When the very first season-ending championships in the history of women's tennis rolled into Boca Raton on October 9, 1972, one year before the founding of the WTA, there was one name that would dart above the rest.
Chris Evert was 18, and like most great players, an amateur. The year had seen her grandest triumphs yet as she marched to the semifinals of Wimbledon and the US Open, captured four titles to bring her career tally to a formidable eight, and earned hersef a Top 4 seeding at this exciting new event.
Another was added that week as Evert stormed to victory, tearing through the 16-player field in record time. Not a set was lost, and after a memorable 6-4 6-2 victory over the majestic top-seeded Billie Jean King in the semifinals, she rolled through the final round to capture the title.
It wasn't to be the only first of Evert's WTA Finals career. Twelve years later, in the legendary surroundings of Madison Square Garden, the American would contest the very first best-of-five match in WTA history in the final. Laughter accompanied her reminiscing on being so out of her mental comfort zone.
“I played Martina in Madison Square Garden and it didn't pan out very well for me because I lost the first two sets and I was exhausted,” she chuckled.
“I think the psychological part of 'Okay, Chrissie, if you're going to win this match, you gotta win three sets in a row' didn't quite go well with me, so the third set was easy.”
She has seen it all and played a starring role in as vast a range of WTA Finals as any other woman to have ever lived. First she processioned to four titles alongside four other finals, and then she was a witness to the elite players to follow duking it out as the sport gradually transformed from the days of the wooden racquet and the slow, unorthodox and varied play it forced, to the modern technology and the speed it it has unlocked.
Still, Evert maintains that no WTA Finals has ever transformed in quite as drastically short a period as this one has in the days between Istanbul and Singapore.
“I don't believe that, when it was at Istanbul, it was that different,” Evert stated. “But it is, now. This is the first year that Stacey Allaster, the CEO of the WTA, is focusing on bringing everybody back into the fold.
“From the Future Stars, to the current hot players, to the most improved players to the pros, the legends that played 20-30 years ago. It's just very inclusive of everybody who has played tennis on the planet. It's a wonderful celebration of women's tennis.”
Tumaini Carayol is a London-based freelance tennis journalist who runs the Foot Fault blog.