Shriver has paid her dues for Capriati vs. Navratilova


Pam Shriver isn't about to leave charity to chance.

When she says Martina Navratilova and Jennifer Capriati will appear here for the sixth annual First National Bank Tennis Festival, presented by the Baltimore Sun, Nov. 26, she knows it will happen.

She has it in writing.

"We lucked out a little bit," Shriver said. "When we went after them in the springtime, they hadn't had the kind of year you would have thought could result in a sellout."

And now that Navratilova and Capriati have had the kind of season that could very well result in a sellout -- finalist and semifinalist, respectively, at the U.S. Open, and quarterfinalists at Wimbledon -- there is no way for them to back out.

"They're being paid to be here," Shriver admitted. "We've done that all six years. It is the only way to be comfortable in saying Nov. 26 Martina and Jennifer will be here. We've never gone out and said players are paid. But it is the way things are."

Only twice have players performed for free. The very first year, Chris Evert just came for the cause and in 1988 the Soviet players, who were then amateurs, did not get paid.

"Everyone else comes for less than they could get someplace else and they give a little back," said Shriver, who is still enjoying her U.S. Open doubles title from last Sunday.

Last year, Capriati and Monica Seles each returned 25 percent of their fees to the event.

"This day in age, Martina and Jennifer both can command close to $100,000 for a weekend," Shriver said. "So I can't expect them to come for free, because how do I repay them? If they come here and play an exhibition, I have to go do three or four things for them, because basically that's my value to them vs. theirs to me."

Shriver recalled the 2000/Love Tennis Festival at the Capital Centre last spring. It was to benefit world hunger. The participating players were to have volunteered their time.

"No one showed up," Shriver said. "[Ivan] Lendl backed out, [Pete] Sampras backed out. They thought they had [Brad] Gilbert and he backed out. To be honest, the only way to feel secure that players will show up is to pay them."

Shriver and fellow Baltimore pro Elise Burgin will both play in the First National Festival, as will several "to be named" celebrities. But Shriver says she is not the star -- "Let's face it, people here have seen me play more than enough.

"I can't, in this city, feel comfortable promoting an event that I'm not certain will happen," Shriver continued. "After what happened with Love Tennis, it made me know in my heart that this is the right policy. It's the nature of the beast that if you've signed a contract and you're getting paid something, you're not going to back out, unless it's an injury and it's unavoidable. I get comfort in knowing that."

This November, Shriver lists two goals: to go over the $1 million mark in dollars raised (the last five years have generated $865,000 in proceeds) and to sell out the 12,500-seat Arena.

"Martina and Jennifer have a following that goes beyond the basic tennis fan," said Shriver. "They generate human interest. When they come here in November, there will be this big, huge roar for both of them. I feel great about it."

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