McEnroe, Navratilova add backspin to charity event

Courier also commits

Nov. date pleases Shriver


September 12, 2005|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

The Mercantile Tennis Challenge is going retro this year, as originator Pam Shriver makes plans to celebrate the 20th annual event.

At least three former world No. 1 tennis stars and International Tennis Hall of Famers - John McEnroe, Jim Courier and Martina Navratilova - have already agreed to take part Nov. 14 at 1st Mariner Arena.

This will be the first time since 2000 that the challenge has been played in November, and Shriver voiced some relief about moving away from a December date, saying November provides "some comfort" as bad weather is less likely and there are fewer Christmas parties to contend with.

"Getting Johnny Mac was key," said Shriver, speaking from her home in California, where she is taking it easy while awaiting the birth of twins in November. "That date fit his schedule, and the tennis will be fun. All we need now is a fourth player to play against Martina."

Shriver said she hopes to sign another former world No. 1 - possibly Martina Hingis or Monica Seles. If not, Jana Novotna is also on her list.

"Jana hasn't been No. 1," Shriver said, "but she has been a good friend of the tournament."

And, in fact, the players will be participating this year not only to benefit Shriver's event, which donates its proceeds to children's charities, but also to benefit their own favorite charitable organizations, taking charitable donations instead of personal appearance fees.

Asked whether her original plan was to go for Hall of Fame players because it is the 20th year of the event or because it was easier to line up, given she is limiting her travel because of her pregnancy, Shriver acknowledged that it was a little bit of both.

"We always look at the A list of players and find out who is and who is not available," she said. "We even sent out an inquiry to [Roger] Federer, even though he is a long shot, always.

"When we found out John was available, we knew he offered a big name and quality tennis. He's still an A player. And Martina is pretty close to A. Jim is right there in the next tier, and he has a great heart and does good all the time. He even advised us on how to get John."

McEnroe, Courier and Navratilova have all played in this event at one time or another, and Shriver said each felt some "loyalty or desire" to help out.

In fact, the only possible entry on Shriver's list who hasn't played here is Hingis.

"Last year, it took [a long time] to finalize our players," Shriver said. "In my condition, I didn't want any more stress than was necessary."

Shriver said she will miss this year's event because she will be close to her delivery date.

"I could deliver the week of the event," she said. "I'm staying put."

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