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Champion's Alley: Chris Evert

Champion's Alley: A series looking at the former champions at the WTA Finals. This week, Mark Hodgkinson focuses on 4-time champion and WTA Finals Ambassador Chris Evert. 

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Chris Evert was named the first WTA Finals Ambassador in 2014. 

From the very first staging of the WTA Finals, on the clay of Boca Raton in Florida in 1972, Chris Evert felt as though the tournament was worth getting "psyched up" for.  

Evert, who was just 17 years old at the time, and still an amateur, would win that inaugural event, and over the course of her career she would gather a total of four titles, as well as finishing as the runner-up on four occasions (there was a six-year stretch when she was a fixture in the final). "It has always been huge for women's game, the tournament helped to grow the women's tour. This was aways a tournament that players got psyched up for - everyone wanted to do well because the tournament was a culmination of the whole year," Evert told me. "We always took a lot of pride in the year-end championships." 

Evert's amateur status meant that she had to forfeit a cheque for $25 000 after beating Kerry Ann Melville in the 1972 final. But she wasn't concerned about playing for free; she cared more about having beaten the elite to win what was then the biggest title of her career. "I won my first year-end title before I won my first Grand Slam title so it was even more special for me. At 17, I was beating all the other women on clay. I didn't mind that I didn't receive any prize-money because I was still amateur. I wasn't annoyed that I didn't get to keep the cheque. I didn't look at it in that way. Money meant nothing to me at that time. I knew that I would be making money at 18 when I turned pro. I was still a kid, lucky enough to travel the world and play against top players, and that was enough for me." 

A second title followed the next year when she defeated Nancy Richey-Gunter, a third in 1975 victory over Martina Navratilova and a fourth in 1977 when she beat Sue Barker. She was the runner-up in the 1974 and 1976 to Evonne Goolagong Cawley, and to Navratilova in 1983 and 1984. 

This article is written by Mark Hodgkinson, the author of "Game, Set and Match: Secret Weapons of the World's Top Tennis Players" (Bloomsbury, May 2015). 

 

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