Borg to Make Strings Debut : TeamTennis: He is one of five former top players in the league this season. L.A. will play Sacramento at the Forum tonight.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In World TeamTennis--where reputation merges harshly with reality--the divergent paths of several legends are sure to cross this summer.

That's a given, whether that means Jimmy Connors of the Phoenix Smash against the Strings' Bjorn Borg--a traveling soul still searching for the efficient two-handed backhand he apparently misplaced when he quit in 1982.

Or a matchup of Atlanta's Martina Navratilova and Tracy Austin, who is playing for Raleigh as part of another comeback after the previous one was foiled by an auto accident.

Or tonight's matchup of Connors and New Jersey star Mats Wilander--whose career includes seven Grand Slam titles, but more important, knee surgery in 1991.

It is called Team Tennis, but individuals get top billing, especially if they are in the twilight of brilliant careers.

The 13th season of TeamTennis, which opens tonight in four cities, including Los Angeles, is a backdrop for a Legends Tour consisting of players who used to be No. 1.

Such as Wilander.

"I think people are more interested in watching great players play bad tennis, than good players playing good tennis," Wilander joked during a conference call Tuesday.

Wilander, who says he is not making a comeback, is one of five league players who have combined for 46 Grand Slam titles.

All five have been ranked No. 1.

And all five will be paid undisclosed salaries, besides any prize money they might win.

Those five will be among 48 players, on 12 teams, competing for $720,000 in prize money during a five-week season.

Borg, 37, who has won 11 Grand Slam titles, is playing his first season of TeamTennis since the league was restructured in 1981.

Wilander, 28, is another newcomer.

"It's a good opportunity to play a lot of matches in a short period of time," Wilander said.

"I think it's going to be very competitive."

Austin, 30, who won 29 singles titles, will be playing her second season after a stint with the Stars in 1989 was cut short because of injury.

Navratilova, 36, ranked No. 4 in the world, led the Atlanta Thunder to its second consecutive title last season.

She will go for the three-peat in this, her fourth season.

Connors, 40, who played for the Strings last season, moved to the Smash because the league wanted its top-drawing player to get more exposure.

In return, the Strings were given a first-round draft pick and selected Borg.

He will be joined by String player-coach Larry Stefanki, Kimberly Po and Robin White. The team will play host to the Sacramento Capitals at 7 tonight at the Forum.

Outnumbered by the legends, but not overlooked, are the teen-agers: Iva Majoli, 16; Julie Steven, 16, and Lindsay Davenport, 17.

The Croatian-born Majoli, ranked 40th in the world, will play for the Florida Twist. Steven will play for Wichita, and Davenport, ranked 25th, will play for the Capitals.

Davenport will team with 26th-ranked Patty Fendick, and the world's sixth-ranked doubles tandem of Steve DeVries and David MacPherson.

The Capitals, who handed Atlanta its only defeat last season, are expected to challenge the Thunder for the title.

Two teams from last season, the Vail Eagles and Tampa Bay Action, were unable to attract a strong fan base and withdrew from the league.

They were replaced by the Twist, based in Bradenton, Fla., the Minnesota Penguins and the Kansas City Explorers.

The league's other noteworthy players include Zina Garrison-Jackson of Newport Beach, the 1990 Wimbledon finalist; Lori McNeil and Ken Flach.

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