Shriver, Smylie wilt in final Fernandez, Zvereva win doubles title AUSTRALIAN OPEN

January 31, 1993|By Richard Finn | Richard Finn,Contributing Writer

MELBOURNE, Australia -- On a scorcher of a day, Pam Shriver and Elizabeth Smylie first sizzled but then fizzled today in the Australian Open doubles final.

In searing 100-degree heat, with the National Tennis Center stadium Rebound Ace court surface heating up to 120 degrees, Shriver and Smylie wilted against the top-seeded pair of Gigi Fernandez and Natalia Zvereva, 6-4, 6-3.

"The less time you stood still on the court surface, the nicer," said Shriver.

"This week was terrific, but one match short," she said. "We didn't come out to play our best match, but if we take stock of this, I think it will do us good the rest of the year."

After taking a 4-0 first set lead, Shriver and Smylie collapsed.

Shriver had problems with her serve. She double-faulted on set point in the first set and made four double-faults to give away her serve and trail 5-3 in the final set.

"It was a little bit of everything," Shriver said of her serving problems, noting that the midday sun was nearly blinding from her end of the court. "I was thinking, 'Should I toss the ball to the left of the sun, to the right of the sun?'

"I overloaded my brain and it shorted out."

Smylie was off with her powerful forehand, making more than a dozen errors, most off the stroke. Without that weapon, the pair never was able to consistently challenge the serve of Fernandez or Zvereva.

The winners split $115,000, and the 10th-seeded Shriver and Smylie split $57,000.

Shriver and her Australian partner were playing their first major together after having played just five other times in an on-and-off partnership started in 1985.

Fernandez and Zvereva, on the other hand, are a veteran team and the world's top-rated pair.

Last year they won all three majors they played -- Wimbledon and the French and U.S. opens.

Shriver was seeking her 23rd Grand Slam doubles title, 22nd in women's doubles and first since a 1991 triumph at the U.S. Open.

Shriver and Smylie started off well, racing to the first-set lead in 13 minutes. Their command of the match, however, was deceiving, as their opponents' terrible play had more to do with ++ the score than anything they had done.

Fernandez and Zvereva lumbered around the court, displaying little spark and enthusiasm, as if the sun had burned out all of their energy.

"It was really burning, it was hard to play under those conditions," said Zvereva.

But, when Fernandez finally held serve in the fifth game to get the team on the board, a decided shift in the momentum of the match was felt throughout the half-empty stadium.

Shriver dropped her serve for 4-2, when a weak second serve was hammered by Fernandez for a forehand winner.

More serving woes haunted the team in the eighth game when Smylie committed her second double-fault of the game on break point for a 4-4 tie.

After Fernandez held for 5-4, it was Shriver's turn to fall apart on the service line. She double-faulted at least two yards long to go down 15-40, then handed away the set when she bounced another second serve into the net on the next point.

"Usually I can just roll it in," Shriver said. "It was disastrous."

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