Only 2½ years ago he stood 25th in the world. He was good enough to have beaten Bjorn Borg on red clay. He was one of Britain's two best players; in 1978 he helped lead his country to the Davis Cup final for the first time in 40 years. Now he says, "I can't get any worse without breaking my arm."
"But John's really eager," Chris says, trying to put the best face on the situation. "I haven't seen this attitude since we were married. Maybe he feels more secure about us now. He knows he can really get involved with tennis and it won't affect our marriage."
Although John fought his way through qualifying and made it to the quarters of the Jack Kramer Open last week, nobody else in tennis holds much hope for his comeback. By his own admission, he was never hungry and always easily distracted. "I can be self-destructive," he says. "Always before, I could drift along, and if I had a bad patch, I could eventually find my way back to my level. But it's tough when you get down in the 300s, and you're in the spotlight, too, and once you were 25th in the world, and you're married to the best player in the world...."
And you have to qualify.
"And you have to qualify."
That afternoon Chris watches John play Jim Delaney in his first qualifying match. He tries not to look over to where the few spectators are watching her watch him play. He feels it. "She wants me to do well more than she does herself," he says.
Chris hunches against a cold wind. "I'm devastated when he loses," she says. "I'd much rather play than watch. I know how much worse it is for him because of me. When I lose, I always feel that I've let down the people who love me. I always wanted to play well for others. I know how happy it makes them, because it makes me so happy when someone I love wins."
But it's Chrissie's curse that only she wins. The experience with her husband somewhat duplicates what she went through with her sister. Jeanne got as high as nine in the country in 1974, but the better she became, the more glare, the more comparisons there were. The other Evert. How would you like to be called the other anything? Soon both Jeanne's game and her relationship with her sister deteriorated, and even now, years after Jeanne has left tennis and made her own happy home, she says she still has problems talking about Chris and what they went through.
"The strains were probably my fault," Jeanne says. "But she was just always so confident. She was so tough. No, not tough. That's not right. She's such a sensitive person...." There is a sudden silence, and Jeanne starts to sob.
Why are you crying, Jeanne?