NEW YORK - That the Sanex WTA tour's season-ending championships will move to Munich, Germany, beginning in 2001, might not seem a big deal to tennis fans in Baltimore.
But it is.
The tournament, which has been at Madison Square Garden for 29 years, has served as a pipeline to Pam Shriver's November charity event at Baltimore Arena. Shriver has annually brought the top women's players to Baltimore via Amtrak and has been able to find willing replacements when injuries changed her starting lineup.
"The Garden still wants to have an exhibition match - a six-player exhibition the week after our tournament is scheduled," said Shriver, who is here at the U.S. Open working for CBS. "They're talking about a Thursday-Sunday or Friday-Sunday event, which means we might be able to get the players the night before they go to New York or directly after.
"There is a God."
But Shriver, who was aware of the Championships' move more than a month ago and only just learned of the Garden's pursuit of an exhibition, was already busy working on an alternative plan for 2001 or 2002.
"I spoken to both [Andre] Agassi's and [Pete] Sampras' representatives and both Perry Rogers, the CEO of Andre's company, and Jeff Swartz, Pete's representative, have both been very receptive," Shriver said. "My feeling is that next year or the year after is really the last two chances to have these two players while they're really still at the top of their games."
Shriver said she will pursue the men and women in hopes of having commitments by the middle of next year.
"If we can get those two guys, I think that would be the ideal, especially considering what they've done in U.S. tennis," said Shriver, who will announce this year's participants next week. "They don't just play exhibitions, because Andre especially feels it cheapens the rivalry. But they are willing, at times, to play in charity situations like ours. I think we have to pursue it."
As for the Championships' move, the multi-year deal means a million-dollar increase in prize money to $3 million.
Pierce drops out
Fourth-seeded and French Open champ Mary Pierce was forced to retire from her fourth-round match with No. 10 Anke Huber. Huber won the first set 6-4 when Pierce bowed out after aggravating the right rotator cuff injury she has struggled with all summer.
"In the warm-up this morning, it was sore from just the very first serve that I hit," Pierce said. "With each one, it just kept getting worse."