This year, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the US Open, we’re counting down the 50 most memorable moments in the history of America’s Grand Slam. Today, we take a look back at No. 31.
The symmetry could not have been more apparent. Chris Evert had celebrated her arrival as a great player when she was a 16-year-old at the US Open in 1971, turning that tournament into almost her own personal showcase, reaching the semifinals, moving irrevocably into the public consciousness.
That was her first Grand Slam tournament, and the unflappable Evert made a deep connection with the American fans. They would be by her side and in her corner across the next two decades, watching her grow up in front of their eyes, admiring her style and integrity as a competitor.
Evert celebrated an incomparably consistent and excellent career at the championships of her country. She won the US Open six times, a record matched by only Serena Williams in the Open era, which commenced only three years before Evert’s debut. She never was less than a quarterfinalist. But over the summer of 1989, at 34 and somewhat debilitated by the breadth and scope of a long and industrious career, she realized that time had taken its toll, announcing that her last tournament would be the US Open.
Evert turned the clock back substantially in the round of 16, taking apart 15-year-old Monica Seles, 6-0, 6-2, with meticulous craftsmanship. But facing countrywoman Zina Garrison in the quarterfinals, she could not find anything like the spark she ignited against Seles. After leading 5-2 in the first set, Evert was beaten, 7-6, 6-2.
As she left the court and waved to the audience, the crowd in Louis Armstrong Stadium rose in unison and showered Evert with a sustained standing ovation. Her 19th and last US Open came to an end. Her tournament career was over, although she would help lead the U.S. to a Fed Cup triumph in Tokyo a few weeks later. In her 56th major, she had maintained the same high standards of character she had always exhibited.
Looking back on her US Open career, Evert said many years later, “I wanted to end my career at the US Open because it was important to finish full circle in my country’s championship. The US Open at 16 was my coming-out party, so to speak, and it was the first time I was exposed to the life I was going to lead, so it was only appropriate to have it be my last tournament.”
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