Shriver hopes she has some good tennis left
Monday, February 10, 1992
Pam Shriver, who should know, doesn't think there's any rush for Martina Navratilova to become the winningest player in tennis history.
Navratilova will be in the spotlight this week at the $350,000 Virginia Slims of Chicago. A 12th title in the 21-year-old tournament, which begins today at the Pavilion, would give Nav ratilova a record 158 singles crowns, one more than the retired Chris Evert.
"Chicago is a city Martina has dominated," said Shriver, who arrived with Navratilova late Sunday after they played an exhibition in Omaha, Neb. "Suddenly, with Steffi (Graf ) coming, it becomes tougher for her. Steffi adds a lot to the tournament."
Shriver, Navratilova's main doubles partner the last 13 years, thinks Navratilova, 35, will be on tour for many more years.
"A lot depends on her head," Shriver said. "As you get older, you become a little less tolerant. But Martina's still a threat wherever and whenever she plays.
"She is setting high goals, and I admire her for that. For the second half of 1991, she was co-No. 2 player in the world with Jennifer Capriati, and Martina honestly feels she can contend for No. 1 again."
Navratilova holds a No. 4 world ranking, the same Evert had when she retired at 34 after the 1989 U.S. Open.
Because of her rigorous training regimen, Shriver thinks Navratilova will play tournament tennis "at least
through the 1993 Wimbledon" and could continue into her 40s. That's good news for Shriver, too.
"Martina is the best I could hope for (as a doubles partner)," Shriver said.
They have been a dynamite team through the years, winning all four majors in the same year three times. In 1984-85, they won 109 consecutive matches before losing the Wimbledon final to Kathy Jordan and Liz Smylie.
Navratilova didn't always want Shriver, however. She questioned Shriver's dedication, and the two split up for most of 1988 and 1989.
In one of the most dramatic doubles matches ever, Shriver teamed with Natalia Zvereva to win the U.S. Open last year in their first tournament together.
"If I could capture one moment from last year, that would be it," Shriver said. It ranks even ahead of her victory with Navratilova in the season-ending Virginia Slims Championships, the biggest money event in women's tennis.
Shriver and Zvereva won their U.S. Open in September and talked about playing together again.
"In mid-October, she couldn't decide about the Championships, so it was Martina and me," Shriver said. "We had won six tournaments in a row until we lost the final at Tokyo (two weeks ago). It works out well."
Navratilova isn't the most desirable doubles partner these days because she plays in just two of the Grand Slam tourneys - Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
"But I'm easy because I don't play the French Open, either," Shriver said. "We'll probably play together eight or nine times this year."
Navratilova and Shriver need one more Grand Slam title to break a tie for most championships together. They have won 20, the same number as Margaret Osborne duPont and Louise Brough, who played during the 1940s.
Navratilova and Shriver will be a team this week in addition to bidding for the singles crown. Shriver, the Chicago Slims champion in 1984 - the year she reached a career-high No. 3 in the world rankings - is on the comeback trail.
"My goals are more modest than Martina's," said Shriver, who serves as the president of the Women's Tennis Association. "I haven't gotten to the semifinals in 20 months, and my ranking has been bouncing between 28 and 40.
"I'm looking to getting back into some semifinals and into the top 20."
Her career was slowed by shoulder surgery and a broken bone in her foot two years ago. The year before that, when she split with Navratilova, Shriver suffered from burnout.
"I worked my way through it," she said. "I would have regretted it dearly if I had quit then."
In Tokyo, she had eventual champion Gabriela Sabatini, the world's third-ranked player, down 4-1 in the third set before losing.
"I didn't gag," Shriver said. "She just started swinging away, and I got a little tentative. But I realized I could compete against the top players again.
"What's bothering me is my consistency, and that used to be one of my strong points. Now, in one match, my game can span the globe. That's annoying."
She fears the battle with injuries, for which she was sidelined for nine months and saw her rankings in singles and doubles drop into the 100s, has had a lingering effect.
"I lost something in my head and confidence," she said. "I haven't been the same player, but I didn't think I could be this happy and still be ranked 37th in the world. I still have frustrating moments, but I've had a great time on tour the last 12 months."