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San Diego Awarded Davis Cup : U.S. and France to Meet in April at Sports Arena

February 05, 1989|BILL DWYRE | Times Sports Editor

FT. MYERS, Fla. — In a year when interest in U.S. Davis Cup tennis is on the rise, San Diego has landed the rights to be the host city for the next round.

The United States Tennis Assn. announced here Saturday, shortly after Ken Flach and Robert Seguso won the clinching third point with their doubles victory over Paraguay, that the quarterfinal round of the World Group Draw would be played at the San Diego Sports Arena April 7-9. The opponent will be France, which also took a 3-0 decision Saturday, beating Israel at Tel Aviv. Had Israel won, the April 7-9 match would have been played at Israel.

The San Diego matchup should be an attractive one. France will probably bring Yannick Noah, Henri Leconte and Guy Forget to play against John McEnroe and Andre Agassi in singles and Flach and Seguso in doubles, making it a showdown of top international players.

Irv Grossman, a promoter who has dealt with the USTA on past Davis Cup competitions, worked with the Greater San Diego Sports Assn. to land the event for the city.

"Sure, we're happy it's here," Grossman said. "But it's more gratifying in the sense that San Diego has the opportunity to establish itself as a major, major site for a major, major tennis event. I felt it was time San Diego was a viable address for a significant tennis event, and it's significant in that it's the largest tennis event ever to be held in San Diego County."

The United States has fought its way into the main Davis Cup draw after slipping twice in 1987, at Paraguay and at Hartford, Conn., to West Germany. That meant that the United States had to win twice last year just to return to the bracket that leads to a shot at the Cup. And now, with Paraguay dispatched and France beatable--and with a team that captain Tom Gorman calls "the strongest we've had since I've been captain (four years)"--the United States suddenly appears a viable contender to win its 29th Davis Cup.

That makes the competition at San Diego a high-profile event, although its dates clash with the first week of the major league baseball season (the Padres are on the road that weekend) and the local LPGA tour event. San Diego outbid George Mason University of Fairfax, Va., the Princess Resort stadium at Scottsdale, Ariz., and the Rancho Bernardo Inn near San Diego.

According to Paul Navratil, director of tennis at Rancho Bernardo, the inn has bid on the Davis Cup for the past three years, and the feeling was that this would be the year it got it.

"I feel great for San Diego," Navratil said, "but disappointed that we weren't awarded it here. It's in April, it should be outdoors. No offense to the Sports Arena, but the Davis Cup has a certain amount of charm, that it should be outdoors."

Navratil said Rancho Bernardo's seating capacity is 7,000.

"I'm happy to see it (in San Diego)," Navratil said. "My interest is to promote tennis. I'm just disappointed we didn't get it. We were so close this year."

David Markin of Kalamazoo, Mich., incoming USTA president and chairman of the group's Davis Cup Committee, said here Saturday that San Diego was chosen because "it has great weather, it has been a number of years since we've had the Davis Cup in California and the tennis fans in California are tremendous."

Asked what "great weather" had to do with it, because the event will be played indoors in the Sports Arena, Markin said, "Well, there is great tennis atmosphere out there."

Grossman said that most of the Davis Cup matches are played indoors anyway and that the primary concern was capacity crowds, not whether it was held indoors or out.

"I just didn't think San Diego versus France should have 5,000 seats," said Grossman, who was told in November that the USTA would consider an indoor event.

Markin said the Sports Arena will be configured to seat 12,000. The Sonesta Sanibel Harbour Resort Stadium here, where the United States beat Paraguay, had a 5,500 seating cap.

The two most recent Davis Cup appearances in California by a U.S. team also have been in the San Diego area. The United States played Mexico in 1981 and India in 1982, both at La Costa Hotel & Spa.

Despite USTA urging, La Costa--a finalist for the competition against Paraguay--didn't bid on the April dates because the resort was booked.

"They asked us if we'd reconsider," said Nels Peterson, La Costa's tennis director, "but we couldn't."

The likelihood is that the United States will be playing for the right to meet Boris Becker and West Germany in West Germany in the semifinals, July 21-23.

Kim Q. Berkshire contributed to this story.

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