December 18, 1982: The day Chris Evert double-bagelled Tracy Austin

Every day Tennis Majors takes you back in time to celebrate a great moment in tennis history. Today, we go back to 1982 to witness how Chris Evert gave Tracy Austin the first double bagel of her career in the semi-finals of the East Rutherford tournament, in New Jersey

What happened exactly

On this day, December 18, 1982, Chris Evert blanked Tracy Austin (6-0, 6-0), one of the few players who had given her trouble in the last few years. Austin was also, at the time, the only player with a career edge on Evert (9-7 before the match). It was also the last encounter between the two women, as Austin’s career would then be plagued with injuries.

The players involved: Chris Evert and Tracy Austin

  • Chris Evert, queen of clay

Chris Evert was born in 1954 in Florida. Coached by her father, she developed a game based on consistency, keeping her opponents away from the net with her deep groundstrokes, and punishing them with great passing shots if they were to take the net carelessly. She obtained her first remarkable result at the age of 16, reaching the semi-final at the US Open (defeated by world No 1, Billie Jean King, 6-3, 6-2). In 1973, at the age of 18, she finished runner-up at both Roland-Garros and Wimbledon, beaten by the two best players in the world, King and Margaret Court. In 1974, she eventually claimed her first and second Grand Slam titles, prevailing against Olga Morozova in both Roland-Garros and Wimbledon finals. She finished the year as world No 2, winning no less than 16 tournaments, gaining media exposure by starting a romance with Jimmy Connors. In 1975, she continued her winning streak on clay, triumphing at the French Open for the second time, defeating her future biggest rival in the final, Martina Navratilova (2-6, 6-2, 6-1), and she also won the US Open, who was played on clay for the first time (defeating Evonne Goolagong in the final, 7-5, 4-6, 6-2). She became the first world No 1 of the newly established WTA rankings, and she held that spot without an interruption until 1979. In 1981, although her dominance was challenged by Navratilova and Tracy Austin, she had accumulated 11 Grand Slam titles and reached the final of every major tournament she attended since her semi-final loss at Wimbledon, in 1975. She was almost unbeatable on clay, and she completed a winning streak of 125 matches on red dirt, between 1973 and 1979. However, all through 1981 and 1982, she saw Navratilova taking a hold on the Tour and, although she added a 12th major title to her list of achievements at the 1982 US Open, Evert lost the world No 1 spot in June.

  • Tracy Austin, teenage star

Tracy Austin was, along with Pam Shriver, one of the American prodigies of the late 1970s. Born in December 1962, she played a game style similar to Evert’s: she was extremely patient and precise from the baseline, trying to wear down her opponents physically and mentally. She claimed her first title in January 1977, defeating Stacy Margolin in the Portland final (6–7, 6–3, 4–1 ret.), and in September the same year, she reached the US Open quarter-finals (defeated by Betty Stove, 6-2, 6-2), a few months before turning 15. She finished this first year as world No 12, and in 1978, she went into the US Open quarter-finals again, defeated this time by Chris Evert (7-5, 6-1). In September 1979,  at the US Open, she claimed her first Grand Slam title, after having achieved the feat of beating Navratilova and Evert consecutively, before making a famous stop at McDonald’s on her way back from the tournament. She was the youngest player, male or female, to ever triumph in New York. In 1980, she reached world No1 for the first time, and the following year, she added as second US Open crown to her list of achievements (defeating Martina Navratilova in the final, 1-6, 7-6, 7-6). She spent a total of 21 weeks as world No 1, but in 1982, her results were not as impressive, and she didn’t manage to go past the quarter-finals of any major tournament.

Tracy Austin in action back in 1981

The place: East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA

The East Rutherford tournament, in New Jersey, was held at the Brendan Byrne Arena, an arena opened in 1981 where 7,000 thousand spectators could attend the tennis event. However, it had been originally built to accommodate the New York Nets basketball team. It was played on indoor hard courts, and Tracy Austin was the defending champion.

The facts

In December 1982, when Chris Evert faced Tracy Austin in the semi-finals of the Toyota Championships, in East Rutherford, she was dealing with one of her toughest rivals. Austin was the only player at the time to lead in her head-to-head against Evert. With her baseline consistency and her great footwork, she was the only player on the Tour who was often able to beat Evert at her own game.

However, the two women hadn’t met each other in twelve months, since Austin defeated Evert in the semi-finals of the same Toyota Championships (6-1, 6-2). Since then, the young prodigy had had a harder time, suffering with injuries and not reaching the semi-finals of any Grand Slam tournament in 1982. Meanwhile, Evert, although she had lost the top spot to Martina Navratilova and known several disappointments, had finished strong, claiming a sixth US Open title (defeating Hana Mandlikova in the final, 6-3, 6-1) and completing the career Grand Slam by triumphing at the Australian Open (beating Navratilova in the final, 6-3, 2-6, 6-3). 

It quickly appeared that things were going to be very complicated for Austin. Outplayed from the baseline, she saw Evert win 12 of the 13 points of the match. In the first set, the youngest US Open champion in tennis history only won five points, but things didn’t get much better in the second set: winning nine points, she still didn’t manage to clinch a single game. The 48-minute nightmare ended with the first 6-0, 6-0 in Austin’s career.

”There’s a first time for everything, I guess,” Austin said afterward, according to The New York Times.”Chris just played fantastic. (…) I think I’m in good enough shape to play anybody else, but no one keeps the ball in play as much as Chris does.”

”I was surprised she wasn’t tougher,” said Evert. ”The difference from last year is that she is not moving as well. (…) For once, I think I’m moving better than she is. She’s lost a little bit of confidence. She’s not cracking the ball.”

What next

Despite a good start, Chris Evert would be defeated in the final of the tournament by Martina Navratilova (4-6, 6-1, 6-2).

In 1983, Evert would claim a third consecutive Grand Slam title, defeating Mima Jausovec in the Roland-Garros final (6-1, 6-2). She would recover the world No 1 spot for 20 weeks only in 1985. At the end of her career, in 1989, she would hold 18 Grand Slam titles and she would have spent 260 weeks as world No 1.

The rest of Tracy Austin’s career would be plagued by injuries and she would quit tennis for the first time in 1984, and the last of her 30 titles  would remain the Sand Diego Open, in July 1982, at the age of 20. In 1988, she would attempt a comeback, which would be tragically ended by a near-fatal car crash. She would try in vain a last time, in 1993-1994, before retiring once and for all. In these last appearances, in 1994, Austin would be defeated 6-0, 6-0 once again, this time by Steffi Graf, at the ironically-named Evert Cup, at Indian Wells.

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