Jimmy Evert, father and coach of WTA legend Chris Evert, has sadly passed away.
"The WTA and the tennis world lost a legend with the passing of Jimmy Evert," Stacey Allaster, the Chairman & CEO of the WTA, commented on the news. "We send our condolences to Chrissie and all of her family. Jimmy Evert's devotion to his wife and children and his impeccable character and integrity will always be a cornerstone of his legacy. Our thoughts and prayers are with the family."
Evert, an 18-time Grand Slam champion and former World No.1, sent the following tweet:
It's an honor and a blessing to have been your daughter. You will be in my heart forever. RIP Dad... XO pic.twitter.com/uHYjvCPZJ4
The following is the official obituary for Jimmy Evert from the Evert family:
Jimmy Evert - one of the greatest American tennis teaching professionals of all time - passed away peacefully in Fort Lauderdale on Friday evening, August 21, 2015. Evert, 91, was surrounded by his loving family. He died of natural causes.
Evert was a fine player in his younger days. He went to Notre Dame and was an All-American player for their squads in the 1940s. In 1947, he won the Canadian Championships. He earned a No.11 ranking in the US. But it was as a teaching professional of the highest order that he built his lofty reputation. In that arena, he was unsurpassed.
Evert moved from Chicago to Florida with his wife, Colette, in 1948. For 49 years, he was the city of Fort Lauderdale's tennis director. He became a fixture at Holiday Park - fittingly renamed the Jimmy Evert Tennis Center in 1997 - where he taught a wide range of top flight junior players. He was most proud of the fact that all five of his children reached at least the final of a national junior championship in the United States. His renowned daughter, Chris Evert, became one of the best women players in history, securing 18 Grand Slam singles titles, winning at least one major title for 13 consecutive years (1974-1986), and finishing seven seasons as the No.1-ranked woman in the world.
The work he did at Holiday Park was extraordinary. Not only did he coach and groom all of his kids as players, but he worked with other standouts across the years including World No.1 Jennifer Capriati and two highly-ranked players who both resided in the world's Top 10 - Brian Gottfried and Harold Solomon. All of those players came under guidance, as did 1963 US Championships finalist Frank Froehling.
When the facility was renamed in his honor 18 years ago, Evert said, "The time has come for someone younger with a lot of energy and a new vision to step in. Forty-nine years... isn't that long enough. I need to step back a little. I'm not stepping away, just stepping back." He continued to make his presence known for many years, but enjoyed having the time to spend with his children and grandchildren. His son John Evert - now the managing director of the Evert Tennis Academy in Boca Raton - said at the time, "He has worked seven days a week for 49 years. He'll always be attached to Holiday Park and will always have a presence, whether he's actually there or not."
Evert was admired immensely for his understated manner and humanity. He instilled those qualities in all of his children. Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle once said, "Jimmy Evert is legendary and having him at the tennis center brings prestige to the city."
It made him so nervous to be present for Chris Evert's matches in major events that he seldom attended. The first four times she won the US Open, he was not there. But, in 1980, after she ended a five-match losing streak against Tracy Austin in the semifinals, she called him in tears right after the match and told him she wanted him to come to the final. He flew to New York to witness her win over Hana Mandlikova in the final, and made the trip again for her sixth and final Open win two years later, as he did for her final US Open appearance in 1989. Having issues with high blood pressure, he preferred to stay at home and watch on television.
But the way he raised his kids and shaped them as tennis players and people was exemplary. As Chris Evert once said, "He would not criticize me ever for losing a match. I always tried to win for him. In a nutshell, my Dad created the ideal environment for me to compete. He gave me the space I needed and in his own quiet way brought out the best in me by not asking me to be more than myself. As great as he was as a coach he was even greater as a father. He worked hard as a father, too, and read to us and sang to us and took us swimming and took care of all five kids with my mother. He took us to church and was an unbelievably active parent, so active that he took all of his kids with him to work so the family could be together and he could keep an eye on us."
Chris Evert continued, "I asked him once why he started all of his kids playing tennis. I thought he might give me a glamorous answer like 'My goal for you is to be No.1 in the world' but he said, 'I started all of you playing so I could keep the family together.' As a man he was exposed to fame, wealth and success but he remained unaffected and untouched. Once a Japanese tennis promoter walked into our house with $25,000 in cash when I was a young player. He wanted me to play a one night exhibition in Japan. My Dad told him to close the briefcase and please leave our house. That was my Dad. He was the most moral, ethical, dignified person I ever knew."
As Bud Collins said, "Jimmy Evert invented tennis in Florida. He loved tennis and you gave a gift to tennis in Fort Lauderdale. He showed all five of his children and his many students how to love tennis and how to live a life." Added the late Don Budge, "He was such a great credit to the game. He is a real gentleman."
He is survived by his beloved wife of 62 years, Colette; his brother, Jerry Evert and wife Audra, of Little Rock, Arkansas, sister-in-law Ruth Evert of Columbus, Georgia; son Drew Evert and wife Penny, of Delray Beach, Florida; daughter Chris Evert, of Boca Raton, Florida; daughter Jeanne Dubin of Delray Beach, Florida; son John Evert and his wife Mary of Boca Raton, Florida; daughter Clare Evert-Shane and husband Steven Shane, of Aspen, Colorado; and his 10 grandchildren: Anna Evert-DeHoag, Lauren Evert-Crawford, Eric Dubin, Catie Dubin, Alex Mill, Nicky Mill, Colton Mill, Siena Evert, Tatum Shane and Remi Shane; and three great-grandchildren. He was pre-deceased by his brothers, Jack Evert and Chuck Evert.
Visitation will be held on Tuesday, August 25, 2015 from 6-8pm at Fred Hunter's Downtown Ft. Lauderdale Chapel located at 718 S. Federal Highway, Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33316. A funeral mass will be held on Wednesday, August 26, 2015 at 11am at St. Anthony Catholic Church, located at 901 N.E. 2nd Street, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Following will be a private family interment service.
In lieu of flowers, friends of the Evert family are asked to donate to the Jimmy Evert Scholarship Fund, which will honor Mr. Evert's legacy of enriching children's lives through the sport of tennis. Funds will go to provide private lessons and educational enhancement for underserved and at-risk children throughout the US. Checks can be made payable to the USTA Foundation - Jimmy Evert Fund and sent to 70 West Red Oak Lane, White Plains, NY 10604.