Healthier Graf to play in Shriver event in Nov. Wimbledon champion Novotna also accepts

September 15, 1998|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

Pam Shriver thought she was going to treat Baltimore tennis fans to a comeback performance by Steffi Graf, the former No. 1 player in the world who was recovering from knee surgery, last November. But Graf's knee didn't cooperate.

So today, at a late-morning news conference, Shriver will again fTC announce Graf as one of her top players for this year's Chevy Chase Bank Tennis Challenge, to be held Nov. 24.

Completing the singles field, and spicing up the event, will be 1998 Wimbledon champion Jana Novotna.

"It will be the first time for both players to appear here," Shriver said. "Steffi appears to be coming back to her old form, though she's not as consistent yet. And I really feel this is our last realistic opportunity to get her here."

Graf, 29, won in New Haven, Conn., three weeks ago for the first time since her surgery, and had a good run at the just-concluded U.S. Open. She was beaten there in the Sweet 16 round by the rapidly improving Patty Schnyder.

As for Novotna, she is just coming into her own at the age of 29. Her stunning victory at Wimbledon this summer finally lifted the tag of "choker," a label she has had to cope with since losing to Graf in the 1993 Wimbledon finals, after being up 4-1 in the third set.

At the Open, Novotna made it to the semifinals before losing to No. 1 Martina Hingis. To some, that loss looked similar to her 1993 collapse to Graf, after which she cried on the shoulder of the Duchess of Kent.

But, to be fair, though Novotna was up 4-1 in the third set before losing, she had been up and down throughout the match, not just at the end when pressure could have restricted her play.

As she said: "No way this was the same. Sometimes you just miss your shots. There is no real reason why. It just happens."

Graf and Novotna will play a best-of-three match.

Tickets will go on sale tomorrow. For ticket information, call 410-296-2929, extension 25.

Pub Date: 9/15/98

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