"I bet Chris can name half the models in Vogue and most of the soap stars," says Shaw. "She is quite taken with fashion people and actresses and the entertainment life. But if she ever stopped to think how much more famous she is than all of those people, she might faint."
Chris Evert keeps saying she's merely a normal 21-year-old who happens to play tennis well. "I'm not glamorous. I'm not beautiful. I don't want to be on any plateau higher than anybody else," she says. "I don't want the younger girls to be in awe of me. I talk to them about their matches, congratulate them on key victories. I ask them to practice and hit with me. Not many of the older players came over and asked me to practice when I first came up. I think that's important."
Such efforts have made Evert far more popular among her compeers—Sue Barker, the young Briton, calls her "a bit of a god"—than with the public in general. Evert got the reputation of being a cold, heartless stroking machine at her first Forest Hills in 1971 when, as a skinny 16-year-old out of St. Thomas Aquinas High School, she kept coming from behind to beat everybody in sight until she was stopped in the semifinals by King. Back then, the crowds were so enamored of this cool, sparkling teen-ager that they cheered opponents' errors and hurled beer cans around the concrete stands.
Following the most perilous victory of that U.S. Open, in which she survived six match points to defeat Mary Ann Eisel, Evert revealed an almost mystical self-awareness. "The match points?" she said. "On the match points I was thinking how I would look during the handshake at the net. Would I be cute? Sad? Tired? Then when the ball came up, it looked so big, just like a huge balloon."
Billie Jean urged Chris to enjoy the adulation and support while she could; it would never be the same. Billie Jean was right.
Monikers such as "ice princess" and "metronome kid" were to dog Evert's trail in the ensuing years, mostly compliments of the British press. ("What's a metronome?" Chris wanted to know in London.) Slowly, the crowds began to turn from her. Engendered by her calm, impassive manner and repetitious baseline game, the appellations stuck, and they bother Evert. Often she mentions her desire to add adventure to her game, to try some passion, maybe even a new style.
Having been dragged through the publicity mills at such a tender age, perhaps Evert's only chance for survival in those days was to close herself off, withdraw behind a poker face and turn into a wooden papoose. She also developed a miniparanoia. After losing to Evonne Goolagong in their first classic meeting at Wimbledon in 1972, Chris came into the locker room, threw her rackets to the floor and said bitterly, "Now I hope they're happy."
Evert's distrust of—even disgust with—the fans during her many matches with Goolagong has not subsided. "I've tried to understand the public sentiment for the underdog," Chris says, "and I don't take it personally anymore. I root for all the best teams, all the favorites, in baseball and football now because I know what it feels like to be one. I am tired of beating Evonne and getting polite applause while she gets the standing ovations. If I played her in Fort Lauderdale, I think the crowd would still be for her. The only time I get standing ovations is when I lose."
"Don't say that." her father reprimands.
"I'm telling the truth." Chris snaps back.