October 22, 2014

Florida Icon

Icon: Chris Evert

Professional tennis player, Boca Raton, age 56

Art Levy | 8/8/2011
Chris Evert
Chris Evert [Photo: Robert Adamo]

» I was in kindergarten and every day after school I would go to my best friend's house and go swimming and have barbecues. I was having a pretty fun life at that time, and then all of a sudden my dad plucked me away and started bringing me over to Holiday Park. He put me on a tennis court with a shopping cart full of tennis balls and started hitting balls at me. I was like, 'This is no fun.' I wasn't happy about it, but, you know, it worked out well.

» There's a Publix near where I live, and I can go in there and go about my businesses. I don't have the kind of celebrity where people rush up to me and get breathless.

» The attention puts pressure on you. I was just a normal girl who liked boys and had dates and cussed every once in a while and, after 21, liked to have a glass of wine once in a while. I was just normal.

» The top tennis players today, I'm older than their parents.

» When you are given a lot, you should give back. It's a responsibility. It's an obligation.

» The way I took losing was probably not really normal. I would probably be a therapist's dream. For a while, winning and losing was part of my identity and how I felt about myself, which, again, isn't the healthiest way to feel. It's not really a normal way to grow up knowing that every day, at the end of the day, you're either a winner or a loser and the whole world is writing about you.

» Florida was the best state to grow up in as a kid. The ocean. Playing tennis all year. I'm glad I grew up in Florida.

» It's very difficult when you're famous at a young age and you get labeled that you are a certain way before you are developed as a person. You're confused. You haven't formed any sort of foundation as far as the person you are because you're so young. And then the press calls you: 'Little Miss Ice Maiden' and 'Cinderella on Sneakers.' I was labeled as sort of being goody-goody and not having emotion. It puts you in a little bubble. And sometimes you have a tendency to act that out because you know that's what is expected of you.

» It was great being coached by my dad. He never got mad at me once in my whole life after losing a match. He never yelled at me. He was tough, very tough, on all of us as far as putting in the hours and practicing. I practiced a lot. I didn't always enjoy practice, but I knew it was the only way to improve. I was hungry. I enjoyed winning.

» The trademark of my game was the mental part and my concentration.
I was pretty tunnel vision when I was out there. I didn't let anything affect me. I was known to be unemotional, the 'Ice Maiden,' but I was unemotional on the court because that worked for me. Off the court, it was a lot different.

» Every November, we put on the Pro-Celebrity Tennis Classic to raise money for our charities. We invite celebrities and professional players, and we all play together. We're microphoned on the court, so it's pretty entertaining. The event takes all year to produce, but we make around $500,000 or $600,000, and the state of Florida matches it. Every year, the state comes through. As far as this year, we won't know. When the economy was healthy, there was never any question.

» I talk about all of these things I do, but the No. 1 priority is still to be a full-time mom. All of my work, like the Chris Evert Tennis Academy, the Chris Evert Children's Hospital, the Pro-Celebrity Tennis Classic, everything is here in my hometown. So I can work on that during the day and then when 3 o'clock rolls around, I'm 100% here for my kids. I just want to continue to be a hands-on mom until they're out of the house.

» You have to realize that at the end of the day you are just like everybody else, but it's kind of hard when everybody is telling you how great you are and you're the No. 1 tennis player in the world.

» What helped me was just having such a normal family life. When I went home after Wimbledon and I was 17 years old, I still had to do my chores, empty the dishwasher and fold the clothes and make my bed. I was not treated any differently than any of my other siblings, so I think that really helped me keep things in perspective.

» I'm not an extremist, like I can never see myself running a marathon. I'll jog three or four miles and then if I feel a twinge in my knee I'll stop.

» I go in and out of happiness. Isn't that true with most people? I'm dealing with children and high school and getting older. I would say I'm at peace.

» My whole life, I've nearly always been married. This last year and a half, I've been by myself as far as not having a partner, and I think the result of that has been a lot of growth and a lot of just dealing with myself and dealing with my issues and coming to peace with it. Let's put it this way: I could be happier, but I could be unhappier, too.

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