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Tennis : Connors Turns Down an Invitation to Play on the U.S. Davis Cup Team

July 12, 1987|Lisa Dillman

U.S. Davis Cup captain Tom Gorman had one question for the questioner.

"Do you want the team alphabetically? . . . Paul Annacone, Ken Flach, John McEnroe, Tim Mayotte and Robert Seguso. Or, should Mayotte come before McEnroe."

Well, let's make it easier. How about in order of ranking? John McEnroe, Tim Mayotte, Robert Seguso, Paul Annacone and Ken Flach.

Either way, two conclusions--neither of which are surprising--immediately come to mind.

First, no matter how the team is ordered we aren't going to see the name Jimmy Connors on it. Tennis fans had their hopes raised, falsely, after Connors' semifinal finish at Wimbledon.

And why not? Since Connors had saved U.S. tennis in a stirring performance at Wimbledon, it was ventured he might be willing to try to pull of a repeat performance across the Atlantic, in Hartford, Conn., on July 24-26. No chance. Gorman and Connors talked. And that was that.

"How should I say this? . . . He declined the invitation," Gorman said. "It's hard to say exactly why. It was probably a lot of reasons, and I think it finally came down to scheduling."

Secondly, for the first time, in quite some time, the names of the clay-dust twins Aaron Krickstein and Jimmy Arias are absent. There was no way the duo would appear on the fast, indoor Supreme Court surface. After all, Krickstein and Arias are a big part of the reason the United States has been relegated to, well, the relegation round.

By losing to Paraguay in March, the United States was forced into this consolation match against West Germany. And if the United States loses here, it's goodby to Sweden and Australia--and hello to Canada, Colombia, Cuba and Chile. Relegation-round losers face the prospect of spending 1988 in zone competition, playing for the right to return to the main draw in 1989.

Gorman has had the unfortunate task of captaining Davis Cup matches with less than the best teams possible. Now, for the first time, he can look over and see John McEnroe on his side. And, here's another first: Gorman can finally play a home match.

"With the exception of John McEnroe, this will be the first time all of us involved have played a Davis Cup match in the U.S," Gorman said of the other four players. "We're really looking forward to the crowd being 100% behind us for a change. . . . We've had some tough times."

Add Davis Cup: Rarely has a relegation tie received so much national and international attention. USTA spokesman Ed Fabricius said the organization has issued 164 credentials--which includes photographers and television--for the event. Forty to 50 West German journalists will cover the matches.

It will be the second-largest media delegation for a U.S. Davis Cup event, just behind the 1981 final against Argentina in Cincinnati. The United States defeated Argentina, 3-1, as John McEnroe dropped just one set in two singles matches.

Pat Cash's first U.S. appearance since his Wimbledon victory will be at the Hartmarx tennis tournament at John Wayne Tennis Club in Newport Beach, July 30-Aug. 2. Cash is flying to Los Angeles one day after Australia's quarterfinal Davis Cup match against Mexico so that he can make a tournament press conference and appear on the Johnny Carson show.

Team Estep has suddenly turned into a limited partnership. Mike Estep, the former coach of Martina Navratilova, had entered an arrangement to work with Carling Bassett, Elise Burgin and Stephanie Rehe after he split with Navratilova.

The four were supposed to train together and attend the same tournaments. But Rehe has been sidelined with a pulled stomach muscle and most likely won't return to competitive action until later this summer. Bassett and Estep decided to split during Wimbledon. Bassett has rapidly slipped in the rankings, dropping from No. 15 in February 1986 to No. 20 last January to her current spot of No. 32.

The $75,000 Virginia Slims of San Diego features a new site and a much stronger field.

This year, the tournament is at the San Diego Tennis and Racquet Club, Aug. 3-9. Right now, Lori McNeil (No. 11) is the highest-ranked player entered. McNeil was born in San Diego and spent part of her childhood there when her dad, Charlie, played for the Chargers.

Other top players entered include Kate Gompert (No. 18), Raffaella Reggi (No. 19), Melissa Gurney (No. 21) and Rosalyn Fairbank (No. 23).

A week later, the tour moves up the coast to Manhattan Beach for the $250,000 Slims of Los Angeles, Aug. 10-16. Defending champion Navratilova heads the field, which also includes Helena Sukova, Claudia Kohde-Kilsch, Pam Shriver and Gabriela Sabatini.

Tennis Notes

Debbie Graham (Fountain Valley), Cinda Gurney (Palos Verdes) and Noelle Porter (San Clemente) have been named to the USTA Junior Wightman Cup 18-and-under team, and Kimberly Po (Rolling Hills) was selected for the 16-and-under team. Both groups will compete in national junior tournaments throughout the summer. USC's Stephanie Harges (Sherman Oaks) and California's Karen Shin (Woodland Hills) were named to the USTA Junior Federation Cup team. As members of the 11-player group, Harges and Shin will play in selected professional and amateur tournaments. Harges finished the collegiate season ranked No. 15, while Shin was No. 20. Other members include Lisa Green of Stanford and Monique Javer of San Diego State.

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