A year ago, tennis star Lindsay Davenport stepped in at the last minute to help Pam Shriver fill a void in the Chevy Chase Bank Tennis Challenge. This year, she'll be back with her own, personal invitation.
Today, representatives of the Challenge will announce at a news conference that Davenport is back and her opponent at the Baltimore Arena on Nov. 23 will be world No. 15 Anna Kournikova.
"Lindsay did us the big favor last year, stepping in for Steffi [Graf]," Shriver said in a phone conversation from California, where she now lives. "She enjoyed that all the proceeds go to charity and she is happy to come back."
The Tennis Challenge benefits children's charities and has raised more than $2 million since being established in 1986.
A few days before last year's Challenge, Davenport heard that Shriver's event was in trouble because Graf had suffered an injury during the Chase Championships in New York and would be unable to keep her commitment to play.
Having a few days free before Thanksgiving, Davenport, then No. 1, called Shriver and offered to help. She came, played and won against then-Wimbledon champ Jana Novotna and told the appreciative crowd at the Baltimore Arena that she hoped to be invited back.
Finding Davenport's opponent for the coming match took a little longer, but now Shriver has gotten one of the most well-known players in the game.
"Anna is in the absolute top tier of players people want to see," Shriver said. "She brings style. She brings beauty. And the thing I like the most is that I love her game."
As a footnote, Shriver recalled that when she played the last match of her career, it was 1997 at Wimbledon on the small outside Court 6, and she and Liz Smilie lost a doubles match to Elena Likhovtseva and a new kid named Anna Kournikova.
"She has a good game," Shriver said. "She has a two-handed backhand. She moves extremely well. And the fact that she double-faulted 31 times during a match at the Australian Open and still won the match says a lot about her competitiveness. It also says a lot, that she has worked hard and solved her serving problems."
Kournikova, 18, has been a Wimbledon semifinalist and has been to the final of the Lipton Championships, a tournament often viewed as the fifth Grand Slam. She did not play in this year's U.S. Open, as she is recovering from a foot stress fracture that is expected to be healed by November.
Davenport won the U.S. Open last year and is the defending Wimbledon champion. And she again made it to the semifinals of the Open last week, before losing to eventual champion Serena Williams, 6-2, 3-6, 7-5.
"I'm excited to be going back to Pam's event," said Davenport, 23, ranked No. 2. "I had a great time there last year. I know Pam is having some personal problems right now, and I'm happy to help her out with this."
For the first time since establishing the Challenge in her hometown 14 years ago, Shriver will be absent from today's news conference announcing the players.
She is with her husband, Joe Shapiro, a cancer survivor, who remains in critical condition due to a reaction to medication he has been using to control lymphoma.
Brady Anderson, a fixture in the Orioles' Challenge part of the Tennis Challenge, will fill in as master of ceremonies for Shriver today.
"He'll do it in his own inimitable way," Shriver said. "Brady has been so loyal. I told him he has a spot until he's 70. He likes to play, and the people love him in Baltimore."
Pub Date: 9/14/99