Each week, Baseline will take a look at a player who has thrived at one of the stops on the ATP and WTA tours during their career.
Dominant on clay across the U.S. from the onset of her career, Chris Evert made her European title breakthrough on the surface at the 1974 Italian Open and never looked back, finding the courts in Rome much to her liking.
Evert had her first taste of success in Rome the year prior when she reached the final, with that run coming soon after her debut appearance in a Grand Slam championship match at the French Open. With a shift timing-wise between the two events in 1974, Evert defeated the player who would go on to become her greatest rival, Martina Navratilova, in Rome, then moved on to Paris, where she’d win her first major.
By the time of the 1975 Italian Open, it had been two years since Evert lost a match on clay. Her winning streak continued as she defended the title in Rome with another straight-sets win over Navratilova in the final.
Evert missed the tournament and the French Open, as well, over the next several years, but kept winning on the dirt everywhere else. In fact, upon her return to Rome in 1979, Evert kept rolling, stretching her streak to 125 victories in a row by the time of the semifinals.
In the penultimate round, though, one of the biggest surprises of the decade occurred as Evert lost to her younger countrywoman Tracy Austin in a third-set tiebreak.
"She was young, very talented and she put pressure on me the whole match."— wta (@WTA) May 12, 2020
@ChrissieEvert and @thetracyaustin recap the match that ended Evert's 1⃣2⃣5⃣-match winning streak on clay! ???? pic.twitter.com/KdJPFAwAN0
Evert lived up to her heavy-favorite status at the French Open to capture her first title there since 1975. And when she returned to Rome in 1980, she found her way back to the winner’s circle, defeating Virginia Ruzici in the final. Those two met again in the 1981 championship match with the same result. Going for the three-peat in 1982, Evert once again came out on top, defeating the young Czech Hana Mandlikova to become the first woman to win the title three years running in nearly two decades.
Evert’s five victories stood as the all-time record for 30 years until Rafael Nadal—arguably her successor as the game’s greatest clay-courter—broke that mark in 2012.