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Tennis : Gorman Has Four in Mind for Davis Cup

When Tom Gorman, the U.S. Davis Cup coach, learned that his team had drawn Paraguay in a first-round match, he knew what he would do. He would phone the Gang of Four.

“The first four calls I’m going to make are to John McEnroe, Andre Agassi, Robert Seguso and Ken Flach,” Gorman said. “The ideal situation is to have the same players the year around.”

And if McEnroe, Agassi, Seguso and Flach decide they will play?

“Then I think we’ve got a very good chance of winning the Davis Cup,” he said.

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Gorman hopes he won’t get busy signals. This was the U.S. Davis Cup team that defeated Argentina in July and Gorman wants to bring it back intact next year.

“Right now, the players are getting the schedules set, getting their commitments together,” Gorman said. “I’ve got to think they’ll be able to play (Davis Cup) next year. Since we played in Argentina in July, I’ve had no indication that these guys would not be available.”

Ah, Argentina. No more of that, please--no more zone play, the minor leagues to which the U.S. team was relegated after losing to Paraguay and West Germany in 1987.

With victories over Peru and Argentina this year, the United States earned a return to the Davis Cup main draw, the 16-nation elite World Group, and will play a first-round home match Feb. 3-5 against the Paraguayans.

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“We’ll definitely be favored,” Gorman said.

If the United States wins, it will either play in Israel or have a home match against France.

Last year’s winner, Sweden, which meets West Germany in this year’s final in Goteborg, Sweden, Dec. 15-18, opens 1989 with a home match against Italy. Sweden will run up against either Australia or Austria in next year’s second round, scheduled April 7-9.

Sweden and the United States could not meet before the finals.

A record 79 nations will take part in 1989 with total prize money of $1,284,837. The winning team will collect $218,500 and the runner-up $109,250. For the United States, regaining its prestige is worth more than that.

The United States Tennis Assn. will decide where the first-round Davis Cup match against Paraguay will be played, and Gorman said there is a chance it may be in the Palm Springs area. “But it’s too early to know,” he said. “My first choice is on a cement court.”

Gordon Jurgensen, USTA president, said the venue will be decided after it is put up for bids among 15 or 20 cities.

Gorman may be hoping that Agassi has call-forwarding. Agassi is in Hong Kong, where he is playing in the Marlboro Tennis Championships, a $200,000, 16-player exhibition. Among the competitors were Michael Chang, who lost his first-round match to Stefan Edberg, and Olympic gold medalist Miloslav Mecir, who defeated Agassi Saturday.

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Agassi, who hasn’t played a Grand Prix tournament since he lost to Mikael Pernfors in the final of the Volvo/Los Angeles 3 weeks ago, pulled out of last week’s event in Basel, Switzerland. Unless he changes his mind again, Agassi has no other Grand Prix events scheduled before the Nabisco Masters begins Nov. 28.

Agassi defeated Edberg earlier this week in an exhibition in Beijing, China. It was the first time any of the world’s top players had appeared in China since Jimmy Connors played in a Grand Prix event in Canton in 1980.

More Agassi: What is the reason for his popularity? Agassi has said that in his opinion, it can be explained in two words: “My shorts.”

There was a recent rumor that Agassi was switching from denim shorts to polyester, but apparently there’s not a thread of truth to it. According to Peter Kolsky, the product line manager for tennis apparel at Nike, Agassi’s shorts will continue to be made of cotton. It’s Agassi’s shirts that are going to be polyester.

“A blend, actually, of polyester and cotton,” Kolsky said.

Two years ago, 14-year-old Frank Salazar had a roommate the same age at a USTA training camp. His name was Michael Chang.

Chang is now one of the brightest young tennis stars as a pro. And Salazar?

“I want to become a professional,” he said. “That was my goal since I first picked up a racket when I was a little-bitty kid.”

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Salazar, who lives in Glendale, is probably like many of the other top junior players at the USTA’s training camp that is winding up today at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage. The country’s top 32 juniors were tutored by a coaching staff that included Stan Smith and USTA national coaches Tom Gullikson, Brian Gottfried, Nick Saviano, Lynn Rolley and Benny Sims.

Sims said the emphasis was on match strategy, not playing matches.

“We like to take the pressure off 32 of the best kids in the country,” Sims said. “Most of the time, they meet each other on the court and it’s tense. Here, it’s different.”

Somebody to watch in the future? Maybe Laxmi Poruri, a 17-year-old from Upland, the national 18-and-under girls champion. Poruri has a two-handed backhand and can slice with one hand. A baseline player, Poruri is a fluid player with a good match temperament, Sims said.

Tennis Notes

Champions in the ninth U.S. Open Wheelchair tournament, which included 250 athletes from the United States and 10 other countries, will be decided today at the Racquet Club in Irvine. The National Foundation of Wheelchair Tennis was formed in 1980 and is endorsed by the United States Tennis Assn. and the Southern California Tennis Assn.

Buff Farrow and Brian Garrow of UCLA, John Carras of USC and Greg Failla of Cal State Long Beach will be playing in the singles competition at the Volvo Tennis/Collegiate championships in Athens, Ga., Thursday through Sunday. The 32-player field is chosen by the National Tournament Committee of the Intercollegiate Tennis Coaches Assn. and represents the top players from each of the ITCA’s eight national regions. Former winners include Scott Davis, Peter Doohan, Mikael Pernfors and Richey Reneberg.

John McEnroe is leaving Malibu for Florence, Italy, where he is playing in an exhibition next Sunday. Mats Wilander is also playing. Wilander recently won the Sicilian Championships in Palermo--the first tournament played by the Swede since he became the No. 1-ranked player in the world by defeating Ivan Lendl in the U.S. Open final.

California-born Monique Javer will compete for Britain and against the United States in next month’s Wightman Cup. Javer, 21, who was born in Burlingame, Calif., but has an English mother, will team with Jo Durie, Sara Gomer, Julie Salmon and Clare Wood against an American squad consisting of Zina Garrison, Lori McNeil, Gigi Fernandez, Mary Joe Fernandez and Betsy Nagelsen. The event will be Nov. 3-5 at Albert Hall.

How is Tracy Austin’s comeback progressing? Austin is playing only doubles, but last week she teamed with Stephanie Rehe and beat Fernandez and Robin White, the U.S. Open doubles champions, at the Virginia Slims of New Orleans. . . . Country music singer Kenny Rogers and his wife, Marianne, have been chosen to receive the fourth annual ITCA’s J.D. Morgan Award for their contributions to college tennis. The Rogerses, residents of Athens, Ga., financed the construction of the Collegiate Tennis Hall of Fame at the University of Georgia campus. Stan Smith, Arthur Ashe and Jack Kramer have been honored in previous years.

Four more have qualified for the 16-player Virginia Slims championship tournament, Nov. 14-20 at Madison Square Garden: Pam Shriver, Helena Sukova, Natalia Zvereva and Garrison. Already in the field were Steffi Graf, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Gabriela Sabatini.


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