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At Forest Hills, back among friends, family and countrymen, Evert was utterly relaxed and confident. She says she knew she was going to win it after her first match. For the record, she beat Greer Stevens 6-0, 6-1; Glynis Coles 6-0, 6-0; Sue Barker 6-1, 6-0; Natasha Chmyreva 6-1, 6-2; Mima Jausovec 6-3, 6-1; and, finally, Goolagong 6-3, 6-0. That is 12 games lost out of 84, in the U.S. Open. It is not the sort of thing one is likely to see soon again.
Two years ago Evert estimated that she had reached 70% of her potential. Today, two U.S. Opens and a Wimbledon later, she says, "Mentally I don't think I could get much tougher. I'd just crack. Physically I still have weaknesses. I think I have the best ground strokes in the game, but 10 women have better serves. To improve I'd have to get stronger. With three months to work on it I could, but I don't have three months. And then there's my volley. Playing doubles has forced me to go to the net and my volley has improved, but you can't expect to improve much in a year or two. After all, I began hitting ground strokes at six and volleys at 18."
Chris is going home to Fort Lauderdale for Christmas. She is going to hit balls every day for a month with her little sister Clare, who is nine, and she is going to help her 15-year-old brother Johnny get ready for the Orange Bowl Juniors "and not worry about whether my volley is going in, just worry about his game."
There are aspects of her life as a professional tennis player that worry her, the self-absorption that is necessary, the distance that must be maintained between rivals who might otherwise be friends, the moodiness that overcomes her during a tournament and causes her sometimes to snap at people she loves.
"Rosie told me that Billie Jean was the same way. 'You both know what you have to do,' Rosie said. 'If you were any different you'd be No. 20 in the world.' Maybe it means I care a lot."
Off the court Chris Evert is an honest, friendly, likable, intelligent, unassuming 21-year-old millionaire superstar. On the court, she is the best female tennis player any of us is going to see for a very long time. And boy, does she care.
Of all the things that have grown out of the bloodless revolution in women's affairs that has been going on for a decade, the most significant is options. Freedom lies in having options, and nowhere has the increase in the number of options for women been more dramatic than in sport. Gone are the days when the closest a girl could get to organized sport was the cheerleaders' bench. Girls have become participants instead of spectators and the people who have helped to raise their aspirations, and who by their performances have made 1976 unforgettable for all of us, are the ones who have demanded the utmost of themselves, champions such as these:
One of the nicest sights of the 1976 Winter Olympics was that of a French girl and a West German girl hoisting a Canadian girl to their shoulders and all three of them grinning delightedly. The moment, frozen by hundreds of cameras, bore the mark of Mittermaier just as the whole glorious Innsbruck spectacle had. It spoke of sport that is fun and competition that is its own reward. Rosi had just been beaten, by .12 of a second, out of a third gold medal, which would have made her the first woman ever to sweep the Olympic Alpine events, and there she was, saluting her conqueror, with happiness all over her dimpled face.
Earlier, plunging down a treacherous course, aiming at a seemingly unbeatable time recorded moments before by Brigitte Totschnig of Austria, Rosi won the first major downhill race of her 10-year career. Next she won her specialty, the slalom—101 gates and 1,312 icy feet that knocked out all but 19 of the 42 starters. Then, with the world wishing her well, came her silver in the giant slalom.
A few months later, having added the World Cup to her Olympic medals, 26-year-old Mittermaier retired. They were already calling her "grandmother." "I prefer they not start calling me great-grandmother," she said.