Sunday, August 08, 1999

Fernandez, Stockton win ATP Seniors

Organizers: New format successful

Enquirer contributor

        MASON — Gigi Fernandez got to take a victory lap around ATP Stadium on Saturday night — on a Mercedes bicycle.

        The bike was the prize for Fernandez, who teamed with Dick Stockton to capture the Great American Insurance ATP Seniors championship with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Kathy Rinaldi and Marty Riessen before a crowd of 7,854.

        “There was a lot of trash talk in the locker room about giving us the bikes before the match,” Fernandez said. “I felt some pressure early and didn't play well, but it all came together as the match went on.”

        After advancing to the championship Friday, Fernandez had expressed a strong desire for the bicycle and little interest in the $24,000 prize money shared by the winning team.

        Saturday's match was evenly played until Stockton and Fernandez broke serve to take a 4-3 lead. They then held serve before rain forced a 95-minute delay.

        After the break, Riessen struggled with a sore right knee, which enabled Fernandez and Stockton to dominate the second set, breaking out to a 3-0 lead.

        The 35-year-old Fernandez, who has lived in San Diego since retiring two years ago, hinted that golf may be her next endeavor.

        “Golf is such a frustrating sport, but I've gotten my handicap down to five,” Fernandez said. “There's so much more I want to accomplish in life, but I may decide to try it professionally.”

        Fernandez-Stockton was the only team to go undefeated in the seniors event, which was contested in mixed doubles for the first time this season.

        Zina Garrison and Brian Gottfried defeated Carling Bassett Seguso and Owen Davidson 8-4 to capture third place.

        HEAR THEM ROAR: The probability of the senior women returning in 2000 appears excellent.

        Tournament chairman Paul Flory gave a thumbs up when questioned about keeping the same format next year.

        “The whole thing looks very positive,” Flory said. “The women (players) love it and would like to return. My prediction is the women will be back.”

        To boost attendance for the seniors, Flory invited six recently retired women and paired them with senior men.

        Attendance was up slightly the first two nights, with 11,505 this year compared to 10,857 in 1998. Saturday's numbers were not available.

        Steve Contardi, announcer for Warner Amex, was skeptical about the format but was thrilled with the outcome.

        “The younger gals moved well and made the men go all out,” Contardi said. “The women also had the personalities to mix with the crowd.”


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