Pam Shriver seeking tennis breakthrough. Seven-year veteran of pro tour wants to reach final of major event again
With the exception of Wimbledon champion Boris Becker, perhaps no tennis player ever made a more auspicious debut at a major championship than Pam Shriver, who reached the finals of the 1978 US Open. Since then she's been in a prolonged holding pattern, hovering near the top of the sport, yet still waiting to make her next big breakthrough. That breakthrough, she said during a recent interview with the Monitor, would involve retracing her steps. ``I have yet to reach another final in a Grand Slam event,'' she observed. ``But when I do it's certainly going to register a lot more than it did back then [in '78].''Skip to next paragraph
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That was the year she came out of McDonough High School in Lutherville, Md., to upset top-seeded Martina Navratilova in the Open's semifinal round. In doing so, she became the tournament's youngest female finalist ever, younger even than Chris Evert, her victorious opponent, or Tracy Austin were in reaching the same advanced point.
Shriver's potential looked unlimited then. Though a baby-faced amateur, she had a strong serve-and-volley game made all the more intimidating by her six-foot height and large Prince racket. Even so, she has beaten Navratilova only twice since then, and, after 15 matches against Evert Lloyd is still seeking her first victory. (Chris beat her just two weeks ago in the final of the Virginia Slims of Newport, R.I. 6-4, 6-1.)
A flop? Hardly. During the intervening years she has won eight tournaments, collected nearly $2 million in prize money, become a consistent Top 10 player, and even been named Comeback Player of the Year in 1980.
She's carved out quite a doubles record, too. She and Navratilova teamed to win a record 109 straight doubles matches, including back-to-back Grand Slams, before finally having the streak snapped at Wimbledon last month. (In a battle-of-the-sexes match, they will play Bobby Riggs and Vitas Gerulaitis Aug. 23 in Atlantic City.)
It's as a singles player that Pam really is still waiting to make her mark. ``I think I'm right on the verge of doing well in a major tournament,'' she said. ``I just have to continue to be consistent. For a player like me, who isn't up to Martina's or Chris's caliber, maybe it just takes getting a good break in the draw.''
That, as it turns out, is exactly what she didn't have at Wimbledon this year, when she entered the tournament on a roll, having won three events in a row and playing the best tennis of her life.
``I honestly felt I had a good shot at Wimbledon,'' she recalled. That chance, however, presented her with a succession of tough matches. In the rain-postponed opening round, she met Anne White, who rather diconcertingly picked their match to wear a shocking bodysuit that later was banned. Next up was Britain's Ann Hobbs, a local favorite, followed by Virginia Wade, England's pride and joy, on the occasion of the former champion's retirement from singles.
``Everything was kind of distracting, but I was able to cope with it and get through,'' she said, pleased with her effort. ``I think in other years I would have lost early because I wasn't mature enough to handle those situations -- especially having to beat Virginia on Centre Court with the crowds all cheering for her.''
After beating Wade, she held off teen whiz kid Steffi Graf, the Olympic champion, in an all-out, three-set struggle. Then came the quarterfinals and yet another date with Navratilova. Pam lost 7-6, 6-3 in a match that was as close as the score indicates.