"I know my parents were doing their best," she says. "But to miss the slumber parties! That was a time in my life when it was important to have friends. Kids are insecure then and need somebody to depend on. I was such a loner in high school. That just contributed."
Her parents' tight grasp persisted through Evert's tennis milestones. In 1970, when Chris was 14, they allowed her to fly on an airplane alone for the first time. She flew to a tournament in Charlotte with Fleming, where she beat Francoise Durr and Margaret Court on successive days. "Margaret said she was injured, so we didn't know whether the wins in Charlotte meant anything," says Jimmy.
The only thing those wins meant was that Chris Evert's world had changed forever, and the top hasn't stopped spinning. In 1971 Chris stunned Forest Hills. At the beginning of 1972 she embarrassed Billie Jean King on Florida clay, 6-1, 6-0, then set Wimbledon throbbing with her match against Goolagong, not to mention the beginnings of her relationship with Connors. In 1973 she toured the Continent, getting acclimated to the red, dusty surfaces of Paris and Rome, which she would return to and dominate during the next two summers. In 1974 she won everything worth winning except Forest Hills, and she nailed that one last September.
All along the way, Colette was always there to make sure the apron strings were—if not taut—available. But in Europe in the summer of 1973 Colette Evert realized she was losing her little girl.
"I knew I was becoming a fixture," Colette says. "I tried to stay in the background. I really did. But it was a stage of my own life as a parent when I wasn't sure what to do. Chris started ignoring me when the other players were around. She didn't want to seem like mama's girl. I was hurt, badly hurt. But I understood."
What happened was that the Connors episode was building. Word spread through the women's locker room that Chris was sneaking off with Jimmy behind her mother's back. Resentment flared.
"I really got to hate my mother always being around," Chris says. "My mother and I were never friends. She was just a, well, mother, tending to my ways. I must have been awful to live with that summer. For one thing, I was playing badly. The girls were losing respect for me. I'd come back to the room at night and want to go out with Jimmy, and there would be—my mother. I'd say to myself, 'Why are you here?' But I didn't want to leave her alone. Oh God, I'm so glad that period is over."
The climax came after Forest Hills that autumn of '73. Relaxing at home, Chris suddenly flew off to California to see Connors. She did not tell her parents. Instead, she left a note that said something to the effect of, "Don't worry; I'm O.K.; I'll call." Then she just went. "I still can't believe I did it," Chris says. "It must have really crushed them. But I had to. I knew they would never approve. Their grip was too strong. I felt tied down with no freedom whatsoever. Since then they've treated me like a grown-up. The best part is my mother became my friend."
Helen Wills went six years without losing a tennis match; before her, Suzanne Lenglen became furious if she even lost a game; the wondrous Maureen Connolly won the U.S. and World Championships practically in swaddling clothes before the horseback accident that struck down her career; Margaret Court won the Grand Slam twice, as well as a mess of Big Four titles; King, until she turned into a conglomerate, played some fairly historical tennis herself, winning 19 Wimbledon championships in all, counting singles, doubles and mixed doubles, in addition to 10 Forest Hills titles.
Yet not even these accomplishments overshadow what Chris Evert already has done. She has won Forest Hills once, Wimbledon, the French and Italian championships twice each, and the richest (and maybe toughest) of all, the Virginia Slims championship, three times—before her 21st birthday. She has a current streak on clay of 95 consecutive winning matches and 20 winning tournaments. Except for single-set contests with the Phoenix Racquets of World Team Tennis, she has lost only four times in the last year, and each defeat seems to be accompanied by presses stopping and the Dow Jones hurtling into the basement.