It has been three decades since a pony-tailed, teenage Chris Evert reached the finals of the U.S. Open and was welcomed home by cheering crowds in Fort Lauderdale.
The 16-year-old, who had lost to Billie Jean King, had won something bigger by becoming the first teen star of tennis, and in the years that followed, a tennis legend.
Coached by her father, Jimmy, on the courts at Holiday Park in Fort Lauderdale, Evert was ranked No. 1 in the world for seven years. She holds 157 singles titles. She won 1,309 matches and eight Grand Slam titles, including three times at Wimbledon.
Since she retired in 1989, Evert’s life has focused on family and giving back to the tennis community as well as to numerous charities.
She and husband Andy Mill have three sons, ages 8, 10 and 13 and she remains close to her parents and siblings. Eight years ago, she opened Evert Tennis Academy on a sprawling green campus in west Boca Raton, where her brother, John, is a manager and brother, Drew, is a coach. Her sister, Clare, co-directs the annual Chris Evert/Bank of America Pro-Celebrity Tennis Classic, a two-day charity benefit being held Saturday and Dec. 5 in Delray Beach.
We caught up with Evert recently at the academy, where she spends three or four days a week coaching students and playing tennis with her sons after school.
A relaxed Evert, wearing tennis garb, cap and necklace with a peace symbol, talked about her kids, her fitness routine and her upcoming charity weekend.
And she weighed in on another milestone she’ll reach next month: Her 50th birthday.
Do you have a fitness routine?
“Unlike other women, my fitness is not for looking good or vanity. I get cranky if I don’t do anything or if I miss three days. Fitness has been a part of me since I was 6 years old when I started playing tennis.
I play tennis here three or four times a week for two hours after my kids go to school. I’ve got to have the cardio. I do Bikram Yoga (which is practiced in a heated room). I do that because of all the pounding in tennis. It’s a lot of warm stretching. It’s great for balance and strength, and at the same time, you’re just focusing on yourself for an hour and a half.
Once every two weeks, I do weights. That’s my third priority. After 40, I find you start getting the (jiggly) arms.”
Is fitness more of a challenge now? Do you still practice some of the same tennis drills?
“I do a lot of the same drills, a lot of moving drills. Of course, everything is not as good. Reflexes aren’t as good. I don’t move as well. That’s the real mind-opener. It’s almost like every seven years, you find a big jump. I’m 49 now and I almost have to say that this year I felt a little like, `I’m just not getting this.'”