team 1975-1982, 1984-1985
Member of the Championship Team 1976-1977, 1980-1982, 1984-1985
Christine Marie Evert was known as America’s tennis sweetheart. But to those who had to face her, “human backboard” might have been a more apt description. Evert’s muscle-memory was engrained in her at age 5, when she began hitting tennis balls under the watchful eye of her coach and father Jimmy Evert. The sound of balls coming off her racquet in rhythmic measure could be substituted for a metronome that musician’s use to keep tempo. Her two-handed backhand was flawless and emulated by players around the world – young and old – who wanted to hit the ball as cleanly, smoothly and as precisely as Evert.
Evert had grace and beauty. and she was cool, calm, and collected with the steely focus of a heart surgeon. Evert’s concentration on court was intense, “She concentrates to the last point,” remarked Margaret Court. “It makes her a champion. Even when she is losing she concentrates and never gives up.”
Evert was stoic and commonly referred to as “The Ice Maiden”: between the lines, a quiet, deadpan champion; the only noise coming from her side of the court was the constant ping of balls being returned back again and again and again. Evert had inherent athletic gifts that blossomed quickly. She was a relentless and fierce competitor. Her focus and grit could not be disrupted under any circumstance. She was poised, patient, and particular about her game. It also earned her the nickname “Little Miss Cool.” Regardless of gender, she will always be the model of excellence and her career is populated by record-setting accomplishments:
The Evert household was in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and soon Chris would become a household name and recognizable face to the entire world. Her father Jimmy, who taught tennis at the nearby Holiday Park, helped groom a mini tennis factory, Evert’s brother John and sisters Jeanne and Clare were all terrific players. Jeanne was a professional tennis player in the early 1970s and all four of Jimmy’s children won titles at the prestigious Orange Bowl Tournament in Miami.
Evert’s two-handed backhand was developed out of necessity more than desire. She was a slight youth not strong enough to hit a one-hander, so employed two hands, and before long it became the most impenetrable backhand in tennis. Evert was a 5-foot-6 slugging machine, not the biggest player on tour, but it hardly mattered when her groundstroke accuracy was the best in the game. They were hit deeply, effectively, and with pace. All of this attributed to preparation and underrated foot speed.
After winning the national 16-and-under tournament, she was invited to compete in an eight-player tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina. She advanced to the finals after defeating reigning major champion and world No. 1 ranked player Margaret Court, 7-6, 7-6. Playing Evert on clay courts would later become a complete exercise in futility. She would compile a 72-6 match record on the red clay at Roland Garros and rack up seven French Open titles (1974, 1975, 1979, 1980, 1983, 1985, 1986), an all-time record that stood for 27 years until Rafael Nadal won his eighth in 2013. Most impressively and remarkably, Evert reeled off a 125-match clay court winning streak that run from August 1973 to May 1979, encompassing 24 tournaments.
“I was hungry to win every point,” Evert said. “It was all about ‘what am I going to eat before my match, how much sleep am I going to get, who am I going to beat?’”
As a 16-year-old who attended St. Thomas Aquinas High School, Evert made her major tournament debut at the 1971 US Open at Forest Hills and thumped German Edda Buding, 6-1, 6-0. Her next three matches all went three sets, with Evert coming back from behind each time, to defeat Mary-Ann Eisel, Françoise Dürr, and Lesley Hunt before eventual champion Billie Jean King put a halt on Evert’s run as the youngest semifinalist in US Open history, 6-3, 6-2.
That afternoon on the grass courts in New York set Evert’s career in motion. She remained an amateur until turning professional at age 18 in 1972, signing a racquet deal with Wilson to commemorate the occasion. Evert then began her assault on the record books – winning 18 major singles titles (fifth best in history) and appearing in 16 additional finals. Before her 21st birthday, Evert had already won the US Open (1975, 1976), Wimbledon (1974, 1976), the French Open (1974, 1975), the Italian Championships (1974, 1975), and the arduous Virginia Slims Championship (1972, 1973, 1975). Evert tacked on three major titles in women’s doubles (1974 and 1975 French, 1976 Wimbledon), tied for 13th best in history with Lenglen. A record six crowns (since tied by Serena Williams) were won at the US Open (1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1982); two were achieved at the Australian (1982, 1984). Prior to her arrival at Wimbledon in 1972, the British media dubbed her “The Ice Princess” and Evert would accommodate the description, with workmanlike precision in winning three titles (1974, 1976, 1981).
During her nearly two decades on tour, Evert was never ranked lower than No. 4 in the world and ended the year ranked No. 1 seven times (1974-78, 1980, 1981). She was never once beaten in the first or second round of a major tournament and was a semifinalist in 52 of the 56 majors she played. “She won’t carry anyone and she’ll never tank a match,” said the venerable Bud Collins. “She’s the ultimate professional.”
The 1974 and 1975 tour seasons saw Evert win 16 WTA championships each year, but 1974 was particularly impressive as Evert reeled off a 55-match winning streak (fifth best in history), won the 1974 French and Wimbledon titles, advanced to the Australian finals, and made the US Open semifinals. She compiled a stunning 103-7 record and won 16 of 24 tournaments she entered.
Evert’s career spanned the inaugural years of Open tennis and into the modern era, enabling her to compete against the “old” guard players like Virginia Wade, Evonne Goolagong, Rosemary Casals, King, and Navratilova and the “young” hotshot breed of power hitters, like Steffi Graff, Monica Seles, and Gabriella Sabatini. Of those players who were ranked No. 10 in the world or higher, Evert was hardly ever on the losing side of all-time head-to-head competition. She went 40-6 against Wade, 26-12 against Goolagong, 19-7 versus King, and a close 37-43 against Navratilova. She held a 6-3 advantage over Sabatini, 2-1 versus Seles, and went 6-7 against Graf. There were 22 players ranked in the top ten that Evert never lost to in five or more matches and ten others that managed only one win when facing Evert five or more times.
The primary rival was Navratilova, who faced Evert in 14 major finals. Evert won four of those, 1982 Australian; 1975, 1985, 1986 French. Navratilova won 10 times, 1981, 1985 Australian; 1984 French; 1978, 1979, 1982, 1984, 1985 Wimbledon; 1983, 1984 US Open. Goolagong and Evert were essentially even in major finals, Goolagong losing to Evert at the US Open in 1975 and 1976 and Wimbledon in 1976, but earning victories at the Australian in 1974, and Wimbledon in 1980. Evert defeated Russian Olga Morozova to win the French and Wimbledon titles in 1974 and nipped Czech Hana Mandlikova to win the US Open in 1980 and Wimbledon in 1981.
In 1976 Evert told Sports Illustrated, “I’m not glamorous. I’m not beautiful. I don’t want to be on a plateau higher than anyone else. I don’t want the younger girls to be in awe of me. I talk to them about their matches, congratulate them on key victories. I ask them to practice and hit with me. Not many of the older players came over and asked me to practice when I first came up. I think that’s important.” In December of that year, she was named Sports Illustrated’s Sportswoman of the Year and depicted on the magazine cover (the first of three appearances).
Evert played for the United States in the Fed Cup competition nine years, winning eight titles (1977, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1986, 1989).
Evert served as President of the Women’s Tennis Association twice (1975-76, 1983-91) and received the Flo Hyman Award on February 2, 1990 by President Bush, who called her “the role model for our nation’s young women.” President Bush was also present at her induction into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1995.
Admiration and respect for Evert from fellow tour players ran deep. When Zina Garrison defeated her in the quarterfinals of her final US Open in 1989, 7-6, 6-2, she openly cried and apologized (for winning) at courtside. The two hugged as they walked off the court together, it difficult to determine who had advanced or lost.
The Queen of American tennis departed Arthur Ashe stadium poised and dignified.
“I am so glad I came along when I did,” Evert said, “with Arthur Ashe, Billie Jean King, Stan Smith as role models. And alongside me was Björn (Borg), Jimmy (Connors), and Martina. It was the tennis boom. It was personal, we were close to our fans, and we had enough money.”
Evert, who was named the fourth best player in the TENNIS Era by TENNIS Magazine, had operates a tennis academy in Bacon Raton, has served as a contributor and publisher of TENNIS Magazine and been an analyst on several television networks, most recently joining ESPN in 2011.
Australian Open: W 1982, 1984
French Open: W 1974, 1975, 1979, 1980, 1983, 1985, 1986
Wimbledon: W 1974, 1976, 1981
US Open: W 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1982
Australian Open: F 1988
French Open: W 1974, 1975
Wimbledon: W 1976
US Open: SF 1973, 1975, 1979
Wimbledon: QF 1973
US Open: F 1974