Shriver serves up humorous ending Singles career here ends with flubbed serve

June 27, 1996|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

WIMBLEDON, England -- Pam Shriver stood behind the baseline on Centre Court yesterday afternoon, the sun shining warmly on her face and the crowd firmly in her corner, as she tossed the ball for her second serve.

It was an important serve on a court that has grown in importance for her over the years. There have been losses here, none more memorable than the first one, in 1978, when Sue Barker won, 8-6, in the third set. There also have been five doubles championships here.

And now, on this day, with her mother sitting in the friends' box, her Wimbledon singles career had come down to this one point. Match point.

"I knew very well that it could be my last time as a singles player on Centre Court," Shriver said of this match against No. 5 seed Anke Huber. "I just wanted it to be a good serve."

Instead, the toss went awry, and Shriver served what she called "my pingpong serve."

As she and everyone else watched in disbelief, the ball crashed down into her deuce court and then bounced crazily over the net and out of play.

Huber had won, 6-2, 6-1, in 49 minutes, and Shriver had the ignoble distinction of serving what may be the ugliest double-fault on match point in Wimbledon history.

"I felt for her," said Huber. "I think, probably, this was her last singles match here, and I felt bad that she made the serve like that.

"But when I looked across the net, Pam was laughing. And I found that I was laughing, too. Not at her, but with her. It was such a moment."

For Shriver, of Baltimore, there have been many moments. But yesterday had more than its share. As she stood in the shadows, waiting to go on court, she saw umpire Alan Mills, whom she has known for years.

"I don't know what happened, but when I saw Alan, we both sort of looked at each other and said, 'Well, this is probably the last one out here. . . .' and I just got really emotional before the match," she said. "I didn't get too emotional afterward because I was too embarrassed."

But when she walked into the interview room smiling and hearing reporters talking about "The Serve," she joined in.

"You're talking about my pingpong serve," she said, and promptly hit her head on the low beam above the player's seat.

It was simply one of those days.

"Well, you had to laugh out there," she said. "I mean, that was not the time to cry. . . . But here's what happened:

"The sun here at 2 p.m. is kind of pretty bad up the one end, so my theory today was to wear sunglasses the whole time. And then, about quarter to 3, the sun is just enough to the right, so I thought I'd go without them. I didn't miss a serve the whole game until 30-40.

"I missed the first serve, and I should have done one of those, 'Let's see where the sun is' deals, because my second-serve toss is different from my first serve. But I threw it up, and it was right in the sun and you have that split second -- do you swing or do you catch it and throw it someplace different? I think I made the wrong decision.

"So that's my excuse, and I'm sticking with it."

In the stands, Margot Shriver had watched the performance. When it was over, she blew her daughter a kiss.

"I'm so proud of her," said Mrs. Shriver. "This is only the fourth time since 1978 that I've been to see Pam play here. And I think the reason I'm here is that Pam thinks this is it for singles. I'd be very surprised if she made another singles appearance here."

Shriver, who turns 34 on July 4, has been unwilling to say her singles career is over. But yesterday, she got as close as she ever has.

"I think it probably most likely is my last singles match here," she said. "Anything is possible, but I would say it's overwhelming [that] it's my last."

NOTES: Englishman Luke Milligan advanced with a 6-4, 6-2, 6-7 (7-5), 6-7 (7-3), 6-1 victory. Tuesday hero Tim Henman and fellow Englishman Danny Sapsford were stopped by darkness, with Henman ahead, 6-1, 5-5. . . . No. 10 seed Michael Stich completed his darkness-delayed match from Tuesday with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory over Sjeng Schalken.

No. 2 seed Boris Becker started slowly against Tomas Carbonell, but won 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. . . . The Lord of Wimbledon title was sold yesterday for 188,000 pounds, but Becker didn't buy it. "It's one thing if you are given the title," said the three-time champion. "But if you have to buy a title, it cannot be worth that much." . . . . Three Americans advanced: MaliVai Washington beat Thomas Enqvist, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3; Todd Martin won, 6-2, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5), over Jim Grabb; and David Wheaton beat Guillaume Raoux, 6-4, 7-5, 7-6 (7-4).

Today's feature matches

(Seeds in parentheses)

Men: Pete Sampras (1), Tampa, Fla., vs. Mark Philippoussis, Australia. Michael Stich (10), Germany, vs. Shuzo Matsuoka, Japan. Mark Petchey, Britain, vs. Cedric Pioline (16), France. Stefan Edberg (12), Sweden, vs. Mikael Tillstrom, Sweden. Goran Ivanisevic (4), Croatia, vs. Pierre Bouteyre, France. Andrei Olhovskiy, Russia, vs. Marc Rosset (14), Switzerland. Laurence Courtois, Belgium, vs. Jana Novotna (6), Czech Republic.

Women: Conchita Martinez (3), Spain, vs. Lisa Raymond, Wayne, Pa. Steffi Graf (1), Germany, vs. Nathalie Baudone, Italy. Betsy Nagelsen, Kapalua Bay, Hawaii, and Monica Seles, Sarasota, Fla., vs. Rosalyn Nideffer, South Africa, and Pam Shriver, Baltimore. Larisa Neiland, Latvia, vs. Lindsay Davenport (8), Murrieta, Calif. Magdalena Maleeva (10), Bulgaria, vs. Nathalie Tauziat, France.

Pub Date: 6/27/96

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