Tennis legend Chris Evert is opening up about her cancer diagnosis and why her success as an athlete left her “entitled,” to the detriment of her personal relationships.
In a new interview with CBS Sunday Morning, the 67-year-old sports star explained how finding “fame at a young age” affected her sense of self and, ultimately, her relationships.
“I do believe there’s a price to pay — there’s a price to pay for almost everything in life,” Evert told reporter Tracy Smith.
As a teen tennis sensation who was just 17 when she graced the cover of Time, Evert “didn’t get the freedom to develop the authentic ‘me’ at a young age.” That meant missing out on experiences like college, and being treated differently than her peers.
“I think that people are always told ‘you’re the greatest’ and patted on the back, and people can’t say ‘no’ to them,” she continued. “I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a ticket in my life because policemen have pulled me over many times and seen that I’m Chris Evert, and they go, ‘I’m such a big fan of yours, I’m gonna let you go.’ And I think when that happens [for] years and years and years and years, I think you become a little entitled and a little enabled, and I’m the first to admit that.
“I feel like that affected my relationships with people, and with my marriages,” she admitted. “You pay a price.”
Following a broken engagement to two-time Wimbledon champion Jimmy Connors that ended in 1975, Evert went on to marry British tennis player John Lloyd in 1979. The couple divorced in 1987, and the following year she wed downhill skier Andy Mill, with whom she had three sons before splitting in 2006. Evert found love with golfer Greg Norman in 2008, but the sports stars’ marriage lasted just over a year.
In January Evert revealed that she had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer; after completing chemotherapy in May she is now cancer-free. The six-time U.S. Open winner credits her late sister Jeanne Evert, who also played tennis professionally, with saving her life. After Chris noticed that her athletic sister struggling to catch her breath as they rushed through an airport six years ago, Jeanne was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer.
Doctors learned that Jeanne, who died in 2020, had the BRCA gene mutation that carries a higher risk for breast and ovarian cancer, a discovery that prompted Chris to get herself tested. She, too, was found to have the BRCA gene mutation. Evert opted to undergo a hysterectomy as a precaution.
“I had a total hysterectomy with everything out,” Evert shared. “And my doctors considered it a preventative surgery. … All of a sudden, five days later, I get a call from my doctor and he says, “Chrissy, I am in shock just as much as you’re going to be in shock. You had cancer in your fallopian tubes and in your ovaries. So, I’m sorry but you’re going to have to go in for more surgery.
Ten days later, after I healed, I went in again for another surgery. And it was the longest three or four days of my life, because it was a matter of, I was either stage 1 or, like, stage 3, or even stage 4.”
Evert was “tied up in knots” as she waited to learn more, knowing from her sister’s experience that “this was a bad cancer.”
“I saw Jeanne go through it. I saw the needles and the pain and the agony that she had to [endure]. The chemos, and endless being in the hospital. … She was 80 lbs. when she passed away. It was a horrible, horrible experience for her, and to see her go through that.”
Speaking to Smith, Evert got emotional as she recounted praying to her sister for help. Fortunately, the news from her doctor was promising: “You’re all-clear — but you have to go through chemotherapy.”
Six sessions later, Evert has moved on with her life, ever mindful that her prognosis would have been much more grave had she waited even a few months to get tested.
“My sister saved my life,” she says.