"Chris Evert wants people to love her... I see her in pain a lot" - When Billie Jean King empathized with Evert's frustration over lack of fan support

Billie Jean King (L) and Chris Evert (R)
Billie Jean King (L) and Chris Evert (R)

Billie Jean King once shed light on Chris Evert's fervent desire to be loved by the crowd. While King empathized with her younger compatriot, she also shed light on the valuable advice she had offered Evert to address that need.

During her time on tour, Evert came to be known as the 'Ice Maiden' due to her composed and steely demeanor on the court. However, King disclosed that despite her calm exterior, her fellow American struggled with hostile crowds.

In an interview with The New York Times in 1978, Billie Jean King revealed that Chris Evert found it difficult to cope with unfriendly crowds. She also highlighted that wanting to be admired by fans is a shared trait among athletes.

However, King pointed out that audiences tend to identify with the losers more than the winners, leading them to cheer for the underdog. She criticized this tendency, arguing that it reflects the crowd's lack of self-respect.

"Chris does not handle that well. Athletes are entertainers; they really want the world to love them. But that's not love; it's gratification, not love. When you can separate the two, that's when you can handle it," she said.
"People cannot identify with winners. They identify with the loser, which I don't like. It shows that the public has no self‐respect. Sometimes I want to grab the mike and say, "Heeey, no self respect tonight, folks," she added.

Billie Jean King reaffirmed Chris Evert's desire to be loved, sharing that she had advised her compatriot to change her perspective and look for someone to love instead. King also empathized with Evert's "pain" over her lack of fan support, having gone through similar experiences herself.

"Chris wants people to love her. And I say, "Chris, why don't you turn it around and look for someone to lave?" To hear her say what her feelings are about the crowd brings back memories. I see her in pain a lot. But at least we're able to communicate," King said.

Chris Evert: "I've tried to understand the public sentiment for the underdog... The only time I get standing ovations is when I lose"

Chris Evert
Chris Evert

Chris Evert once candidly discussed her discontent with her lack of fan support following her 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 loss to Evonne Goolagong Cawley in the semifinals of the 1972 Wimbledon Championships.

In an interview with Sports Illustrated after her defeat, the American admitted to no longer taking the crowd's support for the underdog personally.

"I've tried to understand the public sentiment for the underdog, and I don't take it personally anymore. I root for all the best teams, all the favorites, in baseball and football now because I know what it feels like to be one," Chris Evert said.

Nevertheless, Evert couldn't help but express frustration over receiving only polite applause while her opponents, like Goolagong Cawley, were honored with standing ovations.

"I am tired of beating Evonne and getting polite applause while she gets the standing ovations. If I played her in Fort Lauderdale, I think the crowd would still be for her. The only time I get standing ovations is when I lose," she added.

Quick Links

Edited by Urvi Mehra
App download animated image Get the free App now