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Sports Then and Now



Chris Evert Was Hard to Beat on Clay 2

Posted on May 30, 2017 by Dean Hybl
Chris Evert won a record seven French Open Women's Singles titles. The first two came back-to-back in 1974 and 1975.

Chris Evert won a record seven French Open Women’s Singles titles. The first two came back-to-back in 1974 and 1975.

With Serena Williams not competing in the 2017 French Open due to her pregnancy, the women’s field is wide open and includes only two past champions (2009 winner Svetlana Kuznetsova and defending champion Garbiñe Muguruza). It is a far cry from the 1970s and 1980s when every year you knew there was one female player who would be pushing for the title.

With the possible exception of Rafael Nadal, who is aiming for his record 10th French Open title, no tennis player, man or woman, in the modern era of tennis has been more unbeatable on clay than Chris Evert.

Between August 1973 and May 1979, Evert won an amazing 125 consecutive matches on clay while losing only seven total sets.  After losing a third set tiebreaker to Tracy Austin in the semifinals of the 1979 Italian Open, she rebounded to win her next 72 matches on the surface.

She won seven French Open Championships and three of her six U.S. Open titles came while the tournament was played on clay.

Even though Evert was particularly tough to beat on clay, it wasn’t like she didn’t also display dominance on other surfaces.

Easily the most consistent player in women’s tennis history, Evert won at least one grand slam title in 13 consecutive years. She reached at least the semifinals in each of her first 34 grand slam appearances and 52 times out of 56 total appearances in the four biggest tournaments in tennis.

While her total of 18 total grand slam singles titles is tied for fifth in women’s tennis history, it is likely she would have won considerable more titles had she participated in all four majors every year during her career.

Instead, Evert participated in the Australian Open only six times (winning twice).  After winning the French Open in 1974 and 1975, she skipped the tournament for three years before returning to win the title five more times between 1979 and 1986.

Her overall career singles record of 1,309-146 (.900) ranks as the best of any player in professional tennis history. Read the rest of this entry →

Counting Down the 15 Greatest French Open Champions of the Open Era… 1

Posted on April 29, 2011 by JA Allen

The French Open Grounds surrounding Stade Roland Garros

Thoughts now turn to the red clay of Stade Roland Garros––the next Grand Slam championship on the calendar.

The French Open begins on May 22 following the Masters 1000 tournaments in Madrid and Rome.

The French Open has often presented obstacles to many of the top players.  Pete Sampras never won on the red dirt nor did John McEnroe, although he came very lose in 1984.

Maria Sharapova could never capture this title and the Williams sisters never found the dirt to their liking, although Serena Williams did win the title in 2002 with her sister Venus as the runner-up.

In all eight men and seven women have won multiple championships since the Open Era began in 1968.

How do you measure the greatness of an athlete within their respective sport? What factors determine the degree of greatness over a period of time, be it years or decades?

Further, how do you determine who is number one in any given list or ranking?

First you must find a pattern and then you must determine the significant components of the ranking—does each factor merit being used as part of the overall equation? Sometimes it does, without question, like the score in a game. The highest or lowest score wins as in football or golf.

It is not always a simple task to determine who is the greatest because such discussions invariably have subjective components.

For this ranking, first consider the number of times a man or woman won the title.  Add in as well the number of times a player made it to the French Open finals since 1968 (Open Era) as the initial demarcation of greatness.

To be considered the player must have won the French Open more than once since 1968.

It should be noted that Rod Laver did win this tournament twice in 1962 and 1969, once in the Open Era. He also made the finals in 1968.

Roger Federer made four consecutive finals from 2006-2009, winning the title once in 2009.

That just proves how difficult it can be to win this tournament multiple times as these 15 players have done.

Read the rest of this entry →

Who’s No. 1? 16 Women in Tennis Who Held the Top Spot Longest 21

Posted on February 27, 2011 by JA Allen

Two women who dominated on tour: Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert.

Points given in a WTA sponsored tennis tournament are used to calculate a players ranking and who ultimately is the No. 1 player on the women’s tour.

Points gained are totaled for one year. Then as the event rolls around again on the calendar, the points earned last year fall off and new points won replace them.

Various tournaments have different point values with the slams offering the most points. For example, the winner of a major receives 2000 ranking points.

The further a player advances in the tournament, the more points she will earn.

Ultimately for the women on tour, only the player’s best 17 tournaments count toward total ranking points. That means a player cannot simply add to her ranking total by entering every tournament.

Historically, for the women’s tour, ranking did not even appear as a statistic until 1921.

Back then rankings were subjective, based on human observation, often a professional panel. Certainly there was no universal system. Calculation of rankings were not point-based until 1975.

Despite the inadequacies of past record-keeping, evidence exists that indicate a number of very talented female players held the No. 1 ranking and dominated the women’s game prior to 1975.

We will use prior subjective rankings and convert those records to an appropriate number of weeks in order to rank the dominance of the top 16 female tennis players since 1921.

Read the rest of this entry →

Should Sports Stars avoid mixing business with pleasure? 5

Posted on February 10, 2011 by Rod Crowley

Romance is in the air at this time of year with Valentine’s Day falling in February, therefore it is probably worth a look of some famous sporting couples who have been successful in the love stakes and perhaps it would be a bit more fun to look at those who haven’t been as lucky as we look to answer the question whether sports stars should look to avoid mixing business with pleasure?

Former Tennis player, Chris Evert, is one sporting legend who features prominently in the failed stakes, after several failed relationships with sportsmen including Greg Norman, John Lloyd and Jimmy Connors.

Those sporting couples who have been Successful in love include…

Steffi Graf & Andre Agassi – This was a match made on the heavenly Courts at Roland Garros in Paris (where else?), which brought together arguably the greatest female tennis player of all time and one of the very best males. They were married two years or so later; they remain happily ensconsed with two children and live in Las Vegas. Steffi won a total of 22 Grand Slam titles including a Calendar year Grand Slam of all four titles in 1988, while Andre won a total of 8 ‘Slams’ including Wimbledon in 1992, the same year his wife to be won the women’s title. Agassi won a career Slam, making him one of only seven players to do so in history.

Zara Phillip & Mike Tindall – The oldest granddaughter of HM The Queen and former world eventing champion is said to be really happy following her engagement to the current England rugby captain, Mike Tindall, the hard tacking, broken nosed tough guy centre. No wedding plans have been announced at this stage but the couple do live together in Gloucestershire.

Kenny & Gabbi Logan – The former Scottish rugby union winger is said to have chatted Gabbi up in a pub in London, but obviously his chat up lines worked as he later married the daughter of former Welsh International, Terry Yorath who is currently a leading  BBC Sports presenter. The couple have been married for ten years and have twins.

Paula Radcliffe & Gary Lough – Marathon Queen Paula married her coach and former 1500 meter champion Gary Lough in 2000 and the couple have two children. They have been working extremely hard together to get Paula fit for a tilt at the Marathon in the 2012 London Olympics.

Couples who have suffered defeat meanwhile include

Kim Clijsters & Lleyton Hewitt – Once described as ‘Kylie and Jason with balls’ this engagement was doomed to failure from the start, with both players still far to committed to winning tennis tournaments rather than winning each other over. They lasted 12 months!

Zara Phillips & Richard Johnson – Royalty and Horse Racing normally goes hand in hand, Zara, daughter of Princess Anne and Richard one of National Hunt’s leading jockey’s had a well reported relationship for over three years but sadly for romantics they fell in the fourth. Read the rest of this entry →

U.S. Open Tennis: Greatest Lady Champions of the Modern Era 3

Posted on August 17, 2010 by JA Allen

Great Rivalries built the women's game into a prime spectator sport.

Heading into the 2010 U.S. Open, uncertainty reigns as several of the top seeds are currently sidelined with injuries.

First of all are the reports of Serena Williams’ recovery from foot surgery––leading to speculation that the younger Williams sister may not be fit enough to challenge for the U.S. Open championship.

Additionally will be the absence of Justine Henin with a right elbow injury suffered during a fall at Wimbledon. The pain and suffering could extend perhaps to Venus Williams who has pulled out of both Cincinnati and Montreal with pain in her left knee that prevents her from practicing.

Add to that wounded Russian Maria Sharapova who battled Kim Clijsters in the final in Cincinnati pulling out of the Rogers Cup after twisting her ankle during the match.

The end result is that a clear favorite for being crowned as this year’s champion remains shrouded in doubt––even though the odds seem to favor the younger Williams sister.  Will she notch another win in New York?

As we rate the top U.S. Open champions since 1968 on the women’s side, we look at both the number of final wins plus the number of appearances in U.S. Open finals.  If those are equal we look at the total winning percentages of each player.

Read the rest of this entry →

Top 9 Female French Open Finalists: Chris Evert Best of the Best 5

Posted on April 21, 2010 by JA Allen
Chris Evert is No. 1 for the Ladies Tour at the French Open

Chris Evert is No. 1 for the Ladies Tour at the French Open

How do you measure the greatness of an athlete within their respective sport? What factors determine the degree of greatness over a period of time––years or decades?

Further, how do you determine who is No. 1 in any given list or ranking? First you must find a pattern and then you must determine the significant components of the ranking––does each factor merit being used as part of the overall equation?

Sometimes it does, without question––like the score in a game. The highest or lowest score wins as in football or golf.

It is not always a simple task to determine who is the greatest because such discussions invariably have subjective components.

For this ranking, first consider the number of times a woman made it to the French Open finals since 1968 (Open Era) as the initial demarcation of greatness. To be considered she must have made it to the finals of the French Open at least 3 times.

Within the number of appearances, measure the wins against the losses in a given number of tries.

No. 1 Chris Evert ––Nine French Open Finals

Chris Evert winning seven of nine final appearances remains the undisputed leader on the clay at the French Open in Paris surpassing even her male counterparts in some estimations.

Evert won 7 French Open titles in 9 final appearances.

Evert won 7 French Open titles in 9 final appearances.

Clay brought out the strengths of Evert’s game––her patience, determination and her ability to construct points. She was tireless and unflappable on the red clay at Stade Roland Garros––hence her nickname, the Iron Princess.

The fact that she owns the clay court record with an 125-match win streak from 1973-1979 illustrates her prowess on the surface. During that run she lost only seven sets.

It was the one surface on which Evert generally prevailed over her arch-rival Martina Navratilova whose one weakness might have been the slow clay. They met in four finals on the red dirt with Evert coming out on top in three––all Evert’s wins over the Czech were three-set finals.

In all Evert appeared in nine finals at the French Open in 1973, 1974, 1975, 1979, 1980, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, winning them all except in 1973 and 1984.

Evert’s winning percentage stands at 92.4% [73-6].

Read the rest of this entry →

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      September 3, 2017 | 6:54 pm
      Gino Cappelletti

      Gino Cappelletti

      In recognition of the start of football season, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month is one of the original stars for the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots.

      In many ways, Gino Cappelletti epitomized the early years of the American Football League. While the NFL was becoming more specialized and tougher to break into, the AFL provided former college stars with a new place to play and its “wild west” mentality allowed players to contribute in a wide variety of ways.

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