Shriver finds no delight: Her serving of Wimbledon is short, but not sweet

WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND — WIMBLEDON, England -- The first four games lasted all of 10 minutes, and Pam Shriver had won all of two points. Her heart was racing, her serve wasn't working and Jennifer Capriati was breezing in their second-round match at Wimbledon.

"I felt like a club player," Shriver would say later.


Clubbed might be more appropriate. Memories of her last two Centre Court appearances, quick and painful semifinal losses to Steffi Graf in 1987 and 1988, played on her emotions. This time, it was Capriati running to a 4-0 lead and running away with the match.

"She didn't miss much, and I was just tense," said Shriver, who lost, 6-2, 6-4, but remains alive in doubles with Martina Navratilova. "Then I got better as the match went on."


Better, perhaps, but not good enough. After winning two games and losing yesterday's first set in 26 minutes, Shriver had opportunities in the second to push Capriati to a third set. But Shriver's serve deserted her again after taking a 3-1 lead, and it never returned.

"You know, if you throw out the first four games and say we just played a pro set, I lost 8-6, and somehow that seems a little better," said Shriver, who turns 30 next week. "I was glad I was able to get out my tenseness a little, but I was better."

The problems with her serve -- she double-faulted twice in her first three service games, four times overall and paid dearly on many second serves, which Capriati crunched numerous times for winners -- came mainly from a faulty toss.

Shriver has had trouble with her toss since undergoing shoulder surgery two years ago and has tried to make a perfect toss to cut down on the wear and tear on her well-worn right shoulder. But it was more than just a faulty toss that did in Shriver yesterday.

"If I could pick one thing to change about the match, that would be it, the serve," she said. "I can't come out two sets in a row against a top player and drop my opening service game, especially when you're in position to hold serve at 40-15. So that was disappointing."

Mostly, though, it was Capriati who caused Shriver most of her problems. Despite some erratic results this year, the Floridian at 16 is still one of the strongest players in the game. On top of that, Shriver allowed herself to get caught up in the emotions of what could be her final Centre Court appearance.

"At this stage I get a little reflective," said Shriver, a three-time semifinalist at Wimbledon. "So I try to isolate things, instead of thinking about the broad range of things that I can think about."

The big picture might not look as bleak as it did a year ago, but it doesn't look as promising as it did a month ago. Shriver, like many players her age, has come to the realization that there are not too many Wimbledons left in her future.


Shriver has told her family that she would like them to come over next year, in case it's her last trip to the All England Club as a singles player. She will finish the summer with two regular tour events, the Federation Cup in Germany and the U.S. Open.

"The one disappointment is that I'm not going to play in the Olympics," said Shriver, who played for the United States in the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, and last summer's Pan Am Games in Havana. "It's the one tournament I wanted to play in that I can't. It would have been great."

It would have been just as satisfying to win yesterday.

But Capriati, not to mention reality, stepped in her way.