Transcript: 2024 Wimbledon Preview with Chris Evert and Patrick McEnroe


Transcript: 2024 Wimbledon Preview with Chris Evert and Patrick McEnroe

ESPN Tennis commentators Chris Evert and Patrick McEnroe answered questions on Tuesday to preview the 2024 The Championships, Wimbledon. Exclusive live coverage in the U.S. begins on July 1 at 6 a.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN+. Coverage highlights include:

  • Every match from every court live, more than 240 hours, across ESPN, ESPN-2, ESPN Deportes and ESPN+ 
  • New this year, ABC will also broadcast select live matches on the middle Saturday and Sunday afternoons ET, July 6 and 7
  • ESPN+ will be streaming all matches from all courts live, 18 courts, every match in its entirety and will also provide on-demand replays 
  • The ladies’ and gentlemen’s championships will air respectively on July 13 and 14, at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN, ESPN+ and ESPN Deportes 
  • Debut of an 8-part ESPN+ Original Series In the Arena: Serena Williams on July 10
  • Brand-new studio show Wimbledon, Second Serve and a brand-new broadcast center

Q: Wimbledon are trying to get the expansion through across the road into the old golf club. I was looking for an international point of view in this. Do you think this is something that Wimbledon needs in the age of Grand Slams expanding all the time and facilities growing?

EVERT: Wow. Patrick, I’ll leave that one to you (smiling).  

McENROE: Ladies first, Chrissie.  

EVERT: Yeah, I’m all for expanding. I mean, it is bumper-to-bumper crowded when you walk into Wimbledon. More and more spectators. I definitely think that all the Grand Slams, all the majors, have expanded, and are going to continue. It’s not going to stop now. They’re going to continue to expand.  

I mean, whatever will suit the spectators, because they’re really the most important people in this whole thing, what makes it easier, more comfortable, more doable for them to roam around and see the matches they want. I’m always for expansion.  

McENROE: I would follow that up. We used to say as tennis players that if you’re not improving, you’re going backwards, right? If you’re not getting better as a player, you’re going backwards.  

I think in the case of a big-time sporting event, whether it’s Wimbledon or the World Cup or another major in tennis, if you’re not looking to improve and make the facilities better, you’re going backwards.  

I think we’re seeing that in the growth of the majors, the growth of the Masters events. They basically have become two-week events. The majors are moving more towards a three-week event with the qualifying being onsite at the other majors except for Wimbledon.  

I know part of the rationale in expanding the grounds, as Chrissie was talking about, more room, more individual stadiums. Also to be able to play the qualifying down the road on the grounds of Wimbledon, which I think would be a win-win for everybody.  

I think it’s a great move. I know it was years in the making for Wimbledon to be able to do that, to get that land across the street.  

Wimbledon has always been at the forefront of pushing the envelope with their facilities especially, second to none. I think this is just another part of that evolution.  

Q: Chrissie, as a legend of the women’s game, 20 years since Maria Sharapova had the famous triumph at Wimbledon. Do you have any particular memories from that fortnight and why you think it is that she only actually beat Serena once after that in what was termed a rivalry?

EVERT: Good question. It was a rivalry that we thought would turn into a rivalry. On paper, it really didn’t turn into a rivalry. I think that particular match, Maria went in there young, nothing to lose, just hitting the ball so well, so solid. Serena was tight. Serena was nervous. Look, it was 20 years ago. It’s not like I can recollect point by point.  

Serena to me was not playing the free and relaxed and powerful game that she normally plays. The combination of Serena being a little tight, feeling the pressure, Maria going out and just opening up her shoulders, and we see the power she has, going for her shots, just being fearless out there.  

I think Serena, after that match, I don’t know if I read this or I think this, but I think I read it where she said, I’m never going to lose to her again (smiling). That didn’t go over too well. I think she took it too heart and she took it pretty strongly. After that, she was heads up every time she played Maria. That was one player she wanted to beat more than anybody. 

Q: Among the men, who do you have as the favorite here? I’m assuming Carlos and Jannik, top two guys. Is one of them more favored than the other? It looks like Novak has been out there on the practice court with a knee brace. This guy had meniscus surgery a couple weeks ago. What do you make of that? Looks like he’s trying to play.

McENROE: You’re right about that. I think that’s the storyline that we’re all looking forward to seeing how it will play out.  

My assumption is he’s there practicing, seeing how it feels, seeing how it responds day to day. Clearly he’s hoping to play.  

That being said, I’m trying to think if he was 100% healthy what the odds would be, ’cause right now you’ve got Alcaraz and Sinner as heavy favorites. Alcaraz is a slight favorite. Sinner is just right behind him, extremely close. Then there’s a big dropoff with Novak as the third guy.  

I’m assuming the big drop off is mostly because of the injury issue. Then there’s even a more massive drop to the fourth, fifth, sixth guys that could potentially win, Zverev, Medvedev, Tsitsipas, guys like that.  

I think Djokovic, to me, I actually said at the beginning of the year, people thought I was crazy, maybe I am, but I didn’t think Djokovic was going to win a major this year for a variety of reasons.  

Now I have to say that the idea of him playing Wimbledon, if there’s one place where he could pull it off with this injury, having had this injury, maybe he could do it. Maybe this is what he needs to inspire him. He’s looked a little uninspired throughout most of this year, certainly in between Australia and the French Open where he suffered that injury.  

I would still lean towards the two younger guys. I think they’ve both gotten over the hump as far as winning majors. It would be interesting if Djokovic could get through a round or two and looks like he’s the Djokovic we’ve come to know at Wimbledon and go for that eighth title.  

I would still say in my view, I think Alcaraz is the guy, but I think Sinner’s just right there with him.  

EVERT: Yeah, I think, Patrick, you’re right on the money. I think grass is so suited to Alcaraz’s game because he can improvise, be flexible, and show the variety in his game.  

I think that Sinner, I couldn’t believe how hard he was hitting the ball at the French Open. He pops that ball, and has power. He’s really improved his movement in and out of the corners, the way he was sliding on the clay in and out of the corners. He’s really being forced to come into the net a lot more, and he’s working on his all-court game.  

I still think there’s not the finesse, there’s not as much confidence. Alcaraz won Wimbledon. I mean, he’s got to have that in the back of his head.  

Novak, he’s hard to read. First of all, I think he’s underrated as a grass court player. He’s, what, one away from Federer. This guy redirects the ball better than anybody in the game. He also doesn’t give you one unforced error. He’s so smooth. I think he’s underrated.  

If he’s healthy, I agree with Patrick. To me, he would still be the third favorite. 

Q: Patrick, Medvedev, curious what you think. Semifinalist last year after missing the previous year. Finalist in Indian Wells, semis in Miami. Struggled from there. What is his potential? What do you make of his loss last week in Germany? Is that a big deal or a blip?

McENROE: I don’t think it’s a big deal, that particular loss. I think quarters, semis for him are what I would expect from him. He’s a good grass court player. In my view, he’s not a great grass court player.  

By the way, there are very few great grass court players, which is why I believe this is probably Djokovic’s best chance, because there’s not that many players that are comfortable playing on grass. Medvedev would be one. Zverev would be another. He’s good. He can play on grass. So can Tsitsipas, for example. So can Taylor Fritz.  

I think Medvedev, doesn’t have enough variety in his game. Chrissie brought up a great point with Sinner. He’s added a little more variety to his game, the ability to chip, the ability to come forward, play the dropshot, play with a little more finesse.  

Ironically, Alcaraz is learning how to play with a little less variety, which is what will probably make him better than he is already. He has that ability, Alcaraz, to just be a shot-maker. On grass, that’s something that can benefit someone athletic and can hit different shots.  

I think Medvedev on hard courts is still his best surface. I put him as a guy that can win the US Open or Australia.  

Again, he’ll be solid, but if you remember last year, he just got absolutely destroyed in that semifinal match. I just think for him to go up against one of those two guys, or if Novak were healthy, that’s a match he can’t win on grass if those guys are at their best.  

EVERT: I think quarterfinalist. This all depends on the draw, who matches up well to whom. But I wouldn’t put him in the top four or five right now. I don’t know if he has lost a little confidence or what, but it just seems like his results haven’t really been that great lately.  

There’s another one, Hurkacz. I like Hurkacz. I look at him. Tommy Paul won a tournament. He’s looking good. Dimitrov. I feel like you have Alcaraz, Sinner, then you have a little bit of a space because we don’t know about Novak, we don’t know his health. Can he withstand five-set matches for two weeks if he gets involved in them? Then you have really five to eight guys that are pretty even in there, as Patrick said, Zverev and Dimitrov and all the following.  

I don’t know. I think it’s going to be really interesting on the men’s side, as well as the women’s side. There’s a real equalizer there on the women’s side, as well.  

McENROE: I’m glad you mentioned both those guys, Hurkacz and Tommy Paul. Hurkacz, he’s like a pure grass court player, which nobody else is outside the top three guys.  

The question for me is, can he win a monster match, a semifinal or a final. He was close last year. He’s got the kind of serve and the natural ability on grass. My question is, does he have the belief?  

By the way, I absolutely love the way Tommy Paul is playing. I actually think that he could be in the semis or final if he believes it. I’m not sure he totally believes it yet.  

I love the way he moves. I love the way he redirects, the way you talked about Djokovic. He’s underrated coming forward. I think if he came a little bit more forward and he played more with an aggressive mentality, he’d be tough to beat.  

Obviously you have Fritz, who has been the most consistent American, other than Tommy Paul. Korda is a guy that could make some noise. I’ve been waiting for him to break through at a major for a while, and it hasn’t happened. Tiafoe has had a down year so far. Of course, there’s Ben Shelton who has stagnated a little bit in the last six months. Certainly with his firepower, with his serve, and off the ground, he’s not a guy that people want to see early in the tournament, Ben Shelton on grass.  

EVERT: I’m glad you covered the Americans, Patrick.  

McENROE: We’ll get to the ladies soon, I’m sure. 

Q: Looking just beyond Wimbledon, we look to the Olympics. You mentioned Shelton. Shelton, Tiafoe, Korda, Keys, then Sabalenka and Jabeur have all passed on the Olympics. We know there’s a surface change, they’re going from class to grass to clay to hard. Chrissie, you almost passed on the ’80 Olympics, but then went. What do you make of these players that are declining to represent particularly the U.S. at the Olympics? Would you advise them differently?

EVERT: You just want us to slam them, don’t you (smiling)?  

Unlike other sports, we have four majors a year. Other sports don’t have this problem, the other sports that are at the Olympics. They don’t have that dilemma, that challenge. Most of the tennis players still view the four majors a little more important than the Olympics.  

Now, there are going to be players that are going to disagree with me. Fine. But I think to me, every year there are more injuries in players because the game becomes more athletic and more physical.  

Now players are playing very angular. In our day, it was linear where we would just step in, turn sideways, step in and hit the ball. Now it’s very angular where it’s open stance, the western grips, stress on all the joints. It’s much more injury-prone.  

I do not have any judgment on the players that withdraw from the Olympics for that reason. I mean, they’re playing a lot of tournaments. There’s so much more depth now in the game. By the end of a tournament, these top players can have three-set matches in the first round or two. That didn’t happen 20, 30 years ago. I’m sorry, but 50 years ago I was winning 2-1 until the semifinals. With the wear and tear on the body, no.  

I think it’s an individual choice, it’s a priority. I think these players are prioritizing their physical health, their mental health, and also the majors.  

McENROE: That’s perfectly said, Chrissie. I will add this, though, to your question. None of the players you mentioned, with the possible exception of Sabalenka, could realistically think that they’re going to win a medal at the Olympic Games. Jabeur, it’s not her favorite surface. Obviously the Americans that you mentioned, let’s be honest, they have no shot to win a medal on red clay at Roland Garros.  

That being said, all of what Chrissie said is 100% true, not to mention that the players, a lot of those players you mentioned, are playing Davis Cup, are playing Billie Jean King Cup, are playing Laver Cup, are playing ATP Cup, all these team events, which I happen to think are great for tennis. The question is, will they all continue in the future. That’s another question.  

There’s no doubt that these modern players, with the physicality of the game, have to make some difficult choices.  

That being said, for Rafael Nadal, who has won everything, for Novak Djokovic, who has won everything, I would say to them, this year, maybe the Olympics is the most important for certain players.  

While I hear what Chrissie is saying, I think a lot of players would agree with that. I think there’s also quite a few players that would say, I want to make the Olympics my focus this year. Of course, for Rafa, if the Olympics were played on grass, I don’t think he’d be making it a priority the way he is now that it’s on clay.  

Those types of decisions, you have to take into account. All that Chrissie said, plus the individual nature of the players, where they think they can do their best. 

Q: Regarding Iga, she doesn’t have tons of grass court experience, 19 matches in her career. The quick change from the French to grass. What do you think it’s going to take for her to take the next step on grass? Do you think her improved serving is going to help her this year? What is the overall key for Iga to take that next step and expand her empire to the grass?

EVERT: I think the three weeks in between the majors helps to a certain extent. It’s not only the French Open. You have to look at what Iga did before the French Open. I could be wrong, but five or six tournaments, five tournaments on clay. Every time I turn on the Tennis Channel, she was out there playing. She played a lot of tournaments. I know she talked about how exhausted she was.  

There’s a letdown when you win the French Open, when you win a major. There’s a real letdown. There’s wear and tear on the body. You’re exhausted. You can’t just go right to grass three days later and start practicing. It’s almost like you need a week off just to get back on track. She pulled out of Birmingham, I believe. She pulled out of a grass court tournament.  

In the back of her mind, she’s probably thinking about the Olympics. As Patrick said, that’s kind of like her bag. That’s on her territory. She’s invincible right now on the red clay.  

I don’t know. I wonder where her head is right now as far as Wimbledon. It certainly is the most challenging of all the majors because of several things. Her sweet spot again is shoulder high where she hits her winners. Right now the grass courts bounce a little bit lower. She has to hit the ball between the ankle and the waist. With that western grip, it’s really hard to get underneath the ball and to get some shape on it.  

She doesn’t win a lot of free points with her serve, and that is going to hurt her as well. She’s the fastest player out there. I think she moves the best of any of the women. Coco and her are very, very even.  

The beauty of her game was the way she was sliding on the clay, then the way she got back into point, back into the court so well. That’s going to be hard to do also on grass.  

Again, it’s the most challenging. She’s just going to have to be a little more aggressive and try to get the first strike of the ball, like she does on every other surface.  

I just think grass is an equalizer for her. The other players, like Sabalenka, Rybakina, Coco, they’re going to feel like she doesn’t have a lot of confidence, she’s never done better than the quarterfinals, and she’s probably thinking about the Olympics.  

There’s nobody stronger than her mentally. There’s nobody stronger than her mentally. She has a great return of serve. I think she can win Wimbledon. I think she can. People that count her out this year are silly. I think she can win Wimbledon.  

Again, where is her head at? Is she thinking about the Olympics? Is she thinking about the red clay? Is she really gung-ho on Wimbledon? That remains to be seen. Right now her preparation isn’t that great if she’s not playing a tournament.  

McENROE: I think that Iga absolutely, I agree with you, Chrissie, can win Wimbledon. Actually she’s the slight favorite right now, though not nearly the favorite she is at the French, with Sabalenka and Rybakina being great fast-court players.  

I think actually that Iga makes a mistake. If you look at the Masters, she’s lost in majors in the last couple years, she tends to lose to the big hitters. The reason in my view she tends to lose is tactical problems. She tries to out-hit them.  

I think she should watch Novak Djokovic, for example, on grass. Djokovic can play offensive if he needs to and if he wants to. He can also sit back and play a little bit more of a defensive game, using his speed. I think that Swiatek won’t do that, which has always been I can’t quite figure out why she doesn’t do it.  

Like you said, Chrissie, she likes to be aggressive. When she is aggressive and she’s on, she’s pretty much unbeatable. If someone can out-hit her, it’s almost like she wants to out-hit them even more. That’s where she gets into problems.  

If she actually took a step back and played a little more percentage tennis, used her speed and her guile, she could win matches and win majors like Wimbledon or the Australian Open by doing that.  

Obviously it’s worked pretty well for her doing what she’s doing. I think that’s been something missing from her in big matches on courts other than clay.  

EVERT: That’s her comfort zone. She will win nine out of 10 matches playing that way, just playing aggressive on every single shot. You’re right, when she gets to that one match against a Sabalenka or a Coco or whatever, Rybakina, and she doesn’t change her game, she doesn’t problem solve maybe as well. She just keeps playing in her comfort zone, hoping that that’s going to provide results.  

McENROE: I would say to you, Chrissie, legendary players like you, you expanded your comfort zone, right? You became more of an attacking player because of Martina. Martina learned how to chip her backhand even better. We’ve seen that obviously in the men’s game with the big three over the years.  

I would say to her, Expand your game, expand your comfort zone and become a Wimbledon champion and Australian Open champion. I’d like to see that happen with her.  

EVERT: You know what, Patrick, on the grass, are we going to see any slices, sliced backhands, sliced forehands, more dropshots, or are we just going to see power, power, power from Iga? I don’t think so far she’s figured that out.  

But Coco has figured it out. She has a slice backhand, she’ll slice a forehand, she’ll come in. Iga hasn’t shown us that she can come in successfully yet on grass or any surface.  

She’s still learning. She’s still learning. She herself admits that she’s still learning how to play on the grass. Such a short period to learn for a couple weeks a year. Hopefully she’ll get it. 

It’s interesting at the moment we’re seeing the tail end of Andy Murray’s career, that Jack Draper is having a nice run here coming into Wimbledon. First title. Then he beats Alcaraz. I wanted your take on that. Also that unique thing of playing as a Brit at Wimbledon and the pressure that comes with it.

McENROE: Well, it’s going to be great for the tournament, I mean, if he can keep playing like that. Obviously, unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to be able to see Murray make that kind of run. Hopefully he can play, having pulled out of his match at Queen’s.  

Draper, he’s always been a guy we’ve been watching for in the last couple years. He has major firepower on the serve, off both wings from the ground, a natural-type player. Injuries have kept him back. Quite frankly, that’s what’s kept him from becoming like a top 20, top 15 player.  

This will be a test. Best-of-five. I know it’s grass, but the game’s much more physical now. You can’t just serve your way to the quarters or semis at Wimbledon anymore. You just can’t do that. You have to have an all-court game, which he does.  

That also means you have to be fit, be able to run and recover. I think he’s great to watch. I love the way he handled the win against Alcaraz. He was sort of matter of fact about it. Lost a tight match to Tommy Paul I believe in the next round.  

He’s a heck of a player. It would be perfect timing for the public in England if he could make a run.  

EVERT: Yeah, I’d like to see Andy go out on his terms. I hate to see the injuries happening. It’s like two steps backwards, one step forward. I think, my gosh, he put a lot of emotion, emphasis on this year’s Wimbledon, whether it was going to be his last one or not. I think he was really looking forward to it and trying to play this whole year to gear up for this tournament that’s so special to him.  

Jack Draper, I’m honestly going to say this, there’s honestly somebody I forgot. I’m thinking the last few weeks somebody else won a tournament. Then I remembered it was Jack. How can anybody forget that? Just the win that he had, the acceleration, the velocity he has on his shots.  

He’s a great athlete. He moves well. He, like, knows how to play on grass courts. He looks very, very comfortable.  

When I go to Wimbledon, I always hope, that’s why I’m so happy Emma is starting to play better now, playing very well, because I always like the Brits to do well. I think that just adds so much more to the tournament. In Australia, you want the Australians to do well. In the U.S., you want the Americans to do well.  

Jack is going to be a drawing card as well as Emma, too. 

Q: Last year we saw Coco Gauff lose in the first round of Wimbledon. People are starting to write her off. Two months later she wins the US Open. What style does she have to play to be successful at Wimbledon? I don’t mean win the tournament, but have a nice run. Also they awarded wild cards to several former slam champions, Wozniacki, Kerber, Radulescu, Osaka, Andreescu. Osaka has had some good moments.

EVERT: That was 10,000 questions in one (laughter).  

Again, it’s grass, it’s challenging for Naomi, as well. I was so happy to see Naomi finally look like a clay-courter out there. She was moving better. She was sliding. She looked more confident. She definitely had Iga and should have won that match. It will be interesting to see.  

I have no idea because grass… What is the grass going to be? Is it going to be hard? Dry? Play like a hard court? Is it going to be rainy this year, be slick? It could be two different surfaces. For the big hitters and the great hard court players, you want it to be sunny and you want the court to be dry.  

Can we talk a little bit about Emma? I was just happy to see her. She had a good win over Sloane. I think she is going to be the player that the Brits are going to be watching. She’s had so much adversity, so many ups and downs, so many injuries. It’s like she will ever get that form back that she had at the US Open.  

Watching her the last couple tournaments, I never thought she was a flash in the pan. Now, this is not going to say she’s ever going to win another major. Maybe she will, maybe she won’t. Emma has such excellent, like, foundation and fundamentals, that very little can go wrong in her game because she is so solid.  

I think the injuries, the pressure of winning the US Open, has really kept her from improving even more so. She’s more mature right now. She’s overcome adversity and gotten stronger. She seems to be happy and enjoying her tennis.  

I for one am looking forward to watching her at Wimbledon.  

McENROE: Yeah, I think to follow up on what Chrissie said, there’s a couple of themes that I think about. I think we’ve already touched on them a little bit, particularly on the men’s side, with what makes a great grass court player.  

Number one is obviously you got to be a great athlete. You have to be able to move well. You have to be able to cover the court, to defend. You have to be able to do different things, right?  

The other word I think of is ‘versatility’. You need versatility to play all the things Chrissie just mentioned. Is it going to be fast, what are the conditions, how is the grass? You have to be able to do different things.  

It’s very rare you see someone play straight-ahead tennis and be able to win Wimbledon, particularly now as the players have just gotten better. It’s more of a backcourt game. There’s more slice, more variety.  

That’s a short way of me saying that I don’t think any of those women can make a big run at Wimbledon. As well as Osaka played at the French, and I think she can play great at the US Open, for example, where it’s a typical bounce, she’s won four hard court majors, I don’t think she has the versatility to make a big, big run.  

Same with Raducanu, at least at Wimbledon. Wozniacki, her comeback has not been great from a certain standpoint. She’s competitive, but she’s not winning a lot of matches. Andreescu maybe has the most versatility of those players that I just mentioned, but I just don’t think has the belief and the confidence now that she can make a big run.  

I’d be surprised if any one of those players make the second week of Wimbledon on the women’s side.  

EVERT: I remember the first question was about Coco.  

McENROE: We forgot about Coco. How could we?  

EVERT: What must she do to win?  

I don’t think Coco has to change anything drastically in her game. I think she needs to get a higher percentage of first serves in, so she can hold her serve. I think she has such a good return of serve that is going to free her up to break serve more often.  

In the past, historically, her serve and her forehand have gone off at times. I would just say to be a high percentage of first serves, quicken up the swing on the forehand because the ball is going to be coming at her faster than it did at the French Open.  

Personally I think she needs to shorten her swing a little bit more, not have such a big backswing. I had to do that. I mean, you have to make adjustments on grass. You have to shorten your swing, have to get down lower. You have to be aggressive. You can’t be tentative at all.  

The forehand is what I would be a little more concerned with because when she hits it late on her back foot, the point of contact is too late for her. I’d like to see her shorten her swing and just go forward on that shot, get some more first serves in. That’s all.  

I know that sounds, like, simple. It might not be simple for her, but from a spectator, that’s what I would do if I were her.  

McENROE: And Coco clearly has the athleticism to be a great grass court player. She’s got the movement. The question mark is does she have the versatility to do kind of what you’re talking about Chrissie, take the ball a little earlier, hit the forehand solid but not like super big.  

Listen, that French Open semifinal, she came out, and to her credit, tried to do something different to beat Iga. She’d only beat her once out of 10 times coming in. She’d gotten blown out pretty much every time.  

She came out trying to play big tennis. Guess what? It backfired big-time. I mean, her forehand was all over the place. Clearly her coaching team realized that she had to do something different. I credit her for trying, but it didn’t work because she couldn’t execute it.  

Whether she can do it at Wimbledon, that’s the big question. In other words, can she take the ball on earlier and be a little more aggressive with the forehand but not miss as much. She wasn’t able to do that at the French. She decided I’m not just going to stand back and play my normal clay court game because if I do that, I’m going to lose anyway. She tried to do something different, and it didn’t work.  

I like that about her, she’s trying different things. Obviously Brad Gilbert helped her last year saying, You can sit back and play a little bit more of a defensive game and win. That’s what happened last summer at the US Open. Now the other players are adjusting to that. If she does that against Iga, and they’re both playing well, she’ll probably lose.  

Now trying to find the balance of how I can get a little bit better so I can be consistently better, particularly on the different surfaces. It’s going to be interesting to see how she plays at Wimbledon this year. 

Q: Chrissie, you’ve been a vocal opponent to the WTA taking money from Saudi Arabia, moving the finals to Riyadh this year. Now that the deal is official, where would you like to see the women’s game go from here? Is there still room for criticism? How might that best be expressed?

EVERT: I feel like Martina and I had the responsibility to write that letter and to voice our opinion. But that letter wasn’t in judgment if you go there, this is the kind of person you are. That letter was basically just before you make your mind up, you make this big decision, do your research, talk to some human rights activists, people that have been over there and know the laws of the land over there. It was basically just to get some information.  

In saying that, the decision they made, they’re the players, we’re not the players. I’m not a player. They’re the players, and they’re the ones that have to live by their decision. I hold no judgment. I accept it.  

I just wanted to get the information out there, that women are second-class citizens, they’re pretty much controlled by men from birth until death. Are there changes going on over there.. What are they going to do for the WTA? What are they going to do for young Saudi Arabian girls over there, what are the benefits that are going to come out of this?  

We wrote the letter, voiced our opinion, which I’m very proud of. The women decided to go play in Saudi Arabia. You’re not going to hear any more from me. I feel like the decision has been made. They’re the players. They should make the decision and I wish them well.  

McENROE: I’ll just say I’m not going to get into what Chrissie discussed as she’s the perfect person to discuss it.  

I will say this. It always irks me to a certain extend that we, we in tennis, we in the sports world, get singled out in instances like this. When you look at the U.S. government, or you look at U.S. businesses, have nothing to do with sports, many of them are doing business with Saudi Arabia and other similar-type countries.  

I’m all for having the conversation about the women’s tour, the World Cup, the LIV golf tour. We should have the discussion about is it the right thing to do, all that Chrissie just said.  

At the same time why is it always us in the sports world that have to answer these questions and not the rest of the world?  

EVERT: I think the WTA fought so hard for equality and equal prize money. I think that’s one of the reasons why. Everything that Billie Jean and the Original 9 tried to achieve and stood up, we worked so hard to get equal prize money at these major tournaments, really stand up for ourselves as women athletes, make ourselves valuable.  

I think when you make a big move, go over to a country that doesn’t quite have the same principles, in a way it’s supporting that country.  

McENROE: I’m 100% agreeing with you. That’s not what I’m asking. I’m asking, how come people don’t ask that about the U.S. government or business people that do the same thing? That’s all. I completely 100% agree with you.  

EVERT: Right, okay. 

Q: When you were talking about Iga, you were talking about Rybakina, Sabalenka, Vondrousova. All three of them pulled out last year with injuries. Sometimes it’s precautionary, taking time off. Is there any worry that those three big players that we talk about as possible Wimbledon champions will fizzle because they’re hurt?

EVERT: I don’t think so. I don’t think so. I think, again, who knows why they withdrew. I know players, okay? You don’t always get the right story. You don’t always get 100% truth if there is an injury or if they feel a twinge or they want to be protective or they want to practice. You never know.  

It doesn’t worry me at all. I think Rybakina, Sabalenka, they’re all going to be in good shape. I think the more time off they have, again, I keep going back to that clay court season, I think that just roughed everybody up. That was brutal. There were a lot of three-set matches, a lot of grueling matches. Remember on the clay you’re hitting four, five, six more balls than on any other surface.  

I think they’re just being protective and want to feel fresh going into Wimbledon because they value it so much.  

McENROE: I think also for the women especially, of course it’s physical, the game, the physicality, but to me winning a major is even more mental. They play two-out-of-three still, like they do in the regular tournaments, and they get the extra day or two off.  

A lot of times it’s really managing the emotions. As Chrissie said, any top player, if they feel the slightest thing, they’ve been playing a lot of tennis, the week before a major, particularly Wimbledon where you want to get there settled, they’ll rent a little place, a house in Wimbledon Village, they go to Aorangi Park. The other grass court tournaments, by the way, the courts are a lot different than at Wimbledon. It’s not like playing a hard court leading into the US Open or clay. It can be a lot different.  

So especially the top players who want to make sure they’re ready those first couple of days, want to be at Wimbledon, want to be settled into their routine, and they want to be used to those beautiful Wimbledon grass courts, of which Aorangi is the second best set of courts after Wimbledon courts themselves. Maybe Queen’s are pretty good, too.  

I agree overall with Chrissie. I don’t think there’s that much to be worried about for those players, at least that I can tell at this point.  

EVERT: You get such little practice time on the grass before a grass court tournament. These guys are in the last week of the French Open, they probably get four or five days of practice. They don’t want to lose. They don’t want to have a loss. You don’t want to have a loss before Wimbledon and let that affect your confidence. You don’t want to be a Rybakina and lose in the quarterfinals. That mentality will go into Wimbledon.  

I remember I had one example, so interesting, I beat Martina 11-9 in the third at Eastbourne, won the tournament, I was on a high. I played her in the finals of Wimbledon and lost. Same thing at the US Open. Beat Tracy Austin tournament before, Mahwah the week before the US Open. Played her at the US Open and lost.  

I’m telling you, there are a lot of mental games that go into the tournament before a major.  

McENROE: You remember the old T-shirt: Rome, Paris, Wimbledon, Mahwah. This was the old T-shirt from that tournament.  

EVERT: That’s right (laughter).  

McENROE: The Mahwah win is probably not what got you to where I am now, which is the International Tennis Hall of Fame in beautiful Newport. It’s not because of the Mahwah title.  

EVERT: We’re going to be there after London.  

McENROE: Can’t wait to have you up here.  

THE MODERATOR: That concludes our hour. Thank you very much to everybody. 


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