Those who saw the 1976 World Invitational Tennis Classic match between Chris Evert and Evonne Goolagong on Tennis Channel last night got more than tennis. Billie Jean King (in a Pam Shriver afro) was one of the commentators, and the interview and analysis style was dramatically different from what we hear today. It was, in fact, a breath of fresh air.
After Goolagong threw away the first set, King sat down with her on her bench and said--in so many words--"you really made a mess of that one." She had. Halfway through the set, it occurred to Goolagong that she was using her husband's racquet, an absent-minded act that only added to her reputation as being someone who wasn't focused enough on what she was doing.
For her part, Evert put on a tennis clinic. Before Navratilova came into her own, it was Goolagong's volleying that drove Evert mad, and the two were rivals. But at the Sea Pines Resort in Hilton Head that day, it was all about Evert.
The interviews after the match were especially revealing. King reminded Goolagong that her critics say she does not care enough, and that she wouldn't worry adequately about the 6-1, 6-1 score of the match she just played. "I wish I could worry more," said Goolagong.
When King asked for Evert and father Jimmy Evert to come over for an interview, she didn't say word one to the winner, but spoke instead to her father. Jimmy Evert insisted he didn't try to tell Chris what to do, that they just had "casual conversations." Chris Evert was standing between them, and the look on her face was priceless; she stopped just short of rolling her eyes for the camera.
The Sea Pines Resort, by the way, is where the Family Circle Cup used to be held.