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 Chinese 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 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.
Meanwhile, the University Theatre and University Center will be busy with the Palm Beach Pops (Nov. 1-3) with a Beatles tribute by The Nylons, and the Florida Sunshine Pops (Nov. 14) doing Viva Italia, The Mob Hits. And what better place for a homecoming than a college campus, except this return is by the former Florida Philharmonic conductor Peter Nero, who’ll perform Nov. 6 to open Sunset Entertainment’s series.
Could the Palm Beach International Film Festival be history? It’s taking a year off to ride out the bad economy, said Al Zucaro, husband of festival chair Yvonne Boice. The festival will maintain an office, but it’s been moved from Royal Palm Place to a space held by Boice at the Shoppes of Village Point.
A new festival, however, is on the way. Palm Beach Jewish Festival execs Karen Davis and Barbara Magovsky, Palm Beach International Film Festival publicist Terri Neil and Provincetown (Mass.) Festival Executive Director PJ Layng of Lake Worth plan to stage the Palm Beach Women’s International Film Festival April 7-10.
Their goal: “a world class film festival that will inspire, promote and support women filmmakers.” Stay tuned.
Radio money expert Steve Pomeranz has been named co-president of the board of Boca Symphonia. Let’s hopes he’s on the money, because Phillipe Entre-mont will conduct the Dec. 5 concert at St. Andrew’s School.
As an “iconic example of the public and private sectors partnering to successfully redevelop a former shopping mall into an area with its own identity and sense of place,” Plaza Real, stretching the length of Mizner Park, has been named one of the nation’s 10 best public places for 2010 by the American Planning Association.
The Boca Raton Green Market sets up every Saturday in the southwest parking lot at Royal Palm Place. The produce is special; so is the camaraderie.
Harvey Lowenstein is having so much fun with his monster Chicago-style franks at Hotdog-Opolis on North Federal that he’s opening a second at the former Chicago Joe’s site in Boynton. Nasty dogs. Topped with cole slaw or dill pickle, onion, green relish and tomato wedges. Also burgers, sandwiches, chili and soups.
Boca restaurateur Steve Scaggs, who owns Two Georges in Boynton, has bought The Cove, another waterfront restaurant in Deerfield Beach. It’s now Two Georges at The Cove. He’s hoping to make a lot of Georges?
Coming to Mizner Park Amphitheatre: Grateful Dead original Bob Weir (Nov. 22), ex-Doobie Michael McDonald (Dec. 9), and Fedstock: Two Days of Love and Nachas, a festival sponsored by Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, featuring Matisyahu (Dec. 18) and Dudu Fischer (Dec. 19). (www.fedstock.com/tickets or 866-571-2787).
Pop music legend Johnny Mathis will be honored with the Nat King Cole Lifetime Achievement Award of Unforgettable Music at the Nat King Cole Generation Hope’s “Stardust Affair” Nov. 20 at the Boca Raton Resort & Club. Cole’s widow, Maria, and twin daughters, Timolin and Casey Cole, will make the presentation. Nat’s brother Freddy will sing.
Generation Hope provides musical instruments, instruction, and recording equipment to needy students in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties. (Tickets $250, www.natkingcolefoundation.org).
Fran ‘The Nanny’ Drescher (right) and Jan Savarick, president of the Boca Raton Regional Hospital Foundation, drum up bids for the earrings Drescher wore during her keynote address at the foundation’s Seventh Annual Go Pink Luncheon at the Boca Raton Resort & Club. At the urging of Drescher, a cancer survivor and now a prominent advocate for women’s health issues, bidding for the earrings reached $9,000. Photo by Thom Smith
Thom Smith is a freelance writer. He can be reached at email@example.com.