According to Evert, the marriage was doomed by her anguish over all she had destroyed in the process. “Once I got married to Greg, the reality hit me — the guilt, and the sadness I had caused my family,” she said. “And the guilt came into my marriage with him, so it never had a chance.”
Suddenly single again, she pulled away from the world around her, then took a hard look at herself. “You pay a price for everything in life,” she said. “And I had lived a charmed life up until then. I needed to learn a couple life lessons.”
Today, Evert is as youthful as the name she still answers to, “Chrissie,” and trim as she was at the peak of career. She laughs easily, loves a good off-color joke and has an attentive, compassionate ear and inquisitive mind. And as she did as a child, she still loves pretty dresses, nice jewelry and bright colors. Even her smartphone cover is adorned with flowers.
Her Spanish-style home, redecorated since her divorce, reflects her tastes, with floral upholstery, scented candles and cherished mementos, including the wooden racket she used in winning her first Wimbledon, its strings popped and frayed.
But Evert’s home is hardly a shrine to her Hall of Fame career. It belongs equally to the family’s three dogs and her three sons, whose photos adorn every room, chronicling childhoods spent jumping on trampolines, flying off bike ramps, reeling in game fish and snuggling with mom. Their artwork gets the same, framed treatment as Andy Warhol’s portrait of their mother.
Apart from the indoor skate park the boys constructed in the garage out back, spray-painting the walls like an urban jungle, everything about Evert’s home is pretty inside and out, opening onto a manicured lawn dotted with palm trees and cascading bougainvillea, with a pool, tennis court, gym and guest house.
It is a comfortable setting for talking about difficult lessons.
Chief among Evert’s of late: The ingredients that make a tennis champion— the selfishness and self-absorption — don’t necessarily translate to healthy relationships.
“Relationships are give-and-take, and when you’re a tennis player, you’re certainly not giving,” Evert said. “You have to be self-absorbed. It has to be about you.”
And the sense of entitlement that creates, she has learned, can be toxic. It was that entitlement, Evert’s suspects, that led her to fall for Norman, “a dashing man who swept me off my feet,” at a vulnerable time, having drifted apart from Mill, her husband of 18 years, without considering the consequences.