Should you need
any more evidence that Someone Up There has a warped sense of humor, consider
the fate of Chris Evert. During her 17-year reign atop women's tennis, Evert
was cast--superficially and inaccurately--as America's Sweetheart, as purity
distilled to its essence, as the paragon of femininity. Particularly when
contrasted to her more muscular rival, Martina Navratilova, Evert was, to many,
proof that a girlie-girl could still be an elite athlete.
Today Evert is practically drowning in testosterone. She is the mother of three
boys--Alex, Nicky and Colton, ages 14, 12 and 10, respectively--and the wife of
a former Olympic skier, Andy Mill, who hasn't lost his taste for risk. The
family's sprawling 13,500-square-foot home in Boca Raton, Fla., doubles as a
repository of dirt bikes, lacrosse sticks, skateboards and paintball artillery.
Suffice it to say, the TV in the den is seldom tuned to Lifetime. "It's,
um, an active household," Evert says, "but I think I was meant to be a
mother of boys. They're not high maintenance. They don't fight over flowery
dresses. They have one favorite T-shirt and a favorite pair of pants, and
that's it. If I had a little Chrissie, I'd be too critical."
The closest thing Evert has to a daughter is Anna Tatishvili, a 16-year-old
from Georgia (the country, not the state) who is currently No. 65 in the world
junior rankings. For the first time since concluding her glorious career, Evert
is mentoring a young player. She chose Tatishvili as much for the girl's
demeanor as for her talent. "She's almost too good to be true," says
Evert. "She's the nicest kid ever, but her discipline and work ethic are
just unbelievable." The characterization will, of course, sound familiar to
most tennis fans.
Today's WTA Tour
is saturated with players whose outsized images mask marginal accomplishments
on the court. Consider Maria Sharapova, who, to date, has won one Grand Slam
singles title but will earn in the neighborhood of $20 million in endorsement
income this year. Evert may have suffered the opposite fate. She was so likable
that her persona might have overshadowed truly impressive accomplishments. To
review the highlights: She won each of the four Grand Slam singles titles at
least twice. She went 13 straight years winning at least one major. Her career
match winning percentage, 90.1, remains the highest in the Open era. "I
don't know how you can talk about the best ever and not include Chris,"
Navratilova said recently.
never kicked her jones for competition and is still a member of the tennis
caravan, Evert retired in 1989 and moved seamlessly into the second set of
life. "For those first 10 years every morning felt like vacation," she
says. "I hadn't realized how much pressure had built up inside me. I got my
life back. Around the same time I met my husband and had kids. And then you're
totally knocked off your pedestal. One day I was traveling on private jets.
Suddenly you're traveling with a baby and your hair's a mess and there's
throw-up on your shoulder. It's not just about you."
Even today, with
her kids in school, "me time" can be a rare commodity for Evert. Along
with her younger brother, John, she runs her eponymous tennis academy in Boca
Raton. She retains a lengthy roster of sponsors and makes innumerable personal
appearances. Her charitable foundation has raised $14 mil- lion for needy
children throughout Florida. And she serves as publisher of Tennis magazine,
for which she writes a monthly column.
Still, as she is
the first to admit, she lives a charmed life. She summers with her family in
Aspen, Colo., where she and Mill were introduced to each other by Navratilova.
She spent a chunk of June cruising the Greek islands with Barbara and George
H.W. Bush, a move that has strained her relationship with Navratilova, whose
politics veer somewhere to the left of Che Guevara's. She keeps up her tennis
(including a weekly date with her parents, Jimmy and Colette), works out and
does yoga. Not coincidentally, she could pass for a decade younger than her 51
Like many players
of her era, Evert is ambivalent about the current state of the women's game.
She loves that players can earn stratospheric sums of money, but she wonders if
the big bucks haven't roughened the soul of the tour. Her kinship with
Navratilova--once, before they met in a Grand Slam final, one of them had her
period, and together they searched the locker room for a tampon--would be
impossible today. "I don't think the women stick together to make it a
better circuit," Evert says. "Everything has been given to
She also recently
made waves when she used her Tennis column to call out Serena Williams. "I
don't see how acting and designing clothes can compare with the pride of being
the best tennis player in the world," Evert wrote. While Evert never heard
anything back from the Williams camp, she was amused by the stir that her open
letter caused. "I'm not confrontational by nature," she says, "but
if I believe in something, I'll step out of my comfort zone. Maybe that
As long as she's
shattering that image as the archetypal Girl Next Door, this must be the moment
when Evert admits that she climbs aboard a skateboard and even joins the boys
for a round of paintball, right? "Let's not get carried away here," she
says. "In fact, feel free to tell your readers that I still have all my