Kournikova is up to Challenge

No. 12 tops Davenport on night of hard shots, soft hearts at Arena

November 24, 1999|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

They said it was just for fun. But Lindsay Davenport and Anna Kournikova didn't play it that way.

They slugged their way through three sets. They questioned calls. Argued with the umpire. Demonstrated the art of the big serve (Davenport) and the running forehand volley (Kournikova).

And when it was over, it was the resilient Kournikova, the No. 12 player in the world, upsetting world No. 2 and defending champ Davenport, 6-2, 1-6, 6-1, in the Chevy Chase Bank Tennis Challenge last night at the Baltimore Arena.

"My plan," said Kournikova, "was to move her around, do the best I could when she was serving and then see what happened."

What happened was a happy moment for Kournikova.

"We had a lot of fun and you can see why Anna's going to be so good," Davenport told the crowd of more than 8,000. "She's only 18. We've all got to watch out."

Davenport, who stepped in at the last minute last year to replace the injured Steffi Graf, further endeared herself here by announcing she wanted to make a donation to the children's charities this tournament benefits.

"In my bag, I have a check for $25,000," she said and the crowd cheered warmly.

Kournikova was already pretty happy when she arrived here yesterday. While she had lost in the first round of the singles competition at the Chase Championships in New York last week, she had teamed with Martina Hingis to win the doubles title.

But she sparkled after beating Davenport, the most dominant player on the women's tour this season.

"I'd like to thank you all and congratulate Lindsay on this great year," Kournikova said. "She's unbelievable."

And so was Kournikova last night. She showed early her plan could work. Choosing to receive, she broke Davenport in the first game and though she lost her own serve in game 2, it was Kournikova who went on to break Davenport twice more and put away the opening set.

Oriole Brady Anderson said "she competes," while he waited to play in the Orioles Challenge. "In Australia, she had 31 double faults in a match and still won it," said Anderson, who in recent years has been dating tour pro Amanda Coetzer. "She does not give up."

After dropping a quick second set to Davenport, who had her serve and forehand working, Kournikova reasserted herself. She held her serve to start the final set and then battled Davenport through five deuces before finally breaking her in the next game. And then, like Davenport had in the second set, she ran the table.

Former pro and Baltimore native Pam Shriver, the originator of the event, called the match "the most competitive in the 14-year history of the event."

"It doesn't matter that I lost," Davenport said. "This is a wonderful way to end the season, helping Pam and playing for a good cause. It's not often you can play a match that is lighthearted."

In the Orioles Challenge, Anderson and Kournikova teamed up against Orioles shortstop Mike Bordick and Davenport. Bordick said before the match that even though "I don't play tennis" he hoped to "whoop up on" Anderson, who is the four-time defending champion in the Challenge.

"I know he's knocked off Cal [Ripken] and Robby [Roberto Alomar] and B. J. [Surhoff]," said Bordick. "But I'm teamed with the best player in the world."

Alas, Bordick joined Anderson's hit list. The outfielder and Kournikova teamed for a 6-2 victory.

"I'm only winning because the women players have been good to me," he said, with a deprecating smile.

Though the evening ended up on a humorous and fun-filled note, it started with a solemn tone.

Shriver was making her first public appearance here since her husband, Joe Shapiro, passed away earlier this fall. And, adding to Shriver's sadness and that of her staff was the news that a young intern in her Towson office, Eleanor Brooks, a Towson University senior and a graduate of Garrison Forest School, died yesterday morning from a brain hemorrhage.

Just before the national anthem, Shriver asked the crowd for a moment of silence for Brooks and said the tournament was being dedicated to her memory.

"There has been a lot of sadness," Shriver said before the night's activities began. "But putting on this event this year has been worth the effort."

Monday night at the silent auction, Shriver outdid herself as the auctioneer. "It could be my new career," she said, with a big smile. In two hours, the event raised $40,000. A year ago, the same event brought in $27,000.

Tournament managing director Marc Kantrowitz said the event was expected to clear "close to $200,000." Proceeds from the event go to the Baltimore Community Foundation, which donates them to area children's charities. Shriver said Davenport's donation would go to Garrison Forest School in memory of her late intern.

NOTES: The Solomon Smith Barney Legends match, which consisted of one pro set, was won by Lori McNeil and Baltimore native Brian Gottfried, 6-2, over Ilana Kloss and Johan Kriek. Gottfried said he hadn't been back here since he was 4 years old and came this time for the same reason the other legends had. "We're all here for Pam Shriver," he said. The evening began with an exhibition wheelchair tennis match put on by the Rolling Rackets.

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