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Tossing tennis balls out of a shopping cart, he taught little Chrissie and her four siblings the basics of tennis, with hand-me-down racquets.
“I remember him saying ‘Racquet back, turn sideways, step in when you hit the ball’ and I remembered those three (fundamental) things forever,” says Chrissie in retrospect.
Chris Evert was born on December 21, 1954 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and was hitting tennis balls across the public clay courts of that city by the time she was only five years old.
Her father, Jimmy Evert, was working 7 days a week as the tennis pro at Holiday Park (since renamed the Jimmy Evert Tennis Center) and looking for ways to be closer to his children.
“All of the ladies I beat that year at the Open left the court in tears,” Evert remembers of her walloped opponents.
“Back then, there weren’t several (players) that were 14, 15, 16 years old,” Colette Evert recalls.
“One thing that makes Chris such a great champion,” Billie Jean King said, “is that she doesn’t play games or sets, she plays points.” Her extreme ability to isolate each individual point helped build a very tough killer instinct.
And like an inclandestine first meeting with the future love of your life, Evert had likewise let the whole tennis world know that there was a new girl in town.
From this first appearance on the scene, Evert would thrill crowds in stadiums across the globe with her perseverance, bravery, and perfect court demeanour, which set a standard of placing personal integrity on par with the value of winning in defining the heart of a champion.
Court had just recently completed her Grand Slam (winning all 4 Grand Slam singles titles in the same calendar year), a feat that had been accomplished only 5 times in the history of the sport.
It was the first tournament Chris had ever gone to without her parents. It was the US Open, one of the “Big Four” on the Pro Tennis circuit, and Chrissie’s mother, Colette, came along to keep her daughter company.“Having siblings definitely helps you improve your game,” Chrissie says, “Just look at the Mc Enroes and the Williamses – of course, it helps.” For one thing, it made her mentally stronger having to compete with her sister, who she didn’t like to beat.