Call makes Davenport No. 1 in Shriver's book Injured Graf's 'fill-in' a bonus for event here

November 24, 1998|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

Last week, the Corel WTA Tour named Lindsay Davenport the winner of its Diamond Aces Award, which goes to the player who has done the most, on and off the court, to help the game grow. Today, Pam Shriver probably thinks there should be a Good Samaritan Award, too, and that Davenport also should get that.

It was Sunday evening in New York and Davenport had just heard that Shriver was in a bind.

Shriver, the Baltimore native who stages her charity tournament at the Baltimore Arena on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving each year, was worried.

One of her featured performers, Steffi Graf, had suffered a hamstring strain during the Chase Championships semifinals, and Graf's availability was in doubt.

"I had heard about her problem," said Davenport, who spent yesterday doing business in New York. "I told her [Sunday] night, 'I'll be in New York until Tuesday, anyway,' so if she needed me, I'd be glad to do it for her. If she didn't need me, that was OK, too."

Yesterday morning, with Graf's status still unclear, Shriver made the call to Davenport.

"Steffi had a long, wonderful run the last two weeks, but strained her hamstring during the semifinals at the Chase," Shriver said.

"Sunday, it wasn't real serious and it wasn't real good, either. I decided, let's not risk having a player that is not up to her best -- and from Steffi's point -- let's not put a player at risk. God forbid, she should really damage her leg here."

This is the second year in a row Shriver has tried to give tennis fans an appearance by Graf, one of the sport's greatest players. Last year, Graf had to bow out because her knee did not recover quickly enough from surgery,

But taking her place in the Chevy Chase Bank Tennis Challenge will be one of the biggest holiday gifts Shriver could have gotten for her hometown: Davenport, the winner of this year's U.S. Open and the first American-born woman to hold the No. 1 ranking since Chris Evert in 1981.

When Shriver accepted Davenport's offer to fill in, it meant the 13th annual tournament, which has raised $1.9 million for children's charities during the past 12 years, will have one of the most spectacular fields in its history.

The feature match now will showcase No. 1 Davenport against No. 3 Jana Novotna.

And, beginning at 7 p.m. at the Baltimore Arena, that match will be preceded by a Legends Match featuring Martina Navratilova and Tom Gullikson against Shriver and fellow Marylander Harold Solomon, to be followed by the Orioles Challenge, with Brady Anderson and B. J. Surhoff teaming with Davenport and Novotna, respectively.

"I don't have to be home until Wednesday for Thanksgiving, so I don't mind helping Pam out at all," said Davenport, who lost the Chase final to Martina Hingis in four sets Sunday. "Besides, I've never been to Baltimore, I'm not playing any tennis in December and I like playing Jana."

Novotna thought she would be inspired against No. 9 Graf, whom she said is difficult to play in exhibitions because she is always so serious and because Graf has beaten her in 28 of 32 meetings. But Novotna should be equally motivated tonight. Davenport holds a 5-0 lead in their head-to-head meetings, though the two haven't played each other in a little more than a year.

"I think Jana will have a lot more fun playing me," Davenport said. "It's great to be competitive, but it's not always live-or-die with us. I'm sure she'll want to beat me -- especially since I guess this really is my last match of the year -- but we'll have a great time, too."

As for Graf, who expressed her regret, Shriver said she is not going down the same road again.

"The good thing is that fans knew about the injury. They saw it happen on television at the Chase," Shriver said. "It's not suspect. It's just something that happens when you play 13 matches in 17 days.

"I thought it was worth trying to get Steffi here, because we've never had her -- and we'd still love to have her.

"But next time, I think it will be a situation where we'll try for someone else and then, if we have to find a substitute, I think Steffi would be glad to fill in."

Tonight's event

What: Chevy Chase Bank Tennis Challenge

Where: Baltimore Arena

When: 7 p.m.

Format: Legends Match: Martina Navratilova and Tom Gullikson vs. Pam Shriver and Harold Solomon; followed by Feature Singles Match: Lindsay Davenport vs. Jana Novotna; followed by the Orioles Challenge Match: Brady Anderson and Davenport vs. B. J. Surhoff and Novotna (coached by Ravens' Michael Jackson and Tony Siragusa).

Tickets: From $9 to $75; available by calling Phone Charge at 410-481-7328, or by visiting any Ticketmaster outlet or the Arena box office.

Beneficiaries: Proceeds are donated by the Baltimore Community Foundation to area children's charities.

Pub Date: 11/24/98

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