When you think of American tennis, Chris Evert has to pop up. Yes, she and Martina Navratilova each collected 18 Grand Slam singles titles. However, Navratilova is a former Czechoslovakian who defected to the United States.
Evert on the other hand, is a pure blooded American who was born and raised in Florida. That is why I give her the edge over Martina as far as great American tennis players go.
I consider Navratilova a European player, because that's what she is, regardless of her moving over to the States.
Evert's first Grand Slam appearance came at the 1971 U.S. Open. At just 16 years of age, Evert reached the semifinals before losing to Billie Jean King. In 1973, she reached the finals of both Wimbledon and the French Open.
The following year, she won both of these events, defeating Olga Morozova in the finals at each. From 1974 to 1978, Evert was the world's No. 1-ranked player. She captured her second straight French Open title in 1975 and the first of four straight U.S. Open titles.
Another Wimbledon title came her way in 1976 and she was eventually given the nickname, "Ice Maiden" of tennis. Evert and Navratilova were great friends, but on the court their rivalry was one of the greatest the tennis world has ever seen.
Their early matches were dominated by the American, and Navratilova had the upper hand eventually in the 1980s. Although she played great on all surfaces, clay was her bread and butter.
In August 1973, she began a run of 125 consecutive victories on clay and only dropped seven sets in the process. Today, this record still stands among both men and women.
Tracy Austin was the woman who ended the streak on May 12, 1979, in the semifinals of the Italian Open. With this record done, Evert began another. She won 72 consecutive matches on clay before going down to Hana Mandlikova at the 1981 French Open.
She won the French Open a record seven times. Evert was an offensive player that took the game into her own hands rather than waiting for something to happen.
Tremendous stroke production technique, fine balance, great footwork, superb anticipation, unbelievable concentration, and mental fortitude were just some of her weapons.
Her fine ground strokes taken from the back of the court which painted the lines constantly, were best for the clay courts obviously. Along with clay, she quickly proved she could dominate on all surfaces with her great offensive instincts.
When Evert played as a young girl, she used a two-handed backhand frequently because she was too small and weak to hit hard with one hand. This has inspired countless number of players to use the same technique today.
What was her finest ability in the game, though? Without a doubt, the return of service. She'd take it early and on the rise in order to take control of the point. Now, we can look at some of the great records she holds.
Where to begin? From 1974 to 1986, she won at least one Grand Slam singles title. Overall, she won seven French Open titles, six U.S Opens, three at Wimbledon, and two Australian Opens.
Of the 56 Grand Slam singles events she participated in, she reached the semifinals in 52, and the finals of 34.
Her overall record in Grand Slam tournaments was 297-38, and her career record in singles matches was 1,309-146 (a record no player in the history of tennis has been able to surpass).
Evert finished the year as the No.1 ranked player in 1974, 75, 76, 77, 78, 1980, and 1981. All in all, a great pioneer for American tennis players and a true legend in the game forever.