Which is to say, she is alternately hilarious, self-deprecating, reflective, angry (at her doctors, at others, at herself), bemused, anxious (her 19-year-old cracked his skull skateboarding a few weeks before—"and he's my easy one," she adds ruefully), determined, philosophical, and tenacious. The truth is, she never was."I was labeled at a young age—Miss Unemotional, Miss Cool," she says, "and that would carry over to my press conferences.
I still have this image: I can't be controversial, I can't say things."She takes a deep breath.
In 1990, Jennifer Capriati became the youngest player to crack the top 10, also at 14; a few years later, she was arrested for shoplifting and smoking marijuana. I wanted in the beginning to get his praise and his affection, but I didn't get, `Chrissie, I love you; Chrissie, you look beautiful.' My dad's approach to tennis was, `Don't make errors,' not `That's a beautiful shot.'"When little Chrissie would complain about her father not giving her more love, her mother, Colette, always said, "Oh, that's just the way he is." She also warned Chrissie, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it."Her legions of fans, and the media people who covered her, praised her politeness and gushed over her demeanor. I had a sense of entitlement."Evert makes clear that she's not complaining—"I'm done with the pity party for me. What also emerged was a beautiful young woman who craved male approval, an expert at keeping her needs to herself, an accomplished and successful champion who had very little idea of how to be alone. " screamed the tabloids) to fellow tennis phenom Jimmy Connors (he was 21). I had no emotion left when I got home."In 1987, two years after she had been named "Greatest Woman Athlete of the Last 25 Years" by the Women's Sports Foundation, Evert and Lloyd divorced.
Things seemed more innocent in 1975, when Chrissie became the world's top player at 15. For starters, there was her stoic coach-father, Jimmy, a former tennis pro himself. In many awful ways and for all the wrong reasons, she was the perfect partner for a fine romance. There were dalliances with Burt Reynolds, British rocker and actor Adam Faith, and President Ford's son, Jack. "I had a girlfriend ask him if he would want to go out with her and me to Tramp in London, to go out dancing. That was our first date, and we hit it off."What she didn't know then, she knows now."It was doomed from the start, because he was on the men's tour, and I was on the women's tour, and we never saw each other. There was little criticism from Evert's fans (nor was there much blowback after the Mill or Norman divorce: "My fans were always respectful," she says. It was because my dad wasn't talking to me that Martina invited me to Aspen."Martina was, of course, Martina Navratilova, Evert's archrival and close friend.
But it's probably not why she was so beloved, so idolized, and ultimately, so misunderstood.
All that was surely more a function of her relentlessly polite demeanor, her supremely phlegmatic affect on court and off. Boys wanted—well, many of them probably wanted what boys often want.
Above that is the game room, with a ping-pong table and a television, also for the boys.
It's about 8,200 square feet altogether, and a lot of it seems to be taken up by the kitchen. It's kid-friendly, a place you can put your feet up," Evert says.
Married to Olympic downhill skier Andy Mill for 18 years, with three children, she fell in love with Mill's friend, golfer Greg ("The Great White Shark") Norman. I want roots—I want to be with my kids, live in a nice, comfortable house, and be able to do my work. "But this time, I'm going to have a more independent relationship.
America's Sweetheart felt her marriage slipping away, very publicly fell in love with one of her husband's closest friends, then realized—after the divorce and remarriage—that she had made a big, big mistake. That's when one of international sports' most enduring icons of grace under pressure, grit, perseverance, and determination basically fell apart. Now I know what that means."The events leading up to Evert's semipublic scandal are painfully well known.
She says she's delighted to have learned her lesson."I know it's a cliché," she says, "but my whole thing this past year was, whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger.
That's when Christine Marie Evert realized that all the fame, money, success, and adulation in the world didn't make her happy. That's when Little Miss Perfect (she was the rare athletic superstar who inspired multiple nicknames—"Remorseless" among them) figured out that holding things in, always pushing forward, ignoring difficulty, and focusing solely on the moment—the emotional building blocks of her professional greatness, essentially—had also brought her close to personal ruination.
Some said Norman was more interested in being famous than in being a husband. I think it'll come when I'm not looking for it, when I'm not trying so hard."She's sitting in a couch on the patio behind her house, a sprawling, red-roofed Mediterranean-style place on five wooded acres in Boca Raton, Florida. Behind the pool is a gym, and to her left is a tennis court and guesthouse.