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40 greatest female athletes: Chris Evert

6/14/2012
In the 1970s, virtually no one in the game used a two-handed backhand. Chris Evert changed that. US Presswire

ESPN is marking the 40th anniversary of Title IX by unveiling the top 40 female athletes of the past 40 years.

Chris Evert was just 15 in 1970 when she beat the world's No. 1 player, Margaret Court, at a tiny tournament in North Carolina.

A year later, the No. 7 woman in ESPN's countdown entered her first Grand Slam event and became the youngest player ever (at the time) to reach the U.S. Open semifinals

Evert won her first major championship at the French Open in 1974 and her last at Roland Garros in 1986. During that period, she captured at least one Grand Slam title a year (including a record seven French Opens), for a total of 18 in her career, tying her with Martina Navratilova for fourth all time, behind Court (24), Steffi Graf (22) and Helen Wills Moody (19).

Evert owned a spot in the world's top 10 for 19 years, including five stints at No. 1. Her 125-match win streak on clay is the best by any player on any surface. And her career .900 winning percentage in singles matches (1,309-146) is the best in tennis history, for women or men.

Read the full story from espnW here.

Earlier in this series:

No. 40: Diver Fu Mingxia

No. 39: Jockey Julie Krone

No. 38: Gymnast Mary Lou Retton

No. 37: Hockey player Cammi Granato

No. 36: Soccer player Kristine Lilly

No. 35: Basketball player Diana Taurasi

No 34: Volleyball player Flo Hyman

No. 33: Soccer player Abby Wambach

No. 32: Swimmer Mary T. Meagher

No. 31: Marathoner Joan Benoit

No. 30: Sprinter Gail Devers

No. 29: Basketball player Nancy Lieberman

No. 28: Marathoner Grete Waitz

No. 27: Soccer player Michelle Akers

No. 26: Basketball player Chamique Holdsclaw

No. 25: Swimmer Dara Torres

No. 24: Golfer Nancy Lopez

No. 23: Swimmer Tracy Caulkins

No. 22: Soccer player Marta Vieira da Silva

No. 21: Tennis player Venus Williams

No. 20: Figure skater Michelle Kwan

No. 19: Skier Lindsey Vonn

No. 18: Softball player Lisa Fernandez

No. 17: Basketball player Ann Meyers Drysdale

No. 16: Basketball player Sheryl Swoopes

No. 15: Swimmer Janet Evans

No. 14: Figure skater Katarina Witt

No. 13: Basketball player Cheryl Miller

No. 12: Sprinter Florence Griffith-Joyner

No. 11: Tennis player Billie Jean King

No. 10: Tennis player Serena Williams

No. 9: Tennis player Steffi Graf

No. 8: Gymnast Nadia Comaneci