Tennis great Chris Evert, known in her day for on-court aggression and style, has teamed with Monica Rich Kosann on a line of tennis bracelets.
Evert is the tennis bracelet’s origin story. At the 1978 U.S. Open her diamond bracelet flew off her wrist mid-match — causing the referee to pause the game so she could retrieve the precious accessory. This year, jewelers are chasing a bit of that glitz in their marketing plans and celebrating the tennis bracelet’s 35th anniversary.
Evert, for her part, decided it was time to have a stake in the tennis bracelet narrative. “Since then, everyone has come out with a tennis bracelet and I thought, ‘I’ve never been able to own the story in my own voice and the story about how it was born,’” she said of the tipping point to teaming up with Kosann.
While the public has long thought Evert’s diamond bracelet was a gift from her then on-again-off-again boyfriend and tennis star Jimmy Connors, she recalls otherwise. When asked how it feels to have a memento from an ex-boyfriend go down in fashion history, Evert said: “Who told you it was from an ex-boyfriend? I believe I probably bought it myself. I don’t quite remember — you’re asking me to remember something that happened 40 years ago.”
Evert and Kosann set out to design tennis bracelets as an ode to how the perception of female athletes has changed since Evert’s professional tennis days.
“A lot of [people then] weren’t sure how to take women who wanted to sweat and fall and have big muscles, but now it’s respected. Every father wants their daughter to become an athlete now or be strong. And it’s equal — [men and women] are playing for equal prize money and drawing equal crowds. It’s evolved into a wonderful sport,” Evert said.
The collection’s 13 designs include details that allude to this progress, like dangling pear-shaped diamonds meant to evoke beads of sweat. They retail from about $725 for a white sapphire and sterling silver bracelet to $37,000 for a string of fancy cut diamonds with a single tennis court green emerald, all available on Monica Rich Kosann’s website.
The next big initiative for Evert is this month’s U.S. Open, where she will again take the post as a lead commentator of women’s games for ESPN. She admitted that the pressure will be high as people expect it to be the last matches of Serena Williams’ career. Last week, Williams appeared on the cover of the September issue of Vogue — seemingly revealing her retirement from professional tennis.
Evert is preparing for an onslaught of curiosity and attention from fans and onlookers. “She has been the greatest player of this generation,” Evert said pointedly, even as many of her commentator peers consistently label Williams the best female player of all time.
“It’s going to be crazy,” Evert continued of the approaching Open. “Every fan will want a ticket to watch Serena, thinking it’s her last match. She is not vintage Serena, she is 40 years old and starting to lose to players she used to beat. I don’t know how long she will last in the tournament, so it will be a crazy first week of people trying to get their last glimpse.”
When asked to compare the circumstances of Williams’ retirement to her own, Evert said: “Everyone retires for a different reason. Sometimes your body gives out, sometimes you are mentally drained. I retired because I was mentally drained. When people talk about Serena and Roger [Federer] and ask, ‘When are they going to retire?’ Unless you have been there, you have no idea. It’s about what’s in your gut, how you are feeling. You just have to milk it as long as you can, because once it’s over, it’s over and done — you are not going to be in that world anymore and have to create a different life for yourself. Serena is going toward a family and business life — there are a lot of wonderful opportunities down the road for her.”