Shriver serves ace in Capriati-Seles match


Pam Shriver lives right, obviously. Her pet project, the First National Bank Tennis Festival playing the Arena tomorrow (7 p.m.), once again has come up with the top attraction in the women's game: Jennifer Capriati is the marquee name in tennis right now and her opponent, Monica Seles, is the top woman player at present. No wonder there's hope for a sellout, with more than 10,000 tickets sold already.

Just 19 months ago, Seles won her first tourney in her second pro start. It wasn't one of those satellite jobs in New Mexico, either, as Chris Evert provided the opposition.

Seles was No. 88 in the rankings when she reached the semifinals of the French Open in 1989. She won the French this year along with the Lipton International, the U.S. Hardcourts and, earlier this month, the Virginia Slims Championship. The latter pushed her by Martina Navratilova into the No. 2 spot, and she actually had a better record than la supremo Steffi Graf in the Grand Slam events and big tourneys this year.

* Speaking of tennis, for shame, U.S. Tennis Association.

They tell the story of a potent Notre Dame football team going on the road to play Nebraska and finding a plowed-up field in Lincoln. That's the stunt, in effect, the USTA has pulled on Australia for this weekend's Davis Cup final in Florida.

The home team has choice of surface, true, but a rule states that the surface should be in "general use" in that country. Originally, slow red clay was ordered in from Europe, the USTA realizing that it would be the worst surface for the Aussies. Such sportsmanship.

The teams will play on American clay (Har-Tru) in the Suncoast Dome in St. Petersburg, but the United States still has assured itself a big advantage. Friday's best-of-five singles matches begin at 5 p.m. Australia will probably have a doubles player in one of those matches and he could be up past midnight swatting balls before being required to be back on court for doubles Saturday at noon.

The rules also include the "right to reasonable rest," and a Pat Cash or Darren Cahill could be dragging when time comes to play U.S. doubles specialists Jim Pugh and Rick Leach. It's our first Cup final since 1984 and we want to win, but at what cost?

* When Steve Leach scored back-to-back goals within 10 seconds for the Washington Capitals the other night, onlookers gasped at what they assumed was a once-in-a-lifetime feat. Turns out the winger's name won't even make it into the NHL record book for rapid-fire goals. Nels Stewart got two scores in four seconds in 1931; it took Peter Mahovlich five and several guys have done it within six seconds.

Hockey add: Jim Hrivnak, a guy who spends more time going back and forth between Baltimore and Washington than an Amtrak engineer, had himself a game during the Caps' 7-3 win over Pittsburgh. Normally, a 5-1 lead after a period suggests a goaltender is having a pretty easy night. But the score could just have easily been reversed so outstanding were a majority of the Penguins' chances.

No sooner did the sometimes Skipjacks goalie turn away seven of eight attempts, including two breakaways, when his supposed friends, the defensemen, put the Pens on a power play (a two-man advantage, no less). Hrivnak might have won again in Pittsburgh Saturday night, but he was injured midway through the second period and Mike Liut came in to fritter the game away in overtime.

* They called him "Freddie the Fog," because a lot of the things he said didn't seem to have any relevance to what was going on at the time. But Fred Shero, who died the other day of cancer at age 65, was a true genius when it came to hockey.

It wasn't so much the two Stanley Cups the Philadelphia Flyers were able to capture with Shero at the helm, or his 734 career wins as a coach. It was the way Fred's teams were prepared and played: smart.

He studied hockey coaching and training throughout Europe and brought the best of it back to the NHL. In a penalty-killing situation, Shero's teams often would maintain the puck most of the time, so adept were his charges at running his keep-away system.

* Time was when going to a bowl game was a reward for a fine season. It also gave teams from one section of the country a chance to test themselves against lads from other time zones. No more.

Maryland vs. Louisiana Tech in the Poulan-Weed Eater Independence Bowl Dec. 15, come on! It extends the season a month, falls during exams when the school is making large noises about academic upgrading and further reduces the players to simple chattels to be used for the purpose of making a few bucks.

Meanwhile, a team like Temple goes from a 1-10 season to 7-4, seemingly is deserving of a reward (no one plays the game for the game itself these days) and is blanked. Obviously, there are not enough bowls with "just" 19.

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