Courier, Connors agree to play in Shriver's tourney

August 17, 1993|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,Staff Writer

For the first time in the seven-year history of the First National Bank Tennis Festival, a men's match will headline the charity tournament.

It will showcase Jim Courier and Jimmy Connors in a best-of-three-sets singles match at the Baltimore Arena on Oct. 22 at 7 p.m.

"I came all the way from Aspen to promote a men's match," honorary chairman Chris Evert jokingly said to chairman and Lutherville native Pam Shriver last night at the Gala Kickoff held at the Hyatt Regency.

Previous tennis stars at the tournament included Evert, Martina Navratilova, Jennifer Capriati, Monica Seles, Gabriela Sabatini and Zina Garrison.

"If you're looking for Martina, Monica, Gabby or Zina, you're not going to find them," Shriver said. "In past years, we grabbed the ladies right after the New York Virginia Slims and asked them to play a couple of days later."

But for the first time in its three-year run at the Baltimore Arena, the tournament did not have to plan a mid-November, Tuesday night date around the now-departed Skipjacks.

"Especially since it's a Friday night this year and with Connors and Courier, I expect a sellout," Shriver said. "I know I say that every year, but I expect a sellout or very close to one this year."

Connors and Courier represent half of the Americans who have held the world's No. 1 men's ranking. John McEnroe and Pete Sampras are the others.

Courier, 23, captured his second straight Australian Open and reached the finals of Wimbledon and the French Open this year. Since turning pro five years ago, Courier has won 13 singles titles, including four in Grand Slam events.

The Bradenton, Fla., resident rose 23 spots by the end of 1991 to the No. 2 spot. The next year, Courier won the Australian and French opens, the season's first two Grand Slam events, and claimed the top spot in the rankings.

Courier is currently ranked No. 2 in the world.

"It was easier to plan Jimmy [Connors] because his schedule is more flexible," Shriver said. "We were very fortunate to get Jim Courier. He was able to fit this practice match in before he heads to a tournament in Europe."

Connors, 40, holds the all-time men's record of 109 singles titles during his 20-plus years of playing. He has won eight Grand Slam singles titles, the 1983 U.S. Open being the last.

For 15 consecutive years during the 1970s and '80s, Connors was ranked in the top 10.

"To have Courier and Connors here is very special, especially Jimmy [Connors]," Shriver said. "I don't know how many more years he's thinking of playing, but every year it will get harder and harder."

In the tournament's other attraction, Shriver and Venus and Serena Williams will be joined by celebrities for a doubles contest. The celebrities, unnamed at this time, could be some of Shriver's new employees.

"If the Orioles aren't in the World Series, you might see one or two of them out there," said Shriver, who is a limited partner in group that purchased the club at auction.

The First National Bank Tennis Festival benefits the Baltimore Community Foundation, a non-profit, tax-exempt organization. The proceeds will help children's charities in the region.

The tournament has helped raise more than $1.2 million in its seven years.

Tickets, which range from $9 for reserved seats to $75 for courtside box seats, can be obtained at the Baltimore Arena box office and all TicketMaster outlets. Tickets can be charged by calling (410) 481-SEAT.

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