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MORE JOAN OF ARC THAN SHIRLEY TEMPLE
Roy Blount
September 20, 1971
Chris Evert may have had her detractors among the women players at Forest Hills, but to the crowd she was a heroine
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September 20, 1971

More Joan Of Arc Than Shirley Temple

Chris Evert may have had her detractors among the women players at Forest Hills, but to the crowd she was a heroine

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This was said a couple of days before Mrs. King set up the beachhead upon which Miss Evert's wave broke at last. Their face-off came in a stimulating semifinal match on Friday before an overflow of press and TV representatives and a crowd of 13,000 that included Spiro Agnew and Senator James Buckley.

Neither Chris nor Billie Jean was intimidated by the crowd, which displayed great enthusiasm for them both. Nor was Chris intimidated by Billie Jean, but the 27-year-old pro quickly confirmed Miss Evert's own suspicions that her game was not forceful enough to stop a first-rate player on grass.

Each held service until Billie Jean, trailing 2-3 in the first set, broke through and won seven straight games. Billie Jean stayed back for a while, refusing to give Chris a good passing-shot target. But she kept Chris' rhythm disrupted with a strong serve, with diversely spinning groundstrokes and with drop shots. And an occasional lob exposed Chris' lame overhead. Gradually Billie Jean worked her way to the net, where she was able to score with smashes much more consistently than Chris was able to pass her. There were many fine rallies that left the crowd with no cause to regret the Evert boom that had brought so many of them there, but the final score was 6-3, 6-2 King. Thus Mrs. King's status as top American woman remains secure, as does Miss Goolagong's as the tennis world's flashiest young meteor maid. Evonne hits with more zing and has fewer gaps in her game than Chris.

But Chris, four years younger than Evonne, is already an established drawing card, and her life—along with her "kid's concentration"—stands to become more complicated. ("Your mind is always being interrupted," Billie Jean warned her during the full-scale joint press conference following their match. "Your life is not your own except for the few hours you spend asleep at night.") For instance, the King-Evert match had its overtones of tennis politics. Though no one on either side would admit it publicly, the World Championship Tennis people were rooting for King, since the furor over Evert tended to take attention away from the absence of Laver, Rosewall and the other WCT pros. Of the missing pros only Laver admitted that the International Lawn Tennis Federation's decision to ban WCT players from open tournaments beginning next year influenced his decision not to show up at Forest Hills, but in effect if not intent there was a partial boycott of the tournament by WCT. On the other hand, ILTF and USLTA people were clearly delighted to see such a boycott upstaged by a slip of a girl.

Chris had no comment on all that. She was headed back to St. Thomas Aquinas High—and the rains came to Forest Hills.

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