SLIMS MAY SET ATTENDANCE MARK; GABY'S ROSE ON RISE
The Palm Beach Post - Sunday, March 1, 1992
Author: PATRICK MCMANAMON
Popularity for the Virginia Slims of Florida continues to soar.
The tournament set an attendance record last year, and it appears that records will be broken this year. The women's final sold out Wednesday.
"I'm thrilled," tournament director Sharon O'Connor said. "We work toward this year-round."
Last year's seven-day tournament drew 59,783, a record for an outdoor women's event.
It could be that the Slims is outgrowing the 6,021-seat stadium at the Polo Club Boca Raton. This year's tournament, with box seats and series tickets sold out along with day and evening sessions for Saturday's semifinals, surely will top last year's record.
"It's almost scary," said O'Connor, who comes up with an annual "theme" for the tournament. Last year, it was Oleg Cassini picking out the best-dressed woman in the crowd daily.
This year, it's the Gabriela Sabatini rose, the brainchild of Tamera Herrod, tournament public relations director.
"It was Tamera's idea to have a rose named after the tournament or someone associated with the tournament," O'Connor said. "It was our idea to have the grounds covered with roses."
Rose bushes featuring the Sabatini rose-- she said she was honored by the rose idea-- will cover the grounds. In addition, Sabatini rose bushes will be sold.
Dining and merchandising areas have been upgraded, and sponsor tents had to be turned away because of a lack of space.
Last fall, Ion Tiriac made a seven-figure offer to buy the tournament (he wanted to move it to Germany), but O'Connor and tournament promoter George Liddy of Liddun International turned down Tiriac.
"We want to have some more fun with this," O'Connor said.
* At least 10 air-conditioned buses will shuttle fans from the Royal Palm Polo parking area to the Polo Club grounds for the tournament. Polo Club homeowners were angered last year by the number of cars coming and going at the tournament. O'Connor promises, with the constant buses, that spectators will have minimal inconvenience.
* Not everybody was thrilled with the Slims. Pam Casale, who was ranked No. 15 in the world in 1984, was not happy she was not given a wild card into the doubles draw.
"I'm fed up," said Casale, who lives in Boca Raton. "It's not fair to me. . . . Being professional I feel I deserve to play in my hometown. I feel I've gotten shafted by this. . . . You get to a point in your career where something like this should never happen."
O'Connor said she did not want to get into an argument with Casale, but said Casale had received a wild card at least three other times and the other doubles players given wild cards were deserving.
* Monica Seles on Jennifer Capriati, who cried at the Australian Open after losing to Seles: "I think Jennifer will realize that she's going to have to get the fun back into the game. It's the first year she's had to defend a lot of points. She's done very well, and she's No. 6 and everyone now expects her to get into the top five. That's a lot of pressure when you're not even 16. It's tough at that age. It's not easy for anybody."
* Pete Sampras moved up to No. 3 after winning the U.S. Pro Indoor, his highest ranking ever. Can he reach No. 1? "It is something obtainable, definitely within reach," Sampras said. "I'm getting closer. If I play to my capability, there may be no stopping me.". . . Sampras had 21 aces when he beat Amos Mansdorf, and Goran Ivanisevic had 32 when he beat Stefan Edberg in the finals of the Eurocard Classic in Stuttgart. . . . Andre Agassi's ranking is down to No. 14. . . . Lipton will have 426 media members from 24 countries covering the 10-day tournament.
* It took Seles just 38 minutes to beat Gigi Fernandez 6-0, 6-0 in Indian Wells on Friday. . . . Martina Navratilova on the tournament being named after Chris Evert: "I think she's not old enough to have a tournament named after her." . . . Navratilova was not happy about not being selected to the 1992 U.S. Olympic team: "I think the selection system stinks. The rule is self- serving and very unfair." The rule is the ITF rule that required players who wanted to play in the Olympics to play in the Federation Cup. . . . Zina Garrison won the Family Circle "Player Who Makes a Difference Award" and she plans to donate the $20,000 prize to an inner-city tennis academy in her hometown of Houston. . . . Mary Pierce has improved her ranking to No. 17. She ended 1990 at No. 106. . . . Steffi Graf on whether she can break Navratilova's record of 158 tournament championships: "Let's not be crazy. These days, I think, it's not possible to do anything like that."