Shriver, Smylie gain doubles final Team is playing its first major

January 30, 1993|By Richard Finn | Richard Finn,Contributing Writer

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Pam Shriver is on guard about tonight's Australian Open doubles final.

In their first Grand Slam partnership, Shriver and Elizabeth Smylie have reached the championship against the top-seeded pair of Gigi Fernandez and Natalia Zvereva.

"It's nice that we are in the final, and it is what I was looking for in a partner to be able to contend for Grand Slam finals," said Shriver af

ter the 10th-seeded team's 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 semifinal victory over Jill Hetherington and Kathy Rinaldi yesterday.

"We can contend. Now we have to see if we can win it."

Shriver's caution is understandable.

While Shriver and her Australian partner are playing their first major together and have played just five other times, Fernandez and Zvereva are a veteran team entrenched atop the world rankings.

They won all three majors they played together in 1992 -- Wimbledon, the French Open and the U.S. Open. Ironically, at last year's Australian Open, Shriver teamed with Zvereva and got to the semifinals.

Shriver and Smylie have clicked, delivering a winning combination of Shriver's reach and height around the net and Smylie's stronger service returns.

Against Hetherington and Rinaldi, the team also held its collective nerve. Up 3-1 in the final set, Shriver played a horrendous service game to make it 3-2 before Hetherington held for 3-3.

But Smylie turned back two break points in the next game for a 4-3 lead, and the pair rode that momentum to sweep the final two games, losing just three points.

If Shriver and Smylie win today, it would give Shriver her 23rd Grand Slam doubles title and 22nd in women's doubles. It would also be her first major since the 1991 U.S. Open, when she won the women's doubles with Zvereva.

"I don't want to think about such things when there is still the match to play," Shriver said. "I just want us to play one more solid match.

"If we close it out, we will be delighted."

Shriver has given considerable thought to how to beat Fernandez and Zvereva, scouting the team in its 6-2, 7-5 semifinal victory over Patty Fendick and Andrea Strnadova.

"We have got to make Zvereva sweat it out on her second serve," Shriver said of her team's intentions to try to be aggressive and whack some big service returns against her soft ball second serve.

Another plan will be to keep Fernandez from poaching too frequently.

"I've got to go down the line against Gigi," Shriver said. "We know it is a Grand Slam final, so we have to go for it. You can't be tentative."

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