Born 21 December 1954 in Fort Lauderdale (United States)
With 72 victories and just six defeats, nine finals and seven titles between 1974 and 1986, Chris Evert’s success rate in Paris is second to none in the modern era. It is even more impressive when you consider that the woman from Fort Lauderdale in Florida missed the three French Opens between 1976 and 1978. Chrissie won on every surface throughout her incredible career, but it was on clay that she wrote the finest chapters of her legend, racking up no fewer than 125 consecutive victories on the red dirt between 1973 and 1979. At the time, no-one was better at building points, or seeing off attackers with inch-perfect passing shots, particularly with her two-handed backhand – a technique of which she was one of the forerunners in the women’s game. Another statistic shows just how at home she was at the Porte d’Auteuil: in 171 sets in total, the American won 28 by the score of 6-0 and another 30 by 6-1!
Evert was already being hailed as a phenomenon the first time she came to Paris, in 1973 at the age of 18. She had made her debut on the pro circuit a year earlier, and got through to the final here at the first attempt, even coming within two points of victory. Australia’s Margaret Court had all sorts of difficulty countering Evert’s ultra-consistent brand of tennis, but eventually won out 6-7, 7-6, 6-4. As many predicted at the time, this match turned out to be a passing of the baton, and Evert went on to win the title in her next four appearances before finally losing in the semi-final in 1981 against Czech Hana Mandlikova, the surprise result of the year. Evert made the last four at the French Open 12 times in 13 appearances, and her worst result only came in her final tournament in 1988, when she lost to Arantxa Sanchez in another poignant match between two different generations.
But if there was one match which encapsulated the Evert era, it was the masterpiece she spun in 1985 against her great (and indeed only real) rival Martina Navratilova. Having spent years trying to parlay her serve-and-volley into clay success, Martina almost deprived Chrissie of the French Open title for the second year in a row. Evert won it at the death, 6-3, 6-7, 7-5, saving three consecutive break points at 5-5 in the decider, the third in a battle at the net which saw all 14,000 Centre Court spectators on their feet in amazement. This match in particular and their three consecutive finals in general at Roland-Garros (1984, 1985 and 1986) were very much milestones in the history of women’s tennis.
Chris Evert’s record at Roland-Garros:
• 72 victories, six defeats.
• Seven titles (1974, 1975, 1979, 1980, 1983, 1985 and 1986) and two finals (1973 and 1984). Chris Evert also won the Australian Open twice (1982 and 1984), Wimbledon three times (1974, 1976 and 1981) and the US Open six times (1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980 and 1982).
• 13 participations (the first in 1973, and the last in 1988 at the age of 33).
• 43 matches played on Centre Court (the first in 1973 in the second round against Hideko Goto).
• Notable wins over Françoise Dürr (semi-final in 1973), Martina Navratilova (1975, 1985 and 1986 finals), Hana Mandlikova (quarter-final in 1983 and semi-final in 1986).
© Régine Tourres-FFT