As the finish line nears, Shriver taking it in stride WIMBLEDON

June 22, 1994|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Sun Staff Writer

Wimbledon, England -- While Martina Navratilova is working her way through a very public retirement tour, Pam Shriver is quietly making her way toward the same finish line.

"I've not made a firm decision yet about just when I'm going to stop, but it's getting closer," Shriver said. "I can see the horizon."

She hasn't pulled out of any tournaments at this point, and she hasn't made a formal declaration to the Women's Tennis Association.

"But I'm not 100 percent certain I'll finish the year," she said. "This is so hard. I don't have anyone like Johnny Oates around to cut me.

"I'm sure in other sports it's a very horrible thing to be traded or cut, but in the case of the older athlete who has been around for a long while, it might be more helpful if someone else made the decision for you."

As part owner of the Orioles, Shriver said she could give Oates a call.

"I could say, 'Cut me or send me to Rochester,' " she said, laughing. "No. No. I won't go to Rochester -- or to Hagerstown."

Shriver has been on the women's pro tour since 1979, when she stunned the tennis world by making it to the U.S. Open final as the youngest finalist ever at 16.

Now, less than two weeks before her 32nd birthday, she is here for what is likely her final try at a women's singles title at Wimbledon. Yesterday, she played her first match in conditions she described as "the worst I've ever experienced here."

After waiting out a rain delay of two hours, 43 minutes, Shriver and her opponent, Amy Frazier, took the court at 6:30 p.m. in fading light, whipping wind and cold temperatures in front of an unruly crowd that ignored requests not to take flash photos.

When the umpire finally suspended play, Shriver and Frazier were tied at 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 6-6. They resume play today.

"I asked with the games even at 2-2 and 5-5 that the match be suspended until tomorrow," Shriver said. "But I was turned down."

In third set, she lost a break advantage by double-faulting at 0-40 to see the match go back to even at 4-4 and then fended off one match point at 30-40 in the 10th game.

She had two other opportunities to break back, but couldn't.

"The hard part will be to get a good night's sleep and come back here ready to go," Shriver said. "But I saved a match point; maybe Amy will worry about that."

If she wins today, Shriver could make some other players worry. She is one of only three women, along with Navratilova and Steffi Graf, who can be considered true grass-court players. She is one of the few players with a serve-and-volley game.

After Lori McNeil's upset of Graf yesterday -- combined with the absence of Mary Pierce, Monica Seles and Jennifer Capriati -- Shriver appears to have a chance.

"A couple of years ago, I would have agreed," Shriver said. "Sometimes, I wish I wasn't so realistic. I'm trying. I'm trying. But my confidence isn't good right now, and the only way to get it back is to win a couple of matches."

She took off March, April and most of May, because at this point, she said, if she isn't excited about playing, she's not going to play.

"I'm working through a stage, a process," Shriver said. "This is the final stage of my career, and I'm just trying to get through that and look forward to the next level.

"I have one eye where I am now and one eye looking ahead, and that's good. I need to do that, but at the same time, it's also a distraction."

She feels the years creeping up.

"If I play three singles matches in a row, like I did at Birmingham [England], my arm is not good," she said. "It took a couple of days to quiet that down. I deal with that. It's reality. The same old story.

"After 16 years, I guess it's not an absurd thing to have happen, but it's still frustrating because I remember all too well how it used to be."

Everywhere she looks, she is reminded of how time is passing.

Navratilova, with whom she won five Wimbledon doubles titles, is on her retirement march. Shriver's current doubles partner, Liz Smylie, is talking about retiring, too.

Her old friend from Baltimore, Elise Burgin, already has come to terms with the end of her playing career and is trying to find a job in sports broadcasting.

"I'm willing to go to any small market that will give me a chance," said Burgin, who is here attending meetings as treasurer of the WTA-Tour Players Association.

"It's a real interesting time," Shriver said. "While some people at this stage worry about what they'll do, I know I will be busy. My fear is not a fear of being bored."

And then she laughs.

"OK, so the next question is: 'What am I afraid of?' " she says. "I guess I just want to try to do it as best I can, and at times I know I'm not doing that.

"I still get very angry when I'm on court. To me, at this stage I should be fairly content, and just say whatever happens happens, and I can't. I still get very feisty and annoyed at times."

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.