Chris Evert First Woman To Earn $1 Million In Career Prize Money

March 2, 2012 by staff 

Chris Evert First Woman To Earn $1 Million In Career Prize Money, Chris Evert was such a sweet 16 when she burst onto the national scene. With ponytail flying on the grass courts of Forest Hills, N.Y., this unseeded high school girl from Florida made three gripping comebacks against established women pros — including once staving off six match points. While she didn’t win the 1971 U.S. Open, she earned a more valuable prize that fortnight.
She grabbed America’s heart. She did it with two hands, the same way she hit her backhand. And she held on for most of two decades, in which time she went from teen angel to ice maiden to revered legend.

Part of Evert’s charm was her tenaciousness — she never conceded a point. Part of it was that two-handed backhand that spawned a craze among young girls for years to come. Part of it was — and there’s no getting around it — she was feminine in a time when the stereotype of the woman tennis player was more masculine.

It was this blend of grit, grace and glamour that stole our hearts. And while the grace and glamour were nice to the eye, it was the grit that made her a champion.

“Losing hurts me,” Evert said. “I was determined to be the best.”

She didn’t have a great serve, and she went to the net only to shake hands. But Evert used her relentless baseline game and strength of character to win 18 Grand Slam singles titles — six U.S. Opens, three Wimbledons, seven French Opens and two Australian Opens. Most impressively, she won at least one Grand Slam tournament for 13 consecutive years (1974-86). She reached at least the semifinals in 52 of her 56 Slam events, including her first 34.

More accomplishments by Evert:

First player to win 1,000 singles matches.

Her .900 winning percentage (1,309-146) is the best in pro tennis history.

Won 125 straight matches on clay, the longest winning streak on any single surface.

Record of 55 consecutive match wins, set in 1974, stood until Martina Navratilova broke it with 74 straight 10 years later.

Her 157 tournament victories are second (among men and women) only to Navratilova’s 167.

First woman to earn $1 million. She won $8,896,195 in career prize money, plus several times that in endorsements.

Four times Associated Press Female Athlete of the Year.
With no grunts or groans — and also few smiles — she was the model of gracious sportsmanship.

“Chris Evert never threw a tantrum, groused at opponents or blamed officials,” Camille Paglia wrote in her book “Vamps and Tramps.” “A bad call produced a steely stare at most. Chris behaved like an adult, taking full responsibility for her performance and deportment.”

While the public perception of her remains majestic, she was human. She was involved in a romantic relationship with Jimmy Connors before she turned 20. She dated, among others, a president’s son (Jack Ford) and an actor (Burt Reynolds), and had an affair with a married British ex-rock star (Adam Faith).

Evert, who was married to British tennis player John Lloyd for a time and is now wed to former Olympic skier Andy Mill, had a sense of humor away from the court, a side of her that the public didn’t see.

“Martina claims I tell the dirtiest jokes around — probably as a semirevolt against my strict Catholic upbringing,” Evert said. “And when I’ve become angry in practice, every four-letter word imaginable has graced these lips.”

She was born Dec. 21, 1954 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and raised on the clay of that city’s tennis courts, where her father Jimmy was a teaching pro. When she was around 5, dad began giving her lessons. While a 4-foot-11 eighth-grader in 1969, she was mentioned in Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd for being ranked No. 1 nationally in girls’ 14-under tennis.

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