Shriver still motivated, but not pressured Australian Open offers fresh start

January 17, 1993|By Richard Finn | Richard Finn,Contributing Writer

SYDNEY, Australia -- Pam Shriver is keeping her feet on the ground with a modest list of goals for this season, which begins in earnest tomorrow with the Australian Open.

A relaxed and cheerful Shriver felt good talking about hopes for her 16th year on the pro tour during last week's NSW Open Tournament of Champions, a prelude to the year's first Grand Slam.

"I don't feel any pressure," said Shriver, who will open the Australian Open in Melbourne against Californian Debbie Graham. "If I couldn't play any more tennis, I would feel secure and comfortable with my career. I have nothing more to prove."

Shriver says, though, she still feels motivated, shrugging off suggestions that she is simply playing out the string of a career that has long-shot Hall of Fame prospects.

"If I was, I wouldn't be working as hard as I've been," said Shriver, 30, of Lutherville, Md. "I know my best years are behind me, but I still feel good about more sweet moments."

Shriver then rattled off her ambitions for the season.

"I don't think it is unreasonable to be among the top 16 [players] and play one more Virginia Slims Championships," Shriver said of the annual season-closing championships at Madison Square Garden.

Shriver is ranked 27th, a notable feat considering she had plummeted to No. 66 three years ago when she spent the year recovering from shoulder surgery.

Shriver last played Madison Square Garden in singles in 1988 and succeeded in making the appearance among her career highlights by upsetting Chris Evert and Steffi Graf to reach the final, where she lost to Gabriela Sabatini.

"I don't think it is unreasonable to want to win one more singles tournament," said Shriver, who won her 21st and last singles crown four years ago at the European Indoors in Zurich.

"I don't think it is unreasonable to want to win one more Grand Slam doubles tournament," said Shriver, winner of 21 women's doubles titles and one mixed-doubles championship at the majors.

Twenty of those titles were won in an historic decade-long

partnership with Martina Navratilova. Though the pair announced their breakup at last year's Slims Championships before losing in the semifinals, Shriver says more victories are within reach with new partner Elizabeth Smylie of Australia beginning next week.

"And I don't think it is unreasonable to keep having a great time," she said.

"My attitude has been pretty good and I enjoy being out on the court.

"If I do two of those four it would really be an accomplishment."

Shriver already can feel good about the year's start as she reached the quarterfinals last week before crashing out against teen star Jennifer Capriati, 6-0, 6-1.

"When she's on top of her game, she can still be very tough for the topplayers," said Capriati. "Her game is different from anybody else's because she plays so much serve and volley."

Being around so long, however, does have its disadvantages.

Shriver gleefully related the story of men's star Pete Sampras asking her earlier in the week whether she had received a wild card into the tournament. Sampras had mistakenly believed her ranking was too low to gain a spot on its own merits.

And she is used to puzzled fans thinking she had retired and was just making a token playing appearance upon seeing her on the court.

"I'm not No. 3 in the world anymore, but that doesn't mean I'm not out here competing every week," Shriver said of her career-high ranking reached for the third and last time in 1988.

"There is just a little bit different results now."

Shriver knows what is needed to correct the situation.

"I need a big splash to have them know I'm not retired and that I'm still around," she said.

And if that happens, Shriver can stop being so modest.

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