Martina-less title makes Shriver doubly proud


NEW YORK -- Pam Shriver couldn't stop smiling or talking or rearranging the articles on the podium.

She put the trophy on the table. She put the fresh flowers on top of the trophy. She moved the trophy and flowers. She grinned. She hugged Natalia Zvereva.

"This is so," she started and stopped. "This is terrific. This is one of the most special things in my career."

What Shriver was so happy about was winning the women's doubles championship with Zvereva, yesterday, at the U.S. Open.

They came in ranked 49th among 64 teams, but yesterday, they beat the No. 1-ranked team of Jana Novotna and Larisa Savchenko, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5).

For their effort, after nearly blowing a 4-0 lead in the third set, they took home a total of $163,500.

But they took home more than that.

It was fascinating watching Shriver enjoy this. She already had 21 Grand Slam doubles titles to her name. One in mixed doubles with Emilio Sanchez at the 1987 French Open and 20 others with Martina Navratilova, stretching from the 1978 U.S. Open to the 1989 Australian Open.

But this was the first women's doubles title without Navratilova. The first since their historic 1989 breakup. That year, at this Open, Shriver and partner Mary Joe Fernandez made it to the finals against Navratilova, only to lose.

Yesterday, Shriver left little doubt what finally winning one with someone else meant to her.

"To have won one without Martina, well, it's terrific," she said. "It is so very special, because I suppose I always will have some insecurities. I think any time you play with somebody as great as Martina, and you win so many titles, people are going to assume the obvious, that a majority of the reason is your partner.

"I don't know, this is one of the most special things ever in my career."

And it was made a little more special, because Navratilova was rooting for her.

"It was funny, because the day after Martina and Gigi [Fernandez] lost to [Katrina] Adams and [Manon] Bollegraf, who we then turned around and beat in the quarterfinals, Martina said to me, 'It's about time you win one without me.' "

NB To some, it might have seemed a statement of arrogance, but to

Shriver it was encouragement.

"To me, that was one of the nicest things, I mean, that was so nice," Shriver said. "Then yesterday, she came in when I was getting a massage and told me a couple of things about the other team. She was really cheering for me to win. That too was special."

Beside her, Zvereva had a difficult time getting in a word. A fact Shriver realized.

"Any time you want to, just hit me and I'll shut up," she told Zvereva.

They didn't come to blows. Hugs were more the name of their game. Hugs and appreciation, for Zvereva, too.

The 20-year-old native of the Soviet Union [is it still called that?] also had something to prove.

She had been doubles partners with Savchenko for three years, winning the French Open title in 1989 and Wimbledon this summer.

"We came together late and it is sort of complicated," explained Shriver about the pairing. "I think we both thought a couple months ago we would be playing with the partners we played with most of the last few years.

"But after Wimbledon, women's doubles took a real shuffle. I was waiting to hear from Martina, and then finally she told me at the end of July that she was going to play with Gigi, because she had split with Novotna and then I learned Novotna had asked Savchenko to play. It didn't take me long to figure out this one [Zvereva] was looking for a party.

"Even though my ranking wasn't very high, I thought if I called her up, she might be willing."

She was and they clicked.

"Not at first," said Zvereva. "We weren't very good at the start were we?"

"No," said Shriver.

"But at the end," Zvereva said, "it was awfully good for a team together for the first time. We were awfully good, really tough at the end. Weren't we?"

"Yes," said Shriver. "And we communicated well, in English, because I don't speak any Russian. That's for sure. What is it, spaseba, thank you?"

"Yes," Zvereva said, smiling.

"Spaseba," repeated Shriver. "One hundred of those for sure."

For sure.

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