(May 13, 2010 – New York, NY) Chris Evert made the media rounds Thursday as the national spokesperson for National Tennis Month, from appearances on morning shows to a QuickStart lesson on the Observation Deck of the Empire State Building.
May which is Tennis Month, represents the official launch of the outdoor season. In addition to the block parties and promoting tennis participation, this year’s celebration has a special emphasis on Moms. “Mom Spotlights” on the Tennis Month web site and a “Tennis Celebrates Moms Sweepstakes” which will award a trip for four to the 2010 US Open.
Who more appropriate to be the spokesperson for National Tennis Month than mother of three and 18-time major champion – Chris Evert.
Evert made a lunch stop at Bar Americain to hold a media round table to discuss Tennis Month and the state of US tennis.
Evert discussed her father’s theory on why more Americans were playing tennis in the seventies and eighties.
“There weren’t many options for girls, no soccer, basketball – either play tennis or golf or you were an ice skater or maybe a gymnast.”
“In the seventies Mom’s didn’t work. Mothers brought their kids to public tennis facilities everyday.” Women going into the work force “hurt tennis but helped women.”
In an effort to “bring back the kids we lost,” Evert emphasized the value of QuickStart tennis for the younger kids. The QuickStart method involves smaller courts and equipment to encourage play at a younger age.
She also chatted about how the infamous article Sports Illustrated in 1994 by Sally Jenkinsâ€“ â€œIs Tennis Dyingâ€ helped to galvanize the sport and motivate the USTA.
Whatâ€™s happened to US Tennis? Evert stated: â€œopen your eyes, the whole world has caught up.â€
Americans are constantly criticized for not playing well on clay courts and USTA player development is trying to address this issue with placing clay courts at at the training facilities. In fact the National Tennis Center is currently putting in four clay courts for the development program.
The up and comers? : Christina McHale, Melanie Oudin, and Madison Keys. (The mothers of Christina McHale and Madison Keys are featured in stories on tennismonth.com) There are a lot of good players around 15-16 and younger, “after Oudin thereâ€™s a little bit of a gap.â€ In the â€œ17-18 year old category â€“ nothing is happening.â€
What did Evert think of Oudin’s run at this past US Open: “Very impressed. Would have been more impressed if she had done better after the open. Was curious to see if she would continue that run. Lately sheâ€™s coming back. Felt bad that she got so much publicity.” Oudin will be making her French Open debut this year.
Predictions for Roland Garros: Favors Nadal on the menâ€™s side and Justine Henin, Kim Clijsters and Serena Williams three way battle for the women’s crown. “Serena is so serious about winning another French Open that she asked Patrick McEnroe to use a USTA coach for her to prepare for the French.”
Evert attributed her own success at the French (seven titles) to being brought up on clay so she learned how to move, how to slide, patience and strategy including the drop shot which she credits to her mother. Every Tuesday and Thursday growing up Evert used to play her mother who delighted in beating her until she was 12 years old. She often used the drop shot and to get the best of her daughter.
Lessons learned from Dad: Dad taught her at a young age never let your opponent know how you are feeling, don’t show your emotion or you’ll give them an advantage.
Despite teaching her three sons tennis, they went the way of extreme sports but did play high school tennis.
On grunting: Chris Evert shares the same agent as Maria Sharapova says that (Sharapova’s) shrieks would bother her but she would not know what to do. “(Players) they grunt, they grunt, they grunt and then when they go for the big shot, itâ€™s a different note and as soon as you hear it, you know itâ€™s going to be a winnerâ€¦what can you do?â€
As for her tennis generation: â€œMy era did not concentrate on slamsâ€ Today’s players put a lot of emphasis on slams.” Evert did not play the Australian Open for ten years. Two years she did not play the French Open due to playing World Team Tennis.
“Made more of an effort to play to make the sponsor happy and we wanted to prove ourselves as good investment for Virginia Slims who was the first sponsor of the womenâ€™s tour. â€œThere were not a lot of pull-outs when we were playing.â€
On today’s players: “In defense of todayâ€™s players, there is much more depth and thereâ€™s much more competition and you get tougher matches in the earlier rounds. And you get burned out more after a tournament. Itâ€™s tougher to win a tournament now than it was in our day.â€
On watching Tennis on TV versus seeing in person: “In golf you get to see everyone on TV. Not so in tennis. If itâ€™s not a good match itâ€™s not good TV. Tennis is more impressive when you are there than when you are watching it on TV.”
Advice for adult women wanting to learn tennis: “get a lesson, proper equipment and learn proper technique. Itâ€™s the best cardiovascular sport of a woman.â€
More opportunities for college bound women: Due to Title IX there are many more tennis scholarships for women.
On court coaching: â€œif it makes the sport more interesting, I donâ€™t have a problem with that.â€ As to illegal coaching which is very common place â€“ â€œ thatâ€™s always going to be.”