Behind The ScenesTennis

“40-Love”: ESPN’s Evert reflects on her magical summer of ’76

Wimbledon was always a challenge for me and consequently more of a thrill when I won it.
– Three-time Wimbledon champion Chrissie Evert

The 1970s were a boom time for tennis and 1976 was the year of Chrissie Evert.

Tennis courts all over the world were being dominated by this groundbreaking athlete who won Wimbledon and the US Open in 1976, the only time in her career Evert captured these two Grand Slams in the same calendar year.

At year’s end and in honor of her accomplishments, she was named Sports Illustrated’s “Sportswoman of the Year.” She appreciates the sport’s history, posing in 1890’s gear (see above) for the magazine cover even though, she says, “I don’t know how women moved around the court in that contraption.”

As noted in the tweet below, Evert found a reminder of her 1976 run in London this week while contributing to ESPN’s multi-platform coverage of Wimbledon. Front Row asked Evert, the winner of 18 Grand Slam titles, about that magical summer 40 years ago.

What are your memories of 1976?
Beating Evonne Goolagong at Wimbledon was big thrill for me because grass was her best surface. I won two Grand Slams and a slew of tournaments that year, so I had such a solid and consistent year, and I felt like I was on top of the world. When you’re dominating, the confidence is building and you know you can’t let up for one minute or else someone’s right at your heels. But winning match after match, you feel like you’re at another level, so that was definitely one of my best years.

I think the impact hits you after the fact, years later when I see all the great athletes that are sportspeople of the year . . . But now, seeing how few women athletes and how few tennis players make that list, I can take the time and enjoy it and be impressed by it.
– Evert on being SI’s 1976 “Sportswoman Of The Year”

What’s it like adapting to the different surfaces – at the time clay at Forest Hills and grass at the All England Club – and vibes at each stadium at those two tournaments? (Note: The US Open was conducted on grass courts before switching to clay for 1975-77 and moving to its current location – and hardcourts – in 1978. Wimbledon remains the only Major contested on grass.)
Of all the Grand Slams, Wimbledon and the Australian are my weaker games because of the grass courts. I had to play out of the box and adjust my game. Wimbledon was always a challenge for me and consequently more of a thrill when I won it. The US Open is all about being American. Playing in front of an American crowd, it’s all about the Americans getting pumped up because we are playing [for] our country’s championship.

What does being named Sports Illustrated’s 1976 “Sportswoman of the Year” mean to you?
I think the impact hits you after the fact, years later when I see all the great athletes that are sportspeople of the year. At the time, I was really wrapped up in my game because I felt like I still had a lot of work to do and a lot of years left. But now, seeing how few women athletes and how few tennis players make that list, I can take the time and enjoy it and be impressed by it.

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