Seles' return gives tennis star it needs


The waiting and wondering are over. Monica Seles is returning to competitive tennis, as of tomorrow's ballyhooed exhibition against Martina Navratilova (Ch. 13, 2 p.m.) at the Atlantic City (N.J.) Convention Center.

But CBS analyst Mary Carillo, who will call the match alongside Tim Ryan, cautions against quick assessments of Seles' physical and mental condition from the match.

"It [the match] is meaningful only in that it will be her first time. I don't think the outcome or even her performance is all that important. I think this will be a test of how comfortable she feels out there," said Carillo.

Seles, of course, returns to tennis after a two-year sabbatical, taken after she was stabbed during a changeover during a match in Hamburg, Germany, in April 1993. Since her absence, interest in women's tennis has taken a nosedive as no one has stepped forward to regularly challenge Steffi Graf.

"She was the fiercest and best competitor," Carillo said of Seles. "She loved the challenge. The tighter the match got, and the more she was down, the harder she would strike the ball. I'd like to think she's got that back. Tennis is a sport that needs superstars. It's a one-on-one sport and one of the sport's great divas is coming back. Let's see what happens."

Alas, Navratilova, who is suffering from a groin pull, may not be able to give Seles the best possible match, but, regardless, Carillo believes "people will fire up the old set for this one."

Before the match, CBS will air an exclusive interview with Seles, who sat down with Pat O'Brien 10 days ago to talk about the attack and its aftermath.

Baseball, past and future

Keep an eye out for "Kings On The Hill: Baseball's Forgotten Men," airing on NBC (Ch. 11, 4 p.m.) tomorrow. The film centers on the Homestead Grays and the Pittsburgh Crawfords, two of the storied Negro League teams of the era, and is particularly timely, with this weekend's posthumous induction of Baltimore native Leon Day into the Hall of Fame.

Speaking of the Hall of Fame, ESPN will have taped coverage of ceremonies from Cooperstown, N.Y., Sunday at 6 p.m., and ESPN2 will carry the festivities live at 2:30 p.m.

On Sunday, baseball and cyberspace collide again, as Home Team Sports, in conjunction with Sports- Channel Chicago, will hold a live forum on America Online during the Orioles-White Sox game at 1:30 p.m.

They're baaack

Five months after the last clothesline tackle was thrown in anger, the NFL returns with tomorrow's Hall of Fame Game (Ch. 2, 2:30 p.m.) And in the unkindest cut of all for Baltimoreans, the contest matches the two expansion teams, Carolina and Jacksonville.

By the way, ABC's Frank Gifford will make history tomorrow by becoming the only man to be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a player and an announcer. ESPN2 will have the ceremonies live from Canton, Ohio, at 11 a.m., with taped highlights running on ESPN at 7:30 tomorrow night.

The ratings game

Last week's three Orioles telecasts were the most watched sporting events in the area, according to ratings supplied by Channel 11's Sharon Walz, this week's sole and official ratings supplier.

The games drew numbers ranging from a 10 rating and 19 share last Friday to Tuesday's 14.4/24, which won the night over the popular ABC and NBC schedules.

The other interesting developments were the strong showing of the DieHard 500 NASCAR race on Channel 13 on Sunday, which got a 4.1/10, as well as the 5.4/15 posted for Channel 2 for Sunday's final round of the British Open.

Nationally, ratings for the final round of the Open were up 32 percent from last year, and were the highest for the tournament since Tom Watson won in 1983.

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