Chris Evert will tell you she's a normal mom. Really. She rolls out of bed, grabs her morning coffee, packs her three sons' lunches and drops them off at school. But when most kids get the chance to go to work with mom, they don't expect to see Kirsten Dunst or Paul Bettany. Last week Evert took husband Andy Mill and their boys, Alex, 12, Nick, 10, and Colton, 8, to the premiere of Wimbledon, in which Dunst and Bettany star and Evert plays herself, in the familiar role of tennis commentator. Paparazzi crowded the green carpet at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles, and the boys' eyes popped wide when the real-life Wimbledon champion, 17-year-old Maria Sharapova, walked by. "Mom," they said, "Maria's hot!"
The winner of 18 Grand Slam titles, Evert has long been comfortable in the company of celebrities, ranging from former president George H.W. Bush to Chevy Chase to Matthew Perry--all of whom have played in the Chris Evert/Bank of America Pro-Celebrity Tennis Classic at the Delray Beach (Fla.) Tennis Center. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the event, which has helped raised more than $12 million to combat drug abuse and child neglect in Florida--causes that Evert has supported since retiring as a player in 1989.
"I grew up in South Florida and remember reading the newspapers, and it seemed that every time a crime was committed, it was drug-related," she says. There's another side to fighting drug abuse that appeals to her. "Everybody makes mistakes. I love the idea of giving people a second chance."
She also likes to help aspiring champions at the Evert Tennis Academy in her hometown of Boca Raton, coaching youths in the game she played professionally starting in 1972. During that time she was ranked No. 1 for seven years, became the first player to win 1,000 singles matches and finished with the highest winning percentage, .904 (1,309--146), in history, which still stands.
She appeared on SI's cover three times, once as Sportswoman of the Year, in 1976. Such was the admiration for Evert that when Zina Garrison beat her, 7--6, 6--2, in the '89 U.S. Open (the tournament Evert had said would be her last), Garrison cried as she repeatedly apologized at the end of the match.
While Garrison may have been sorry, Evert was not. "For so long my tennis career was the most important thing to me," says Evert, who, like SI, turns 50 in 2004. "I gave 100 percent to my tennis, but now I give 100 percent to my kids and my husband." --Melissa Segura
Ranked No. 1 for seven years, Evert is a busy wife and mom with a tennis school, a charity tournament and a new movie.