Racquet back, eye on the ball …
Pop! And another shot strikes the clay inches inside the baseline. “That’s it, that’s it!,” the encouraging words follow as a young girl, barely in her teens, struggles with the fusillade that tests her forehand and backhand. Poor child, she’s definitely in over her head, so young she probably doesn’t appreciate that she’s being challenged by one of the greatest women ever to play tennis.
Maybe, just maybe, the child will grow into a complete player, maybe a champion, but it will take time.
“You don’t see drop shots; you don’t see lobs as much,” Chris Evert explains after the session at her Evert Tennis Academy west of Boca Raton. “It’s just all power. None of these kids know what a drop shot is. That was my best shot. I tease them with it. These kids are in pain after getting drop shots for an hour.”
Not tall (5-foot-6), never muscular, Evert developed a mastery of the mental game that helped her win 157 singles titles, including 18 Grand Slams. Now, as she approaches 56, she tries to teach her students to wear down opponents, make them uncomfortable.
“When most of them get to the net, they don’t know what to do,” she says. “I also work on the approach shot. Like when I was drilling balls at that girl: They’re fine, but when it comes to moving up, hitting and split-stepping, they don’t hit enough of those shots. That is the missing link with these girls today.”
The past 18 months tested Evert’s steely constitution more than ever, but she’s again focusing on the things that matter most — her three sons, her family and the 21st Chris Evert/Raymond James Pro-Celebrity Tennis Classic.
Tennis players such as Vince Spadea, Sebastian Grosjean and Martina Navratilova will pair with such celebs as Alan Thicke, Jon Lovitz, Gavin Rossdale and American Idol David Cook for matches Nov. 6 and 7 at the Delray Beach Tennis Center. The Nov. 6 gala at the Boca Raton Resort & Club stars Kool & The Gang.
The money raised, $18 million, stays in South Florida to fight drug abuse and help neglected and abused children. (Call 561-394-2400 for tickets.)
Despite her sudden divorce from golfer Greg Norman after 15 months of marriage, Evert never doubted she would return for year 21 of the classic.
“I would be willing to say that probably last year was the toughest year of my life,” she volunteered. “I was blindsided. It was very tough. But at the same time, there’s always a silver lining. Being alone for the last year, as painful as it was coming out of it, you certainly learn a lot about yourself through adversity.
“I’m in a lot better place now than I was this time last year. Time heals.”
Self-discipline helped. Hitting at the academy four days a week, weight training, pilates, yoga helped to dampen the pain.
“I’m very lucky to have the luxury of time,” she said. “Not every woman can do that. If you have a 9-to-5 job, it’s tough. Honestly, it’s not about how I look, it’s how I feel up here. In the last year, I’ve really charged ahead and upped my fitness. For my frame of mind, it really helped me.”
So did family. Her parents, now in their 80s, take walks every day and mom Colette still plays a little tennis. Brothers John and Drew are on the academy staff; sister Jeanne lives and teaches tennis in Delray; and, of course, her three sons are growing up.
Alex, 18, enrolled this fall at the University of Colorado, Nicky, 16, attends St. Andrew’s School, and Colton, 14, attends Boca Prep. At Nicky’s age, Chris was winning tournaments — and cars she was too young to drive. Nicky plays some tennis, but the boys’ interests are more diverse. That’s fine with Chris and their father, Andy Mill — “He’s really been a good dad” — who splits time between Boca and Aspen.
“My kids are the most important thing to me,” she said.
So much is going on at Florida Atlantic University, and now that includes construction of the football stadium. Finally. Ground was broken Oct. 15, complete with a field goal through palm tree “goalposts,” and the traditional earth-turning ceremony. Leading the way were FAU’s new president, Mary Jane Saunders, who was formally inaugurated a week later, and former president Frank Brogan, now state university system chancellor, who served as cheerleader.
“We’re going to do things that nobody thought were possible,” Brogan told several hundred guests at the party. Now if Coach Howard Schnellenberger can just put his team on a winning path, so people will fill the 30,000-seat stadium when it opens next fall.
***Yes, the season is upon us. Green markets are setting up every Saturday in the southwest parking lot at Royal Palm Place in Boca, on Southeast Fourth Avenue just south of Atlantic in Delray and just off the beach in Lake Worth. The produce is special; so is the camaraderie. To view photos from opening days at our local Green markets, visit www.thecoastalstar.ning.com.
***Hoping to give Boynton a boost downtown, the Community Redevelopment Agency has approved the conversion of two historic houses it owns into restaurants.
The Ruth Jones Cottage, built in 1940, will be moved from First Street to the southwest corner of Ocean and Southeast Fourth Street to become 201 Trading Post. Sandra Gagne, who owned the now closed Dockside Market, plans a restaurant and market with a takeout window.
The two-story Magnuson House, built in 1910, will stay at 211 E. Ocean and become Oscar’s, a Key West-style an organic café. The proposal was made by entrepreneur Jordan Chussler, who runs a bio-fuels company in Boca.
***Another Boca entity, Harvey Lowenstein, is having so much fun with his monster Chicago-style franks at Hotdog-Opolis on North Federal that he’s bringing a second to the former Chicago Joe’s site in Boynton.
***Elsewhere on the restaurant scene: Jo-Al’s in Boynton is now Beach Break. Breakfast only, but lunch to come soon … Chrissy’s Sweet Treats in Delray is history … Burt Rapoport will open Deck 84 (the old Busch’s) on Atlantic in Delray on Nov. 19 … Yoga, vegan food and the ambience weren’t enough for Soma Center in Lake Worth. Rent hadn’t been paid for months, so landlord Herman Robinson evicted Soma in mid-October. He’s open to a similar concept. … Michelle Bernstein’s Terrace at The Omphoy is offering a Sizzling Sunday Jazz Brunch at the beachfront hotel Sundays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. through Jan. 2. A la carte or prix fixe, 540-6450. … Steven Pellegrino Sr. and Jr., the folks who gave Delray's Il Bacio, have bought Blue Fish on Atlantic and plan to convert from seafood to steakhouse. December or January opening. … West of the George Bush Blvd. Bridge, Dirk and Lily Buchheit have opened Patio Delray in the former Pauline’s (and previously Pineapple Grill) location. It’s dinner only now, but lunch is planned soon.
***Switching from one Boynton street corner to another along Federal Highway is Bank of America. The large, white building at the corner of Federal and Ocean is scheduled to close on April 1, 2011 with a new banking center opening in Sunshine Square at the corner of Federal and Woolbright a few days later. All associates from the current bank location are expected to move to the new location, so look for the same familiar faces.
***At the theater: Caldwell Theatre Company revives the spicy dance musical Vices: A Love Story (Nov. 7-Dec.12); Delray Beach Playhouse celebrates 64 years of live theater with Who Killed Santa Claus? (Dec. 3-19) and Hello David! (Dec. 13-22); Lake Worth Playhouse plants Steel Magnolias (Nov. 18-Dec. 5).
***Finally, Boynton Beach Library is offering a photographic exhibit, “From Julia Child’s Kitchen,” through Jan. 27. It features photos shot in 1975 by Albie Walton for Julia’s cookbook. Afterward, you can head downstairs for lunch, a snack or the occasional culinary demonstration in the library’s Sailfish Café. Bon appétit!
Thom Smith is a freelance writer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.