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Well, this is it. no more "maybes." No more "depending ons." No more "probablys." (Probably has always been my favorite qualifier—it gave me such an out.) Even though I hate dealing with this—I don't even like to think about it—my mind is made up. The 1989 U.S. Open will be my final tournament.
Oh, I'm still going to play on the U.S. team in the Federation Cup in Tokyo in October—I think Martina [Navratilova], Pam [Shriver], Zina [Garrison] and I have a great chance to win, and I'd love to go out on a high note. Martina and I also will play some exhibitions in the fall and winter. And next year, if I'm feeling great, I may do a cameo at my home tournament in Boca Raton. But as for Chris Evert, serious competitor, yes, I guess I really am outta here.
For some time I've thought this would be my last year. In April and May, when I wasn't doing so well in the clay-court tournaments, I thought I'd retire right then. But I really enjoyed preparing for Wimbledon, and after having five weeks off, I've enjoyed practicing and getting back into form for the Open, too. The thing is, I've played week in and week out for so many years, I just don't want to put in a full schedule anymore.
I've never believed athletes should stop in the prime of their careers. I think they should play past their prime to find out what their prime is. That's why even if I had won one of the Grand Slam tournaments in the last few years, I still wouldn't have quit. If I could win a major championship then—or even now (hope, hope)—why couldn't I win more later? Anyway, I always wanted to finish out a tennis year. This is the year.
Physically, I've never felt better. I'm in better shape than I was five years ago. The mental strain is the difference. I used to cruise through the early rounds of tournaments. Now I'm exhausted after three matches, and then comes Zina or Lori McNeil or one of the younger girls, say Monica Seles, and I can see they're not scared or intimidated.
I don't feel the same intensity. But I know a lot of other things in my life would suffer if I did feel that intense. At Wimbledon I felt especially vulnerable. I know I've lost some confidence, and I just don't want to pay the price anymore. The truth is that at 34 I feel I'm about three years past my best tennis. That wasn't too long to stay, was it?
Actually, it took me until this year to realize I was past my prime. Going into each season I always had big-picture goals: to be No. 1 and to win a major tournament. Last year Martina, Gaby Sabatini and I were very close for No. 2, and I even thought I could still beat Steffi [Graf]. Most of all, I enjoyed the competition.
But this year I haven't woken up each morning with any goals. My ultimate goal was to stay with Sabatini. I didn't realistically feel I could win the Slam events. That brought my desire down several notches. O.K., O.K., Steffi's probably responsible for that. If Steffi weren't around, maybe I'd have a whole different outlook. Still, I only wanted to play well. I was No. 4. I had begun to accept my defeats, justify them. I felt a certain calmness about them. That was significant because it meant my attitude had changed. These were fairly good clues that it was truly time to stop.
Losing in Houston in April to Monica showed me how intense I would have to be, how really hard I would have to train, to keep up my usual standard. For four weeks I had practiced on clay, and I hated every minute of it. I was in a foul mood. I wasn't patient. Then, in the finals, I played Monica, this little 15-year-old who put her heart and soul into every point. I tried to take shortcuts to get by. It actually hurt me, true pain, to stay intense for more than a couple of points at a time.
The same feeling carried over to Geneva a month later, when I lost to Barbara Paulus, whom I had beaten easily earlier in the year. She hit a hundred moon balls, and I just didn't want to fight for three sets. I came off the court and told my husband, Andy, "Let's go home." I decided right then to pull out of the French Open.