40 LOVE Moments: The First Championships
Published October 15, 2013 12:05
BOCA RATON, FL, USA - It was 41 years ago to this day - Sunday, October 15, 1972 - when the very first WTA Championships wrapped up, with Chris Evert winning the inaugural edition of the event.
While some may just assume Evert was the favorite for the title - she did win everything there was to win in the '70s and '80s, after all - she wasn't the No.1 seed this time, nor the No.2 seed, or even the No.3 seed. The American, who was just 17 years old at the time, was seeded No.4 at the event.
That year it was a 16-player single elimination draw held on the green clay of the Boca Raton Hotel & Club - and the total prize purse was $100,900, which would be about $550,000 today with all inflation considered. Also, it was called the Virginia Slims Championships, as the WTA was founded in 1973.
The No.4-seeded Evert stormed through her first two matches in straight sets - 61 61 over Laurie Fleming, 62 62 over Karen Krantzcke - and set up a semifinal clash with the great Billie Jean King, who was actually the No.1 seed at the event. But Evert's path of destruction through the draw wasn't about to finish - she would get the better of King in straight sets in that Saturday semifinal clash, 64 62.
Meanwhile, the other half of the draw was turned upside down in the first round, with Betty Stove taking out No.2 seed Nancy Gunter and Jeanne Evert - sister of Chrissie - ousting No.3 seed Margaret Court. They would in turn fall to the No.6 and No.7 seeds, Kerry Melville and Francoise Durr, with the No.6-seeded Melville moving through to the final with a 62 63 semifinal win over the No.7-seeded Durr.
In one of the closest matches of the tournament Evert edged Melville in straight sets, 75 64, to win the inaugural edition of the WTA's season finale - she would eventually capture three more titles at the tournament in 1973, 1975 and 1977, and reach another four finals in 1974, 1976, 1983 and 1984.
And while neither of them had won a Grand Slam title prior to that day, both Evert and Melville would win majors in their careers - the Australian one major, and the American a whopping 18 majors.