LONDON – ESPN analyst Pam Shriver enjoyed success on all the world’s most famous tennis courts, including Wimbledon, where she is working this week and next for ESPN’s extensive coverage.
But for many reasons, competing in the Pan Am Games – the 2015 edition of which airs on ESPN platforms July 10-26 from Toronto – remain one of her most special memories from her lifetime in the sport.
She had represented her country many times in Fed Cup, plus the 1988 Olympics in Seoul where she won gold in doubles, pairing with Zina Garrison. And for someone born on the Fourth of July, representing the United States has always been very meaningful to her.
But to do so in Fidel Castro’s Communist Cuba in the 1991 Pan Am Games, the role was all the more significant.
“I have great memories of the Pan Am Games. . .the athletes’ village, touring Havana, and, of course, winning the Gold in all three events – singles, doubles and mixed doubles,” she told Front Row. “I had loved competing in Seoul and chose to skip some summer events with prize money in order to replicate that Olympic-style event. As it turns out, it was the last singles championship in my career.”
Four years earlier in Indianapolis, a young Patrick McEnroe took Pan Am Games gold in doubles with his future ESPN colleague Luke Jensen. McEnroe would go on to represent his country in Davis Cup – as both a player and for 10 years as captain (winning the championship in 2007) – and as Team USA’s coach in the 2004 Athens Olympics. But this experience, coming during his accomplished college career at Stanford (where he was a three-time All-American and on two NCAA championship teams), made a strong impact.
“Wearing the red, white and blue, and the first time you hear, ‘Game, USA,’ it hits you,” he recalled from Wimbledon. “Then Luke and I won – ironically, we had been partners often but at the time were college rivals with Luke at USC – and you stand on the podium and they play the national anthem …There’s nothing better than representing your country.”
International competitions also have provided McEnroe with a taste of what he liked in other sports he played growing up, a team atmosphere.
“Tennis is an individual sport, but I loved my years at Stanford and in the Davis Cup for the camaraderie I had enjoyed playing soccer and baseball when I was young,” he said. “When tennis is a team sport, it’s the best of both worlds.”