Goodbye, Pam, and hello, Andre

September 13, 1994

The U.S. Open that just ended was, apparently, the last for Pam Shriver, at least as far as singles competition is concerned. She strongly implied such a career slowdown after she was soundly defeated in an early round.

It has been both a frustrating and exciting association for the Lutherville resident and her fans all over the world in the past 16 years. She seemed destined for super stardom when as a 16-year-old McDonogh student she went all the way to the finals at the U.S. Open. That was not only her first but also her last Grand Slam singles finals, which is the frustrating aspect of her career.

The exciting -- fulfilling -- part is that she was highly ranked for most of the 1980s, and even today is one of the best doubles players in the world. She won a score of Grand Slam doubles titles and may well win another before she calls it quits completely. Perhaps an even more fulfilling aspect of Pam Shriver's career is that she was just as successful off the tennis courts as she was on them. She continues to be a generous civic-minded resident of the area with interests in tennis-related and non-tennis-related activities.

She never let the game turn her into one of those teen-age or twenty-something automatons whose youth and life are all but destroyed by the high-pressure, big-purse, big-endorsement world that professional tennis has become. Of all the top-ten caliber women players of her era, she is, we believe, the best role model for any talented 12-year-old prodigy.

The game and the world of tennis have come under attack in recent years not only for the way it sometimes seems to devour its young, but also for its lack of rapport with fans. Partly this was due to what many critics saw as an aloofness and a lack of "personality" (often just bad manners) among the men's champions.

We never really bought that, but if true, surely the upset victory of Andre Agassi in the U.S. Open's men's singles will go a long way to change things. His rock-and-roll persona (he's been called "the Bruce Springsteen of tennis") should attract younger fans, and his splendid play and good sportsmanship should keep the older ones, even those who prefer champions without "personality."

Agassi is the first unseeded player in the era of truly competitive professional tennis to win the U.S. Open. (An upset also happened in the U.S. Open's women's singles competition, though not as spectacularly. No. 2 seed Arantxa Sanchez Vicario defeated No. 1 seed Steffi Graf.) Fans of all ages like to see under-dogs overcome.

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