Seles again up to the Challenge Coetzer is routed in exhibition match

November 26, 1997|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

The long, tall woman in the black tennis outfit didn't have everything her own way last night at Pam Shriver's 12th First Union/Signet Bank Tennis Challenge, but it was nearly so for Monica Seles, who used her blazing ground strokes to put away Amanda Coetzer, tennis' mighty mite.

"When I come here, I always play my best tennis," said Seles, who no doubt felt like the home team, given she has played at the Baltimore Arena three times in the past seven years.

After Coetzer had, in her own words, "been demolished," 6-2, 6-4, she had to agree.

"Monica is the only woman in the Top 10 that I've never beaten," said Coetzer, who has reached a career-high No. 4 ranking by beating the likes of Steffi Graf, Mary Pierce and Jana Novotna this season.

"Monica is very difficult to play, and it's that way because we haven't played often. When I play Steffi, I have a real good feel for how she plays and where the ball is going. I don't have that with Monica. When we play, she uses two hands on the racket and being left-handed, it's hard for me to read where she's going to hit.

"I have a lot of respect for Monica, and I'm trying to close the gap."

Coetzer, 5 feet 2, was 0-for-5 in previous meetings with Seles, and though Seles ran her short legs all over the court and forced her into numerous unforced errors, this was her second-best showing against Seles, 5-10 1/2 , the former No. 1 player who now ranks No. 5. Only a 6-3, 6-4 loss in San Diego was closer.

In the past 11 years, Shriver's charity exhibition has raised $1.7 million. Last night, another appreciative crowd of 8,247 raised another $150,000 or so to benefit area children's charities

through the Baltimore Community Foundation.

Familiar faces around the court included those of former Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Ravens rookie linebacker Peter Boulware, defensive tackle Tony Siragusa, punter Greg Montgomery, wide receiver Michael Jackson, Spirit coach Mike Stankovic and his all-star forward Branko Segota.

Siragusa came out of the stands at Shriver's request during the celebrity match between Brady Anderson and Coetzer and B.J. Surhoff and Chanda Rubin to help coach Anderson, who was the fan favorite. And Anderson and company left everyone laughing, after changing partners to join his Orioles teammate after Anderson and Coetzer had taken a 5-2 lead over Surhoff and Rubin.

The evening began with laughter, too, when the first point of the Smith Barney Legends match heated up with a wicked volley exchange between Zina Garrison and Fred Stolle and Shriver and Cliff Drysdale and turned into a laugh-athon when Shriver and Drysdale followed their winning volley with a celebratory chest bump.

Stolle continued by asking if it was "first serve in," and Drysdale blasted a ball past Garrison and then made like a body builder, flexing nonexistent muscles.

Garrison simply kept her team in it, with several brilliant shots -- including a stunning half-volley that wowed everyone.

Shriver and Drysdale, the younger pair, survived by 6-4. Afterward, Drysdale reminded everyone that the last professional tour event he won in his career was at the Towson Center. And Stolle allowed it was the first time he had lost to Drysdale, his frequent announcing partner on tennis telecasts, "in 22 years." Stolle also figured Shriver hadn't chosen him as her partner, "because the last time we played in the semifinals at Wimbledon, I messed up and we lost."

Things were more serious after that. Seles and Coetzer were hoping to redeem first-round upsets at the year-ending Chase Championships in New York last week.

"I think because of those losses, we both [felt] this match definitely mattered," Coetzer said.

Coetzer and Seles found it difficult in the early going. The first set featured six service breaks, but Seles held hers twice and that was enough to clinch the set, 6-2.

Minutes later, the crowd began rooting hard for Coetzer, and she responded by picking up her play, holding serve twice, before Seles again emerged on top breaking her 0-40 in the final game.

"Amanda is such a unique player," said Seles. "She runs down everything. You have to hit a perfect shot to beat her."

Pub Date: 11/26/97

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