Chris Evert: Greatest of All Time?

Chris Evert

Professional career: 1971-1989 (18 years)

Total Singles Major Titles: 18

Wimbledon: 3

US Open: 6 (tied for record)

French Open: 7 (record)

Australian Open: 2

Doubles Major Titles: 3

Career Titles: 157

Weeks at #1: 262 (official but more accurate would be 322); seven years (1974-1978, 1980-1981)

Chris “Chrissie” Evert was the queen during the Golden Age of tennis. Born to a tennis pro in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Evert and her siblings found their first competition amongst themselves, all of them would win national junior’s tournaments. But it was Evert who rose the highest.

She stormed into the tennis world as a teenager. In 1970, at 15 years old, she defeated Margaret Court in the final of a tournament in North Carolina. Court was coming off the Calendar Grand Slam. Evert would then run through the US Open as a 16-year-old before finally losing in the semifinals.

In modern tennis, having teenagers on tour and running through tournaments isn’t all that earth shattering, though it is still exciting when it happens. When Evert did it, it was unlike anything done before. As just a 15 year old she was beating up on much more accomplished and season players. She saw Maureen Connelly as her idol as the last great teenager to make waves in the tennis community.

Evert credits Billie Jean King with kindness and convincing the other top players to back off of her as most were cold to the rising star. Soon it didn’t matter. In 1974, she won the French Open and Wimbledon along with making it to the final at the Australian Open and the semifinals at the US Open. She ended that year as #1 in the world, a position she would hold seven times in her career. During the next 13 years she would win a Major at least once every year. She would never fall below #4 in the world the entire 18 years she played.

Evert finished her career with a total of 18 Major Titles. This was second most when she retired behind only Margaret Court’s 24.

Rivals

Martina Navratilova (37-43)

Navratilova/Evert is one of the greatest rivalries in all of sports. They played opposite games, Evert was touch and volley, Navratilova was power. They had different images, Evert was a queen, known for beauty, grace and who she was dating. Navratilova was powerful and strong from the communist Eastern Bloc.

Evert won the match-up early in their career, but as the years progressed, target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”Navratilova (the junior by 2 years) would come to dominate the rivalry. Evert credits Navratilova with the strength of her career and making her a better player.  But ultimately, Navratilova was the better player of the two. They met in a Grand Slam title 14 times; Navratilova won 10 of them.

Billie Jean King (19-7)

King was at the end of her career and Evert just a teenager through most of their early matches. Evert was clearly the better player.

Margaret Court (9-4)

Evert led the head to head match up against Court but not in their Major meet ups. In the Majors, Court led 2-1 and won their only match in a Major final at the French Open in 1973, 6-7 7-6 6-4. In 1974, Margaret Court went away to have her second child and that was the year that Evert launched herself to #1 and won her first 2 Majors. Court, at 34 years old, would never again be on top of the world and would retire as Evert climbed.

Stefi Graf (2-6)

Graf was the next best player after the Evert/Navratilova era. She beat Evert overall and at the Majors. Their only Major final match Graf won. Graf was to Evert what Evert had been to Court. As Everts career hit its sunset, Graf was in the sunrise.

Where does Chris Evert Rank?

She stands ahead of King, their head to heads were lopsided and Evert had 6 more Major wins than her. But how do we rank her against Court?

Court had a completely different mentality when it came to her playing career. She quit tennis when she was at the top of the world and then would take off full seasons when she had her children. Evert says that tennis was the most important thing in her life which led to messy break ups and painful divorces that were all quite public. She refrained from having children until after her playing days. Whereas, Court was able to bounce back from childbirth to regain the #1 spot.

While Court has six more Majors, though, again 11 of her Majors were at the Australian Open, which even Evert didn’t play every season of her career (she only played it 6 times in her 18 years). Court won the French Open 5 times and Evert won it 7 times. They both won Wimbledon only 3 times. At the U.S. Open, Court won in 5 times and Evert won it 6.

The biggest difference between these two ladies, is their doubles play. Court was an amazing doubles player with another 40 Major Titles in the doubles. Evert only won 3 Major Doubles Titles.

Court was the better player.

Rankings:

  1. Margaret Court
  2. Chris Evert
  3. Billie Jean King

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