Christine Marie Evert was born on the 21st of December 1954 in Florida, and came from a sporting family, with her father Jimmy Evert working as a full-time tennis coach. By the age of five, Jimmy had Christine and her four sisters playing tennis on local clay courts and some of this very early coaching came to influence not only Christine’s tennis style, but also the way tennis was played by future generations.
Tennis Career Overview
With the foundations laid by her father, Chris and her four sisters all went on to win national junior tennis championships. She then became the under 14s number 1 ranked player, and even beat Margaret Court, who had recently completed the 1970 Grand Slam. Evert continued her career in a similar style, upsetting various older opponents on the way, and reached the semi-final in her first grand slam tournament.
Evert was the youngest woman ever to reach the semi final of the US Open, and did so whilst still an amateur player. She attracted massive media attention due to her age, and ended up losing to the number one seeded player, Billie Jean King. This was the first sign that she was to become one of the best female tennis players in history.
Her early career consisted of record numbers of matches won and included a 55 match winning streak. She went on to dominate the female tennis championships, winning all four of the Grand Slam competitions on multiple occasions. Her performance on clay could not be matched and she was unbeaten in this discipline for six years.
The mental strength that played such an important part of Evert’s game earnt her the nickname “The Ice Maiden”. Her father had instructed her not to show any emotion on the court in order to maintain the psychological advantage. The phrase was coined by the sports commentator Bud Collins during a match against Marie Ann Eisel in the 1975 US Open. Evert had kept her nerve for a total of six match points without any suggestion that she was even the slightest bit nervous.
Evert’s career was marked by a fierce rivalry between herself and Czech born American Martina Navratilova. They first met in 1973 with Evert picking up victory then, inaugurating a tumultuous decade-long battle for the number one world ranking.
Navratilova received some negative press attention with regard to her weight during this time and so employed the training duties of the professional basketball player Nancy Lieberman. Revitalised, she was able to outplay Evert on many occasions, and Evert was unable to pick up a win between 1983 and 1984.
By June 1985, however, Evert regained the advantage over Navratilova, beating her in the final of the French Open. This gave Evert her seventh French Open title, and the record for the total number of wins at the tournament by any player to date. Between 1974 and 1986, Evert won at least one of the Grand Slam tournaments a year and was ranked in the top two players in women’s tennis at the close of each season between 1975 and 1986.
Accomplishments and Titles
Evert dominated the championship from the mid-seventies, winning each year from 1975 through to 1978 and then twice more in 1980 and 1982. She also holds the world record for the number of singles match wins in any one tournament, the total standing at 101. Evert was runner up on five other occasions, including alongside Jimmy Connors in the 1974 mixed doubles.
Evert’s career record is less remarkable at the Australian Open, winning only twice, in 1982 and again in 1984. She was runner up in 1985 and 1988, the latter being played on a hard court. Evert chose not to compete in the tournament between 1975 and 1980 owing to the perception of the competition within the sporting community. Had she competed she may well have won more Grand Slam tournaments.
Evert won the French Open on a record seven occasions, more than any other tournament. Her final two victories were against Navratilova in 1984 and 1985, the latter bringing her world number one ranking status for the final time in her career. The French Open also saw two of Evert’s three doubles tournament title wins, 1974 with Olga Morozova and 1975 with career rival Martina Navratilova.
In a sport where title prizes are yet to be equivalent for men and women, Evert made incredible financial gains, being the first person to accrue a million dollars in winnings. This is particularly impressive given that she was not permitted to collect any winnings whilst she remained an amateur player, in order to complete her education.
Christine won her first Wimbledon singles tournament in 1974 against her doubles partner Olga Morozova. She only went on to win the tournament twice more, once in 1976 and finally in 1981, again this was simply owing to her playing style being suited more to a hard court than grass. Of the seven occasions that Evert was runner up at the competition, five were to her nemesis Martina Navratilova, and were some of the most fiercely fought matches between the two of them.
Evert had a powerful influence on women’s tennis, particularly with her trademark double-handed backhand, which grew out of her not being strong enough to play single handed when beginning. Her father had never intended for her to go on playing the shot, but she developed it to such a level that it stuck. The double-handed backhand has now become a common feature of tennis in both the men’s and women’s game, allowing more power and a straighter angle back across the court.
A dominant feature of Evert’s game was that she played each point in isolation as if the game depended on it. This developed from the competitive matches with her sister in which she had to focus entirely on the game. This rivalry was of course later mirrored in her relationship with Navratilova. The shots she played depended on her light footwork, allowing her to make shots at very tight angles. As a result, all of her major rivals would try and get to the net as quickly as possible to prevent her from doing so, she responded by playing some of the best passing shots and lobs ever seen.
Christine fell in love young and was engaged to fellow tennis champ, Jimmy Connors. They both won Wimbledon the following year (1974) and attracted a lot of media attention. The engagement was called off and they stayed together, only to get engaged again at a later date. They did not stay together, however, and Christine went on to date English tennis star John Lloyd. Again the press followed them closely and they married in April 1979. Lloyd also became her coach and they were married until 1989. Evert was seen having an apparently romantic dinner with golf star Greg Norman in January 2007. At the time he was going through a complex divorce himself.