Icon Chris Evert still adding shine to the world stage

Icon Chris Evert still adding shine to the world stage

American tennis player Chris Evert in action during competition to progress and win the final of the 1978 US Open Women's Tennis Tournament at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows - Leo Mason/Popperfoto via Getty Images

American tennis player Chris Evert in action during competition to progress and win the final of the 1978 US Open Women’s Tennis Tournament at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows – Leo Mason/Popperfoto via Getty Images

Great athletes are often measured by their ability to penetrate beyond the realms of their own sport as much as by what they can do on the field of play. Having influence in popular culture, dominating the business world or even inventing a phrase is enough to make an athlete’s legacy stay.

When former tennis player Chris Evert made the last one, she had no idea what impact it was supposed to have on the fashion world. She started with a broken clasp on her diamond bracelet. When she felt him fall, Evert did what anyone would do and dropped to the ground to look for him. At the time, though, she was mid-court at Flushing Meadows, New York, at the 1978 US Open.

“I’m 67, so I can’t remember every detail,” she laughs, recalling the incident from 44 years ago. “But I was playing center court at the US Open and the bracelet practically fell on the court, it broke. So I kind of raised my hand and stopped the game. I had to go get him.”

When she realized it was broken, she ran to her chair to get it to safety and then returned to the court to continue her match. For her, it was no big deal. “I remember thinking and feeling ashamed for breaking it,” she says. “Having to stop playing, step over and drop [at my chair] – it was more of an annoyance.

“I never, in that moment, thought, ‘Oh, this could be something very special or it could turn into something iconic.’

She went on to defend her title, but, unbeknownst to Evert, it was from that throwaway comment that the nickname “tennis bracelet” was born and the fashion world jumped on it. Jewelery brands have launched chain-linked diamond rings and called them tennis bracelets, some retailing for tens of thousands of pounds. Regardless of who bought the coveted accessory was sporty or not, the name entered the fashion jargon that endures to this day.

Along with her 18 major singles titles and prolific on-court rivalry with Martina Navratilova, Evert says she’s been asked about the bracelet incident many times.

“Over the years, definitely, because articles come out periodically about the tennis bracelet and they mention me,” she says. “I was referenced a lot at first, but I think other players also wore jewelry at the time – Billie Jean [King]Martina.

“It’s not called a golf bracelet, is it?”

“Many of the players were, it just so happened that after that match that’s when they coined the phrase. I’m not responsible for being the only athlete to ever wear a tennis bracelet, but it’s not called a golf bracelet, is it?

Like all sports folklore, some details were lost to history. There was debate over the date it took place and whether or not it took place. But Evert is sure it was 1978. “When I looked at all the pictures of me with the diamond bracelet, I knew it was 1978,” she said. “I don’t remember everything, but I remember a green court, white lines, sweat – and I remember diamonds.”

She’s settling accounts now, as she decided to capitalize on the event through a new collection of tennis bracelets with her initials, created with jewelry designer Monica Rich Kosann.

People like Maria Sharapova and Emma Raducanu might never have landed lucrative sponsorship deals with Swarovski and Tiffany & Co, respectively, if it weren’t for Evert and his group of tennis players who make accessories a part of their process.

As powerful as that can be, for Evert it has always been about feeling like herself on the court: “Jewelry has always been an important component of women’s sport. Back then, it was basically all about men playing sports,” she said.
Aside from the Olympics, tennis was actually the first successful women’s sport.

“For me, and I don’t apologize for that, I’ve always wanted to look feminine on the court, whether that’s wearing braids and putting a ribbon in my hair or wearing nail polish or a diamond bracelet.

“I’ve always felt that you can still maintain that femininity and still be really strong and tough and athletic on the court. And it has all these components. I feel like this is the modern woman.”

Monica Rich Kosann’s tennis-CE bracelet collection will be available exclusively online at www.monicarichkosann.com

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