Davenport, Seles commit to Shriver event

Over the years, Pam Shriver, Baltimore’s Hall of Fame tennis player, has brought the best players in the world to her hometown to play in her annual charity event at the Baltimore Arena.
This year, because of schedules that have committed many players to tournaments overseas, putting the 17th Chevy Chase Bank Tennis Challenge together really has been a challenge for Shriver. She received the final commitments in just the past few days.

But among players she will announce at a news conference today for the Dec. 10 event are two of the most admired women in the game – Lindsay Davenport and Monica Seles, both former No. 1 players in the world.

Seles is currently ranked No. 7, and Davenport, who returned to the game in August after missing most of the year after knee surgery, is No. 10.

“We are excited about the match we’ve put together,” Shriver said from her California home. “We were struggling for a long time. We pursued both men and women players. On the women’s side, we tried for the Williams sisters, Venus, Serena or both, and Jennifer Capriati, and on the men’s side we tried for [Andre] Agassi, [Andy] Roddick and [Pete] Sampras.”

At the same time, Shriver said she kept her eyes on Davenport and Seles, and when it became apparent that those first six players could not fit the Baltimore tournament into their schedules, she went hard after the two women who have bailed her out in the past.

Seles appeared here in 1990, 1996 and 1997. The last time, she was a late entry, stepping in for Steffi Graf, who backed out because of injury. It was a similar situation in 1998, when Davenport came to the rescue, when Graf was again hurt, this time the week before the event.

The arena crowd responded so warmly to Davenport, and she had such a good time, she came back again the next year.

Davenport finished last season at No. 1 before her surgery, and Seles continues to compete hard against those ranked above her.

“Both women are good citizens,” Shriver said. “They are something of a throwback. … They’re involved with the sport off the tennis court, and they care. Even though they are not linked to the Billie Jean King era, they certainly understand the role of tennis player beyond a tennis match, and I think Baltimore appreciates and responds to the kind of effort they give.”

Shriver will not be at today’s news conference. She has recently undergone a minor medical procedure that precludes travel for a few weeks. Shriver said she plans to be here for the tournament in December.

Over the past 16 years, the event has raised more than $3 million for children’s charities, through the Baltimore Community Foundation.