Chris Evert Lloyd was meeting the press here yesterday, something she's done before, of course. But this question was something of a first. "Do you do anything special for your complexion?" a TV guy wanted to know. "you look so nice."
Evert Lloyd, who was in town to accept the Washington Area Tennis Patrons' Service Award, looked slightly askance. "My skin isn't really that great, if you look closely," she said politely.
In bridal magazines, they would describe Evert Lloyd as glowing and radiant. Which is what friends say she has been since she married John Lloyd last April 17.
"She's so happy, it's sickening," said Vicki Berner, an official of the United States Tennis Association. "No one should be that happy."
This has been a year of firsts for Evert Lloyd. It is her first year of marriage and the first year since 1973 that she is not No. 1 in women's tennis by the USTA. And that is no coincidence.
"I don't think marriage has done wonders for my tennis game," she said.
Overall this year, Evert Lloyd's record is 85 wins and 12 losses (she was 56-3 last year despite a four-month hiatus from the tour). Her losses include those to Martina Navratilova at the Avon Championship and Wimbledon and to Tracy Austin at the U.S. Open.
Last week, the USTA computer made it official. Evert Lloyd now is playing Avis to Navratilova's Hertz.
Of course, Evert Lloyd says she'll try harder. Of course, she would rather be No. 1. But tennis no longer is No. 1 in her life and for Evert Lloyd that may not be enough.
"I'm the kind of person that can only take on one thing at a time," she said. "I can't juggle three or four things like some people can.
"I'm not saying it can't work out," she added quickly, anticipating the next question.
And she's not saying that she's going to retire, either. She is saying only that she'll take it one year at a time, starting at the Colgate Series Championship at Capital Centre on Jan. 2.
"I think she will be lucky to be second or third next year," said one observer. "Chris has to be 100 percent dedicated to produce. What made her great, what makes her great, is her total concentration and dedication. It has got to mean that much to her."
Tennis has not meant that much to her since her marriage. She is not concentrating the way she once was.
"I'm not. That's all there is to it. I'm not. I don't know if that's because the marriage took place or because tennis is not the only passion it used to be.
"You have to be very selfish to be a tennis pro. You have to look after yourself. You are your first priority, if you want to win.
"I don't have the raw talent to fall back on. I've needed the mental toughness. It makes my game. When that goes, when the concentration goes, I'm not the same player."
Toughness. Mental toughness. The words seem to have been invented for Evert Lloyd. It is the quality that made her a champion; it is much admired, but not much loved.
"That's why the public always warmed to Evonne (Goolagong)," she said. "She seems so happy go lucky, as if she doesn't care if she wins of loses. Billie Jean (King) and I were born the way we are. We were destined to be champions."
In the quarterfinals of the 1977 U.S. Open, Evert, as the headlines put it, "destroyed" King, who had just come out of retirement, 6-2, 6-0.
Many people in the crowd, who never before had rooted for King, had goose bumps. "They liked me," King said later, "because I seemed vulnerable."
Now Chris Evert Lloyd seems vulnerable. She can be had and so she has the crowds with her. "I've sensed it all this year," she said. "I don't know if it's because I'm not dominating or because I'm a married woman but I've found they're behind me, It's nice. It's real nice."
Lke the three-minute ovation she got this fall, at the Open when Tracy Austin did to her what she had done to Billie Jean King? She nodded and smiled.
It was almost like the old days before little Chrissie, Little Miss Cool, grew up to be an Ice Maiden.
"I was the darling, America's Cinderella. Most of my image started the first time I went to England. They couldn't believe a 17-year-old could race through to the semifinals. I was a child and they expected children to be giggly and carefree.They saw how expressionless I was and they interpreted as being machine-like and cold.
"I wasn't really old enough to express myself. I was 15 when I faced the limelight. I was scared. I kept a lot inside."
Now this Cinderella, who turns 25 Friday, is ready to live happily ever after.