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TENNIS WOMEN AT SAN DIEGO : Seles Feels No Pain Against Shriver

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Monica Seles, the real thing, showed up on time and played her match at the La Costa Resort and Spa on Tuesday night. Those in the crowd of 4,050 had to pay attention, though, or they would have missed her.

Seles, the No. 1-ranked women’s player in the world, quickly disposed of Pam Shriver, 6-2, 6-2, in her first sanctioned match since winning the French Open on June 8.

There has been plenty of attention focused on Seles in the past month, but not much of it has been on her tennis. She skipped Wimbledon and didn’t explain her absence for weeks. Shin splints, she finally said. She skipped the Federation Cup, pleading injury, but managed to play in an exhibition in Mahwah, N.J., the same week.

At a Mahwah news conference, she appeared with a T-shirt with the words “Rome,” “Paris,” “Wimbledon” and “Mahwah” on it. “Wimbledon” was crossed off.

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And then she hung out with Donald Trump.

Tuesday, though, the focus returned to her game. Playing without tape or any other protective equipment on her shins, she broke Shriver on three of Shriver’s first four service games, and on six of eight overall. She had three aces.

The most telling point in the match came at the end of the seventh game in the second set, which Seles won to go ahead, 5-2. On the last point, Shriver’s return set Seles up for an easy slam. Shriver was already near the net. Seles approached.

Shriver covered her head and ducked while the ball sped past.

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“In order to stay even with Monica over an hour of play and two sets, you need four-fifths of the breaks to go your way,” Shriver said. “I didn’t have that. . . .

“She gets to the ball very quickly, moves forward and takes the ball early. That’s very impressive.”

Despite Seles’ No. 1-ranking, though, Shriver doesn’t think that Seles is unbeatable.

“I don’t think she’s really dominating now,” Shriver said. “I don’t think she’s dominating the way Steffi (Graf) dominated in 1987, 1988 and part of 1989, or the way Martina (Navratilova) did in 1982, 1983, 1984 and part of 1985.

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“I don’t think people see her right now as dominating.”

Seles said she thought of canceling her appearance here this week because of her shin problem.

“I’ll stay as long as I can hold out,” Seles said after Tuesday’s match. “So we’ll see.

“I made a decision not to play if I was hurt, but right now it’s fine. I practiced last week the hardest I ever did because I knew I had to make up for five weeks.”

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She was pleased with her game against Shriver, saying she felt in control the entire way.

But dominating? Shriver said no, and Seles was inclined to agree.

“I’m not expecting myself to win the tournament this week,” Seles said. “I take it one match at a time and I never expect to win. If it happens, great. If it doesn’t, you always learn more when you lose.

“But I think I’m playing good tennis.”

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Tennis Notes

Miami lawyer Ellis Rubin obtained a temporary restraining order against Peter Graf, father of Steffi, and Michael Graf, brother of Steffi, in San Diego Superior Court Tuesday morning on behalf of Jim Levee, 52, and his companion, Jill Genson, 39. Levee and Genson claim Peter Graf was abusive to them at the French Open because they were cheering for an opponent of Steffi’s and that Michael Graf was abusive to them at Wimbledon. Levee says Peter Graf punched him on the top of the head at the French Open.

Aside from Monica Seles, the highest-ranked player to play Tuesday was No. 24 Lori McNeil, who defeated Japan’s Naoko Sawamatsu, 3-6, 6-1, 6-1. McNeil has won two titles this year (Denver and Japan Open) to match her best years (1986 and 1988). She has now played Sawamatsu twice in her career--McNeil also beat her at Wimbledon this year, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2. As for why McNeil had difficulty with Sawamatsu in the first set, McNeil said, “She hit some balls really soft, and I had a tendency to rush and overhit.”

Gigi Fernandez and Jana Novotna, the top doubles tandem on the tour, have split, according to Fernandez. Novotna is No. 1 in the current point standings, and Fernandez is the No. 1-ranked female doubles player in the world. . . . Erika De Lone of Lincoln, Mass., was defeated by Debbie Graham of Fountain Valley, 6-1, 6-0. Forgive De Lone if she is a bit preoccupied these days--she will be leaving the women’s pro tour this fall to attend Harvard. De Lone was accepted into Harvard last year but decided she first wanted to spend a year on the tour. . . . Sportscasters Dick Enberg and Jim Laslavic will play in an exhibition with wheelchair players Brad Parks and Dan Lachman Thursday at 8:30 p.m. on Center Court at La Costa. Parks, 34, is ranked No. 1 in the world in doubles and No. 3 in singles. Lachman, 32, is No. 2 in doubles and No. 7 in singles in the United States. . . . Seven winners of more than $1 million in their careers are playing at La Costa this week: Pam Shriver ($4,410,908), Zina Garrison ($2,984,128), Monica Seles ($2,838,841), Claudia Kohde-Kilsch ($2,107,248), Manuela Maleeva-Fragniere ($2,092,882), McNeil ($1,522,604) and Ros Fairbank-Nideffer ($1,300,208).

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