It’s Valentine’s Day, and what better way to mark it than a quick look at some of the notable Love Matches that have blossomed on the tennis courts.
The poster girl for tennis love has to be that serial dater of sportsmen, Chris Evert. In recent years she’s diversified into skiers and golfers, but back in the 1970s, she had two famous romances with tennis players. The first with Jimmy Connors to whom she was engaged and, later, she married Brit John Lloyd.
Sadly, in recent years, Jimmy Connors and Chris Evert have had a falling out about personal stuff he revealed in his memoirs. Here they are in happier times. It’s 1974 and Evert and then-fiancé Connors (you can see the big ole ring on her left hand) have both just won Wimbledon and are looking adorable posing together.
Evert played her final the day before, so she’s chosen to wear a mulberry coloured suit with lapels you could hang-glide on, but Connors is styling it out in his classic Fred Perry short-shorts and tanktop combo – a look that we don’t see often enough on today’s courts.
Connors and Evert called off the engagement later that same year, and finally broke up for good in 1976. Two years later Evert read an article quoting handsome British player, John Lloyd, saying how lonely he found life on the tennis tour. She felt she’d found a fellow spirit and the feeling was clearly mutual as they married the following year.
After the honeymoon period was over, Chris and John settled down to some serious head-to-toe branding. Here they are proudly displaying their full-on Ellesse outfits. This photo must date from the early 1980s, and the whole scene – their tenniswear backed by a glistening pool, palm trees and blue skies, embodies the bright, sporty, label-obsessed, escapist aesthetic of that decade.
Unfortunately, like the trend for tight short-shorts, their marriage did not outlast the 80s, and they divorced in 1987.
The union of Lleyton Hewitt and Kim Clijsters was also not fated to be a lasting one. It seemed so promising: two big game players who dig deep in the face of a challenge getting together. They seemed to make a great team in every sense, getting to the Final of the Wimbledon Mixed Doubles Championship in 2000.
They were together for over five years but although they got engaged in 2003, it was all over by October the following year. Perhaps in the end all they had was a shared love of rogue consonants?
Looking at the outfits in this awkward photo, they seem to embody the fate of their wearers’ relationship: ill-fitting and very much secondary to the matter in hand (that of course, always being tennis).
Sadly, these matches didn’t make the full seven sets, but there’s one Grand Slammin’ duo who are still going the distance – mistress of teutonic grit, Steffi Graf and craycray rawk mullet-wearer and serial Spandex offender Andre Agassi.
In this 1992 photo, they’ve both won Wimbledon and only see each other as fellow champions (although Agassi now admits he already had a crush on her). Steffi looks particularly perturbed, but perhaps she’s just weirded out by Agassi’s Masonic-looking ‘eye pyramid’ earring, and the prospect at having to get close to all that crispy hair mousse during the Champions’ Dance. (In fact 1992 was the year that tradition was cancelled, so she needn’t have worried).
Who knew that nine years later, they’d be standing next to each other as bride and groom? Maybe Steffi’s choice of a white dress was strangely prophetic …
13 years on their marriage is still going strong, despite such mishaps as Andre shaving their baby son’s head completely bald (by mistake) the first time he was left alone with him. In fact it’s clear from almost any photo you find of this couple that they are still SO in love and having so much fun.
Obviously in this on-court shot they’re sharing a playful moment, but find any photo of them playing tennis together and marvel at how often they’re mirroring each other in dress, posture and attitude. And, usually, smiling like they’re having a terrific time.
But let’s give the last word to the couple themselves, to explain the magic behind their lasting affection and how it came to be. In this BBC interview, they discuss how they got together, and why their partnership has stood the text of time.