There are a few marriages between tennis players, but seldom do the tours of the opposite sexes cross, much less cross-pollinate. Chrissie and John had never so much as nodded to each other before she, a designing woman, contrived an introduction in the Tea Room at Wimbledon during the 1978 tournament. "Would you like to come over and say hello to Chris Evert?" asked the go-between. "Whatever for?" replied a baffled Lloyd.
They scheduled their first date alone for the evening of the day of the ladies' finals. That afternoon Chris lost to Martina Navratilova. "She just threw it away," John says. "Up 4-2 in the third. I was so confused. It seemed that she didn't really care if she won." He assumed that when he approached her afterward she would be so downcast that she wouldn't want to go out. "Of course I do," she said. "Why not?"
They were married the following April 17 in Fort Lauderdale. The bride wore an original Tinling gown of white satin, with 30 yards of Chantilly lace and 2,000 seed pearls. The groom, No. 25 in the world when he asked for her hand, had not won a match in seven months. He's now 331st on the computer. As you know, women go all to pieces when they fall in love.
The Lloyds are at a resort west of Tampa where John is attempting to qualify for a tournament. The resort has the word "Racquet" in the title to make it sound fancy. It's a brisk March morning, and the paying tourists are moaning. The Lloyds have had a hard time finding a place to stay, finally ending up in an elderly folks' health-food hostel. They sneak out to subsist on cheese Whoppers and pancakes.
John hangs out by the clubhouse with a bunch of other faceless guys in tennis sweats. He looks vaguely familiar to an alpacaed golfer passing by. "Who's that one—the good-looking guy?"
"You know, Chris Evert's husband."
"Oh yeah." He examines John more closely. "She got a 10, didn't she?"
Chris is in the parking lot, out of the way, talking to another player's wife. She's just a wife this morning. Next to them some other tennis gypsy's wife nurses a baby as she waits for her husband to come back from the clubhouse. But this isn't a real tournament. It's just the qualifying for a tournament. Four spots in a draw of 32 have been left vacant, and about 70 hopefuls, including Chris Evert Lloyd's husband, are here at the Racquet place, praying to make the qualifying field of 48. If John gets in—which he does on this occasion—and then wins three rounds, he'll be one of four admitted to the first round of the regular tournament, there to meet a fresh player who ranks higher than he. This is the minefield that John must face week after week if he's to claw his way back.