Mixed Result For Evert, Greenberg
Published April 19, 2011 11:55
Partnering ESPN Radio host Mike Greenberg, the 56-year-old former world No.1 was bundled out at the first hurdle by twentysomethings Beatrix Bielik and Darrin Cohen, 61 64. But the celebrity duo wasn't too disappointed by their early exit on Court 13 at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center: the main goal was to promote the USTA's open-to-all playoffs, and fun was had by all.
"We met for the first time in person about 40 minutes before the match," said 43-year-old Greenberg. "At first I thought the match was supposed to be ceremonial - maybe I'd be facing off with Ryan Seacrest, or a combination like Regis Philbin and Martina Navratilova."
The opposition was rather more serious than that: Bielik won the 2002 Women's National Singles title before advancing to meet Justine Henin at the 2002 US Open as a wildcard, while Cohen was a standout player himself in the ACC at the University of Virginia.
"Mike just asked me one question: If I would like to play, to help him as best as I could," said 18-time Grand Slam singles champion Evert, who admitted the radio jock exceeded her expectations - although he did clock her on the backside with a return. "I like the opportunity to come back to play a match and support the USTA."
But while Evert got into the spirit of things with characteristic humor and a knack for banter, it was also clear her champion's desire and legendary perfectionism still burn deep inside.
"She didn't care if we won or lost today, but every once in a while I could see she got mad," said Greenberg. "She'd miss a shot and she didn't like it."
"I mean, I know I'm not the player I was 25 years ago," conceded Evert, laughing. "But if I'm not 20 or 30 percent of that player I get really annoyed! I missed some shots, and I wished I could have helped Mike a bit more by poaching at the net. I didn't want to let him down. But I'm glad we got our act together in the second set and made a match of it.
"I think it's great that the USTA is doing this," she added. "It was always Mike's dream to play in the US Open, and I am sure there are millions of people around the country who feel the same.
"There are 16 of these regional events around the country. Anyone over 14 can just grab a partner. A girl can grab her boyfriend, a boy can grab his grandmother… you don't have to have any credentials - you can just play."
In any case, there were no complaints from the Mike And Mike in the Morning host. "You know, she was my first love, Chris Evert," said Greenberg. "I'll come back every year and play in this event, provided I get to team with her."
Evert and Greenberg were contesting the Eastern Section Qualifying Tournament for mixed doubles, which the USTA has introduced to its scheme this year. The 16 men's singles, women's singles and mixed doubles champions from each sectional qualifying tournament advance to the US Open National Playoffs, to be held in conjunction with the New Haven Open in August. The winner of each event then receives a wildcard into the US Open main draw.