Evert has deployed a lap blanket. "I was up late helping my son write a five-paragraph essay," she says, smothering a yawn. A printed itinerary commands her attention for a minute or so. "What is this?" She looks up. "'Small speech by Chris Evert.'"
"Shouldn't be more than 10 minutes," Norman says, turning the pages of his newspaper. A careful reader, he subscribes to Financial Times, USA Today, TIME and Newsweek, and most days he peruses the online editions of The Wall Street Journal and The Sydney Morning Herald. His reading informs his small talk—as now, when he shares an item about coastal flooding in the Maldives, or a minute later, when he says, "Here's an amazing statistic I've heard: China has to employ an additional 15 million people a year just to keep up with the birthrate."
Norman's ability to compartmentalize is a continuing source of amazement to Evert. "Greg can run all his businesses and still play great golf," she says. "I had to just play tennis. I couldn't have my fingers in a lot of different pies." She is quick to add that the G 550—which Norman bashers disparage as the aerial counterpart to Aussie Rules, the 228-foot luxury yacht he sold in 2004 for a rumored $77 million—is no flashy indulgence but rather an essential tool that allows him to conduct business on a global scale.
Not that her first flight to Australia on Air Norman didn't leave her starry-eyed. "You get on the plane," she recalls with a smile. "A flight attendant serves you the best food, you have all these movies to watch, and then you walk back"—she hoists a thumb toward the back-cabin seating—"and they've put a king-sized mattress on the table. So we're in a king-sized bed going to Australia!" She tilts her head and rests a cheek on steepled hands. "I slept eight hours, and for the first time in my life I arrived in Australia with no jet lag." (The next day Evert will worry that her description of the plane as "a perk of marriage to Greg" might sound crass. "That's his business jet," she says, stopping short of providing fuel receipts and expense logs. "When I do my own stuff, I fly commercial.")
For the young Evert, the distinction between business and pleasure was always clear. "Chris was an implacable opponent, and she didn't choke," says one tennis insider. "Chris on the court was all business," echoes another. One time, after Evert had won a match 6--0, 6--0, a smiling reporter asked her if she couldn't have let her victim win just one teeny-tiny game. Evert's shocked response: "No!" But she was no Iron Maiden after dark. High-spirited and flirty, Evert enchanted some of the 1970s' most eligible bachelors, including—in alphabetical order—10-time Grand Slam champ and mixed-doubles partner Jimmy Connors (to whom she was invitations-stamped engaged), British pop star Adam Faith, presidential scion Jack Ford, tennis star Vitas Gerulaitis and actor Burt Reynolds.
The young Norman, oddly enough, was Evert's opposite—flamboyant in public, introverted by nature. Raised in Townsville, Queensland, on the apron of Australia's Great Barrier Reef, he grew up riding horses on the beach and spearfishing in Nelley Bay. He didn't become a brand until a Friday morning in 1981, when he woke up to a headline in The Augusta Chronicle: GREAT WHITE SHARK LEADS MASTERS. Intuiting that his striking appearance and Aussie accent could set him apart, Norman began to work the media and play to the galleries.
"Greg understood how golf should be promoted," says Australian broadcaster Graeme Agars. "I reckon he drew a hundred thousand people one day at the Australian Masters." But the radio man didn't fully appreciate Norman's appeal until one day at the Taiheiyo Masters, when he noticed a young Japanese woman walking behind the Shark while making rubbing gestures. "She was rubbing his aura," Agars recalls with awe.
Norman's family life, on the other hand, excited little interest. He met flight attendant Laura Andrassy in 1979, and they dated for two years before tying the knot. Their 25-year marriage produced a daughter (Morgan-Leigh, now 26 and dating golfer Sergio García), a son (Gregory Jr., 23) and an air of marital stability that held up until four years ago when, Norman says, Andrassy asked for a divorce.
The plane banks and a dark landmass fills the windows.
"I was telling Chrissie that the Dominican Republic has 15,000 golfers and 35,000 tennis players," Norman says, shifting in his chair. "That's surprising, isn't it?"