Thursday, August 05, 1999

Women's debut spices up ATP seniors draw tonight


Men looking forward to extra competition

BY DAVE SCHUTTE
Enquirer contributor

        The only concern Owen Davidson takes into tonight's Great American Insurance Seniors Tennis Championship is understandable.

        “The women will have a lot to say about how the tournament turns out,” said the 56-year-old Davidson, a Melbourne, Australia, native.

AT A GLANCE
  • What: Great American Insurance Seniors Championship
  • When: 7 tonight, Friday and Saturday
  • Where: ATP Tennis Center, Mason
  • Format: Three mixed doubles matches today and Friday; third-place and championship matches Saturday
  • Admission: $8 tonight, Friday; $12 Saturday
  • Prize money: $24,000 to winning team; $20,000 to runner-up
  • Tonight's matches:
  Fernandez/Stockton vs. Whitlinger Jones/Solomon
  Grossman/Stolle vs. Rinaldi/Riessen
  Garrison/Gottfried vs. Seguso/Davidson
        “One or two of the girls could come out of the box and dominate. But the most important thing is for the fans to enjoy it and the players to have fun.”

        Three mixed doubles matches tonight at the ATP Tennis Center in Mason highlight the first day of the annual Seniors Tournament that concludes Saturday with the championship.

        Six women were invited for the first time, in an effort to create more interest in the Seniors event.

        Davidson, the winner of 11 Grand Slam doubles championships (nine mixed), was paired with Canadian Carling Bassett Seguso, who resides in Del Ray Beach, Fla.

        “I teamed with Billie Jean King and won four Wimbledons, three U.S. Opens and one French Open championship,” Davidson said.

        “In 1997, I was looking for a partner at Wimbledon and was asked if I wanted to play with Billie Jean. Normally, an Australian wouldn't play with an American, but I decided to do it.”

        The male-female teams were determined by a blind draw Wednesday. The two teams with the best records advance to the championship.

        Hana Mandlikova withdrew with an injury. She was replaced by Ann Grossman, a native of Grove City, Ohio, and the 1985 Class AAA state high school champion.

        Other teams entered are Ann Grossman/Fred Stolle; Zina Garrison/Brian Gottfried; Tami Whitlinger Jones/Harold Solomon; Gigi Fernandez/Dick Stockton and Kathy Rinaldi/Marty Riessen.

        “I think inviting the women was a good idea,” Stockton said. “The men won't have to make any adjustments, because the women always hold their own.”

        Whitlinger Jones, a former NCAA doubles champion and touring professional who lives in Mason, is excited about playing competitive tennis again.

        But she is also out to have some fun.

        “There should be a lot of intermingling with the fans,” Jones said. “Gigi has a great following, and Kathy knows how to captivate the crowd.”

        Steve Contardi, a professional at Four Seasons Racket Club, pointed to Garrison/Gottfried and Fernandez/Stockton as the best teams.

        Those two powers meet Friday.

        The format for tonight's and Friday's matches is one pro set (first team to win eight games and win by two), with Saturday's third-place and championship matches the best of three sets.

ATP turns Mason into a mecca
Where to see a tennis star



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