Davenport answers challenge with crisp victory over Seles

The event is about donating proceeds to area children’s charities by the Baltimore community.

In excess of $3 million has been raised since new Hall of Famer Pam Shriver inaugurated the Chevy Chase Bank Tennis Challenge 17 years ago and celebrities from the tennis world responded to the cause with their time and talent.

But mere exhibition matches they are not. When the umpire says “play,” the competitors are all business.

“We go out there and try the hardest,” said Lindsay Davenport, who defeated Monica Seles, 6-4, 6-4, in the feature match. “There’s no pressure and you play for fun, but we didn’t come here to lose.”

She obviously meant what she said. The 26-year-old from California cashed in on the third match point with a passing shot to end a crisp, tactical match that was fondly appreciated by a 1st Mariner Arena crowd announced at 8,000.

After trading service breaks early, Davenport broke Seles in the 10th game to capture the first set.

The first game of the second set went to deuce three times before Davenport held serve, a pattern that continued until the final game when Seles fended off two match points before losing

“Unfortunately, they don’t have a women’s tournament here,” Davenport said. “This is a little opportunity to bring some women’s tennis to Baltimore.”

With “coach” Adalius Thomas of the Ravens supplying the comic relief, Davenport and first-time player Gary Matthews of the Orioles defeated seven-time winner Brady Anderson and Seles in the final match, 5-4, in a tiebreaker.

Thomas once asked for an instant replay and questioned a 15-30 score by saying, “I got 9:30,” on his watch.

Anderson recently signed a minor-league contract with the San Diego Padres, but the former Orioles outfielder said beforehand, “I am not going to be a minor-leaguer.”

In the Smith-Barney Legends of Tennis Match, Patrick McEnroe and Jana Novotna scored the only service break and downed Bethesda native Richey Reneberg and fan favorite Martina Navratilova, 8-5.

McEnroe, the U.S. Davis Cup team captain, played to the crowd by flinging his racket after a poor shot and questioning a linesman’s call, but it was all in the spirit of levity.

Novotna, who retired in 1999, is best known for a rare Wimbledon sweep, capturing both the women’s singles and doubles titles in 1998. But Navratilova, Shriver’s longtime doubles partner and one of the greatest players of all time, was the people’s choice.

The tandem won a record 109 consecutive matches and just last May Navratilova won the 166th doubles crown of her career at age 45.

The evening was punctuated when a banner was spotlighted that will hang permanently at the arena. It read: “Pam Shriver, July 13, 2002, International Hall of Fame.”

“It’s a big surprise to me,” Shriver said. “A banner is extraordinary in an individual sport like tennis.”

In conjunction with that honor, a proclamation from Mayor Martin O’Malley’s office designated yesterday as Pam Shriver Day in Baltimore.

“I can’t believe this is in the 17th year,” Navratilova said. “If she [Shriver] doesn’t do anything the rest of her life after raising over $3 million, she’s done her part.”