Ranked No. 111, Bowes expects few breaks
THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Wednesday, JUNE 24, 1992
Josh Young, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
This is another in a series of reports that will appear during the '92 Wimbledon fortnight about some of the players who are the blue-collar workers on the men's and women's pro tours.
WIMBLEDON, England - Beverly Bowes has had better Wimbledons.
Having traveled the world as Chris Evert's hitting partner in 1987, Bowes knows how convenient things can be for the top players. She also knows what it is liked to be ranked No. 111.
Bowes, 26, arrived in London on Monday morning. She had reached the finals of the $25,000 challenger series tournament in St. Simons, Ga., where she lost on Sunday to a 14-year-old Yugoslavian girl.
When Bowes got out of the taxi at the flat she is sharing with doubles partner Shaun Stafford in Wimbledon Village, she felt good. She had sequestered an entire row of four coach seats on the flight from Atlanta, allowing her to sleep for six hours.
Bowes had spoken to three Women's Tennis Association officals about delaying her Wimbledon first-round match against Laura Gildemeister for a day because of her appearance in the challenger series final. She had confirmed the arrangements with a fax from the tournament site in Georgia.
Assured she would not start until Tuesday, Bowes figured she would go to Wimbledon and collect her player pass and then practice on the grass. Perhaps she would also go to the grocery store. It was only 11 a.m.; she had all day.
"You play your singles first match at noon on Court 8, and we drew [Gigi] Fernandez and [Natalia] Zvereva [the No. 2 seeds] in dubs," Stafford said when Bowes walked in.
Welcome to the life of a player who doesn't travel with a coach or have an agent to smooth over the rough edges of the pro tour.
"I called [Wimbledon referee] Alan Mills and said, 'I just got here, and there's no way I can play my first round now,' " Bowes recalled. "He talked to the WTA, and apparently there was some confusion with the person who made the schedule, but they fixed it."
Bowes took the court yesterday at noon and quickly lost the first six games to Gildemeister, a strong baseline player. Playing on Court No. 6 proved distracting as most of the spectators watching Bowes' match were waiting in line to get into Court No. 2.
If Gildemeister's game and the half-interested crowd weren't enough to make for a bad day, Bowes sprained her back in the final game of the match. She ended up losing 6-0, 6-2, which earned her 3,080 pounds (about $5,500).
"I don't know what it is," Bowes said. "It might go away tomorrow, but the doctor said I might not be able to play doubles."
In retrospect it isn't surprising that Bowes never found her form. The challenger tournament she finished on Sunday was played on a slow clay surface, a sharp contrast to the fast grass at Wimbledon .
"I won the challenger last year so I had a lot of [computer ranking] points to defend there," Bowes said. "I could have come to England and practiced on grass for a month, but then I might have drawn Martina. That's why I played the challenger."
Bowes is a long way from 1987, the year she was Evert's hitting partner. All her travel arrangements were handled by Evert's agents. Instead of hoping for an empty flight to get extra seats, she flew first class. She stayed in the best hotels, not a small flat where the hot water only works part time.
Evert's coach, Dennis Ralston, worked with Bowes, and Evert was her daily hitting partner. Consequently, her ranking hit a career high No. 46 during that period.
"Chris and Dennis helped me a lot," Bowes said. "The biggest difference between being Chris and being No. 111 was convenience. We always got a whole court to practice on whenever we wanted, and matches were always at the best times."
Still, Bowes likes the tour and plans to play as long as she has fun and makes money. Is there anything else she would rather be doing?
"Joan Lunden's job would be nice," she said.
WORKING CLASS AT WIMBLEDON
* Who: Beverly Bowes.
* WTA rank: No. 111.
* Vitals: Age 26; 5 feet 7, 145 pounds; born in Highland Park, Ill.; resides in San Antonio and Lubbock, Texas.
* The rest: Bowes turned pro in 1987 and achieved a career-high ranking of 46 in 1987. . . . Former hitting partner of Chris Evert. . . . University of Texas graduate. . . . Has been playing tennis since age 7. . . . Right-handed with two-handed backhand.