Chris Evert and Lindsay Davenport are tennis icons, but thanks to one of television’s most popular series, they’re trying a new game.
With more than 200 singles titles between them, they play themselves — as does another veteran of the sport, Justin Gimelstob — on CBS’ “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” Wednesday, Jan. 23. They’re seen covering a big match for a player who’s found dead soon after (in a tennis ball firing machine, no less), and for both Evert and Davenport, the opportunity was something they couldn’t resist.
Evert tells Zap2it she’s a friend of series star Elisabeth Shue. “She plays in my pro-celebrity event every year, and she’s really good, one of the best celebrity players I know. I think she had mentioned they wanted [John] McEnroe for this, and I said, ‘Well, OK. Have a good show.’ Then my agent got a call from the producer, and I said, ‘Yeah, as long as I’m not the [murder] victim, it’d be fine with me.’ “
One scene finds Evert in a ball-hitting workout with Shue’s character, forensic sleuth Julie Finlay, while being interrogated. “I think that meant a lot” to Shue, Evert reflects. “It was so funny. I was more worried about the lines, and she was more worried about the hitting. It was just like talking to my friend, so I wasn’t intimidated.”
Evert also liked being in the same boat with Davenport, since the “CSI” hour opens with them doing commentary on the match the victim-to-be ultimately wins. They both cover tennis for ESPN now, and the cheerful Davenport says she was “shocked and flattered” to be part of the episode. “My husband and I have three small kids, so we don’t watch a lot of TV, but ‘CSI’ is definitely one of the shows.
“I was a little bit unsure for about a week after I said ‘yes,’ because I was thinking, ‘I’m way out of my comfort zone.’ They reassured me it would be fine, because it was really what I do in my profession. They said, ‘Don’t sweat it. We’ll make it look good.’ And to be able to go through it with Chris, who’s as cool as a cucumber, was helpful to me.”
With Grand Slam singles victories including three Wimbledons, six U.S. Opens and seven French Opens, Evert knew another actress in the “CSI” episode … whom she prefers not to name, given how deeply that performer figures into the mystery. “She trained at the Evert Academy for three years, and I used to hit with her all the time. She was so good, she placed No. 1 at Duke (University), so they had authentic players.”
Davenport’s major titles include one each at Wimbledon and the U.S. and Australian Opens, along with an Olympic gold medal. Of seeing her sport dramatized, she says, “Obviously, it’s my whole life, and I love to see it portrayed, but there are times when it’s not completely accurate. While ‘Wimbledon’ is a great movie, it’s not entirely indicative of what life on the tour is like. We have players now who transcend tennis, so hopefully, the sport can take advantage of that.”
Even if they’re not eager to do more acting, the tennis-based “CSI” guest stars enjoyed sampling that world. “We don’t know what it’s like to make a drama show,” says Davenport, “what goes into each and every scene. It’s pretty remarkable.”
Adds Evert, “In tennis, you play your match, and you’re done. With a production like this, there’s waiting for rain to stop and for lighting, and doing many different angles. Actors get paid what they’re worth, I’ll tell you that.”