LANDOVER -- This time, Pam Shriver has no doubts about her comeback.
She is 28 years old, with a surgically repaired shoulder and a renewed zest for playing tennis. She wants to win, but is patient enough to realize that she is still reassembling her game after a nine-month layoff.
"When you're 22 or 23 years old, there is no question that you'll come back," Shriver said. "But a year ago, I could have said, 'Well, I've done my 12 years and that's good.' But once I made the commitment to return, I haven't looked back or regretted anything. Tennis is still what I do best."
Last night, Shriver displayed flashes of her steady serve-and-volley style before falling to Mary Joe Fernandez, 7-6, (7-4), 6-3, in the 2000/Love tennis celebration to end world hunger at the Capital Centre. In the men's match, Tim Mayotte literally signed in at the last minute as a mystery guest but lost to MaliVai Washington, 7-6 (6-2), 6-2. The pair replaced headliners Ivan Lendl and Pete Sampras, who were forced to withdraw because of injuries.
On the surface, Shriver's match against Fernandez was nothing more than an exhibition. But in Shriver's recovery program, it was an important step to take against the world's No. 5-ranked player.
"Pam is definitely on her way back," said Fernandez, who fell behind, 0-4 in the first set. "It's hard to comeback after such a long layoff. It's hard to get that confidence back. But Pam has a game that can hurt a lot of people."
The wear and tear of a long tennis career finally caught up to Shriver last summer, when she was forced to undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum in her right shoulder. Shriver has played in eight tournaments in her latest come back, steadily improving her ranking from 115 to 66.
"If I can end up in the 30-to-40 range, that would be a solid first-year effort," Shriver said. "Then, I'd be in a position in early 1992 to replace on the computer the mediocre results from this year's matches. To get in the top 20, I need a big breakthrough in a Grand Slam event. Hopefully, the second part of the comeback will see me in a semifinal or a final."
Shriver said her shoulder still bothers her in the third set of matches, and she is forced to push for two-set victories.
"It's kind of strange," she said. "It puts a lot of pressure on me to finish things quickly."
Shriver's summer schedule is set. She'll skip the French Open and then move to England for a couple of grass-court tuneups to Wimbledon. After that, she'll embark on an unusual assignment, serving as a player-captain for the United States at the Pan American Games in Havana, Cuba, in August.
"A few weeks ago, the United States Tennis Association polled the top 100 players and asked them if they'd be interested in playing in the Pam Am Games," said Shriver, a 1988 Olympic doubles gold medalist. "I wrote back a wishy-washy letter saying maybe I could fit it in my schedule. They asked me to be a player-captain, and that sounded like an honor. I really can't wait to play in Cuba. It will be interesting."