Five years ago, Pam Shriver organized a charity tennis tournament in Baltimore because she never had been able to play as a professional in her hometown.
In each of the years since, the top women players, including Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, came and played. Always the perfect hostess, Shriver recalled yesterday, she lost to them. But it was for charity.
Again this year, Shriver has corralled the top names -- make that the top teen-age names -- in tennis for her Nov. 27 event at the Baltimore Arena: Monica Seles, 16, who defeated Steffi Graf to win the French Open in June, and Jennifer Capriati, 14, who has defeated a number of top-10 players since her professional debut in March, and who lost to Seles, 6-2, 6-2, in the semifinals of the French Open.
And Shriver is hoping she has a chance to lose to one of them.
"This event may end up being my first serious attempt to play again," said Shriver.
Shriver is undergoing the painful rehabilitation of the right shoulder that was surgically repaired June 7. Doctors predicted a four- to six-month recovery period and, Shriver said, it is clear the shoulder will need every day of that to recover its strength.
"It is pretty simple," Shriver said yesterday before a news conference to kick off her fifth First National Bank Tennis Festival. "My serve is my game. If my arm comes back and I can serve, I will get back into the top 10. But it is not like my game has a lot to fall back on if it doesn't."
Shriver could have had the surgery last December, but she instead chose a cortisone shot and kept playing. By June, it was clear that the shoulder, which has bothered her since she was the teen-age sensation at the U.S. Open in 1978, would not heal without extended rest or exploratory surgery.
"Rest would have been OK, but it was not knowing what was really wrong in there that was killing me," she said.
Arthroscopic surgery revealed a partially separated labrum. The result was a loose and unstable shoulder joint. The good news was the rotator cuff was not damaged.
So she has been a spectator since Wimbledon. But she has liked what was she has seen.
"Four different winners of Grand Slam events. Martina at Wimbledon. [John] McEnroe's comeback. A lot of the veterans have had great breakthroughs," Shriver said. hopefully. Clearly tennis is in a state of flux with space room enough for a Shriver comeback.
"There's room, and that has been a real motivation for me," she said.
There will be more room at her charity event this year, too, which yearly has outgrown its quarters, first at Loyola College and then at the 4,900-seat Towson Center.
"Last year, it was sold out six weeks in advance, and there was no chance to get any kids in to see the matches," said Shriver, who is active in the grass-roots promotion of tennis. The &L 11,000-seat capacity of the Arena will allow her, she said, to make sure there are plenty of seats for Baltimore young people for whom Seles and Capriati are peers.
"I knew I was onto the right thing when I mentioned Monica and Jennifer would be here to a couple of teen-age girls and saw how excited they got," Shriver said.
Tickets range from $9 to $75 and are available at the Arena box office and through all TicketCenter outlets. The event benefits Children's Hospital and Center for Reconstructive Surgery, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation of Maryland and the Greater Baltimore Tennis Patrons Association.