Friday, December 21, 2007

Happy Birthday Chris Evert

Happy 53rd birthday to tennis legend Chris Evert. A Fort Lauderdale native, Evert was most dominant female athlete to ever come out of South Florida and one of the greatest tennis players to ever pick up a racquet. During her illustrious career, Evert won an amazing 157 singles titles including 18 grand slam titles along with 72 career runner-up finishes. During the 1970s and early 80s she was arguably the most decorated tennis champion--male or female--in the world.

Born Christine Marie Evert in Fort Lauderdale, she started playing tennis at age five. Her father Jimmy Evert was a well-known tennis coach who taught many of South Florida's best youth players at the public tennis courts at Holiday Park in Fort Lauderdale. Jennifer Capriati was one of Jimmy Evert's students. By 1969, Chris was the #1 ranked girl in the United States among ages 14 and under.

She went on to attend St. Thomas Aquinas High School and began competing profesionally at the same time. By age 15, she beat Australia's Margaret Court, who was the #1 women's player in the world at the time. She was so good and so young, she skipped her senior prom to compete in Wimbledon. By the early 1970s, she burst onto the tennis scene as a tall, slender blonde with ribbons in her hair filled with a fierce competitive spirit. She began to develop a reputation as an intense competitor and was nicknamed "The Ice Maiden" by the media. She rarely showed emotion on the court and was always in control--often intimidating her overmatched opponents.

By the mid 1970s, Evert was by far the best women's player in the world. By 1976, she had won all four gland slam tournaments. (Wimbledon, French Open, U.S. and the Australian Opens). For a brief time she was engaged to Jimmy Connors, who was the number one men's player in the world at the time. The romance didn't last, but Evert's dominance just kept going.

But in the late 1970s another great player who defected from Czechoslovakia named Martina Navratilova burst onto the scene and became Evert's biggest rival. The Evert vs. Navratilova rivlary would eventually become the greatest in tennis history and arguably one of the greatest in all of sports. Evert dominated their early matches. But by the 1980s, Navratilova overtook Evert and became the dominant player in the world. Evert and Navratilova met an amazing 14 times in Grand Slam finals, with Navratilova winnning 10 of the matches.

Evert's career was remarkably consistant. She never lost in the first round of any tournament and never failed to at least reach the semifinals of the 34 grand slam tournaments she competed in. She retired in 1989 and set standards that have yet to be duplicated. Evert was voted Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year four times. Tennis Magazine ranked her 4th on the its list of the 40 greatest players of all time. She was the first female athlete to host Saturday Night Live. She is currently engaged to golfer Greg Norman and runs a tennis academy with Robert Seguso and his wife Carling Bassett-Seguso.

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