Chris Evert Weighs In on the Williams Sisters

June 15, 2011

Starting next week, eighteen-time Grand Slam singles champion Chris Evert will be stepping into the broadcast booth at Wimbledon, making her ESPN debut as a tennis analyst. On Tuesday, Evert joined her new colleague and fellow analyst, Brad Gilbert for ESPN's pre-Wimbledon conference call with the media. Evert wasted no time getting down to business. 

The hot topic? The Williams sisters. 

Evert, who has three Wimbledon singles titles to her credit, plans to keep a close eye on Venus and Serena, as they step back into the tennis spotlight after a long absence from competition. Specifically, she will be watching for Serena's court coverage as well as her mental toughness. 

In the conference call, Evert steered clear of any definitive predictions, but did feel certain that a return of the Williams sisters to Wimbledon won't necessarily translate into a win for the Williams sisters.

"It would be monumental in my mind if Serena pulled off a win," said Evert on the call. "You can never, ever count her out.  But I personally don't ‑‑ I don't know how it's humanly possible for someone to take a year off like that and have gone through what she's been through physically with her ailments and really hasn't had a tremendous amount of practice, really a one‑tournament warm‑up." Evert also showed concern for the emotional toll that a serious medical condition like a pulmonary embolism could take on Serena.

Evert had a slightly different view on Venus, whom she described as a "sort of a dark horse" simply because Serena gets all the media attention. "She [Venus] does the job and she still has the better Wimbledon record. And she loves grass and she plays great on it," said Evert.

As the Williams sisters try to regain their dominance in the women's game, the age issue will become tougher to ignore. Venus, who is vying for her sixth Wimbledon singles title, will be turning 31 in a few days, and Serena, vying for her fifth title, will be turning 30 in September. Evert, who won the French Open at 31, believes that the game has a higher level of intensity than it did during her time on the tour. "I think the only thing helping them by playing at an older age is the fact that they've had so many breaks," said Evert. She also noted that the power in their games helps to shorten rallies, which, in turn, has helped with longevity. 

During her career that spanned 17 years,  Evert recalled that her longest absence from competition was four months, just after she married at age 24. Evert noted that the Williams sisters have benefited from multiple, long layoffs, which has given them renewed energy and excitement upon their return. "If they had played without injuries and they had played a full commitment of whatever, 21 tournaments a year, like everybody else is playing and supported the Tour that way for 15 years, I think they'd be out of the game by now."

Who are some of the Wimbledon contenders, according to Evert? Sharapova is one. "She's done really well this year, and she's been consistently a semifinalist or finalist," said Evert. "I think if she can get her serve together, she's won Wimbledon before.  She's mentally really a tough player.  I think she can do some damage and maybe even win Wimbledon." Li Na and Kim Clijsters are also at the top of her list.

1 comment:

The Fan Child said...

Great post. Looking forward to hearing from Chris in the booth this Wimbledon.