INDIAN WELLS, CA – With some 170 guests in attendance led by Billie Jean King, a bumper WTA Legends & Friends Reunion took place at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden on middle Saturday at the BNP Paribas Open.
The focal point of the occasion, which was emceed by recent Sports Broadcasting Hall of Fame inductee Mary Carillo, was the presentation of the Georgina Clark WTA Mother Award to 18-time Grand Slam singles champion and former World No.1, Chris Evert.
READ MORE: Indian Wells 2019: WTA Legends Reunion
The award is presented annually in honor of the late Georgina Clark, who was the WTA’s Vice President for European Operations and Worldwide Tour Director. It recognizes women who have made a significant contribution to the culture and emotional life of the WTA family; former recipients include Ann Haydon Jones, Judy Dalton, Gladys Heldman, Francoise Durr, Ingrid Bentzer, Youlia Berberian-Maleeva and Evonne Goolagong Cawley.
Clark was the first woman to umpire a Wimbledon final – fittingly, Evert vs. Navratilova, in 1984. As a working mom, she raised five children in her own family, but she was also known as ‘Mother Superior’ to countless young women players seeking guidance on the tour.
Introducing the award, WTA President Micky Lawler described Evert as a “personal idol, and of course an idol to millions of girls and boys, women and men around the world”.
She added: “While Chris has earned more trophies than we can count, without a shadow of a doubt, her biggest pride and joy are her three sons – Alex, Nicky and Colton – followed closely by her family: her parents, Jimmy and Colette, and siblings Jeanne, John, Drew and Clare.”
Clare Evert-Shane, Evert’s younger sister, gave guests personal insights into the tennis legend, as did Nicky Mill, Evert’s second son.
“When my brothers and I were playing tennis in high school, my mother would come to every match, every practice, and would even attend team meetings,” Mill recalled. “I loved when she came out to support not only me but my other teammates as well. It was as if our team had better karma, better juju when she was there.”
He also joked about the time he realized his mother was “just a really competitive 50-year-old”.
Other highlights of the evening included an on-stage chat between two former prodigies, Tracy Austin and Peaches Bartkowicz. Bartkowicz, one of the most successful juniors of all time and a member of the Original 9, described how the WTA Assistance Program had helped her overcome a life-threatening illness, with financial and emotional support.
In total, five of the Original 9 joined the fun: King, Casals, Bartkowicz, Heldman and Valerie Ziegenfuss. Peggy Michel, a three-time Grand Slam doubles winner who is now assistant tournament director of the BNP Paribas Open, was thanked for her ongoing support of the WTA, while former WTA CEOs Bart McGuire and Anne Worcester were present too.
Other tour alumnae in the room included Hall of Famer Gigi Fernandez, 1979 Australian Open champion Barbara Jordan, Ilana Kloss, Pam Austin, Trish Bostrom, Pam Teeguarden, Cynthia Doerner, Chanda Rubin, Elena Likhovtseva, Betsy Nagelsen McCormack, Anne White, Stephanie Rehe, Nicole Pratt and Peanut Louie Harper, among others.