Women’s tennis legends return for PATF benefit

Women’s tennis star Pam Shriver visited the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force April 7 to promote the upcoming Virginia Slims Legends Tour.

The tour’s first visit to Pittsburgh last year raised over $26,000 for the PATF. Proceeds from this year’s two-day exhibition, held May 9 and May 10 at the Racquet Club of Pittsburgh in Monroeville, will again benefit the agency’s programs for individuals affected by HIV and AIDS.

Now in its fourth season, the Virginia Slims Legends Tour travels to six US cities and brings together 10 of the greatest players in the history of women’s tennis, including Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert, Billie Jean King, Evonne Goolagong, Shriver and others.

In partnership with the National AIDS Fund, the tour raises funds and increases awareness of HIV and AIDS in the six cities it visits. Since its inception in 1995, the tour has raised over $445,000.

A Baltimore native and part-owner of the Orioles Major League Baseball franchise, Shriver said she missed her team’s home opener to visit Pittsburgh and meet with PATF clients and volunteers. Shriver and teammate Wendy Turnbull held a free tennis clinic at the Greentree Racquet Club after visiting the Task Force offices.

Recalling last year’s stop by the tour in Pittsburgh, Shriver told Out, “We were blown away by the enthusiasm. We get really good crowds wherever we go, but there was something at that [Monroeville] club.

“The crowd was so pumped up,” Shriver continued. “Evonne [Goolagong] added to that because she played here and people remembered that.”

In the 1970s Goolagong played for the Pittsburgh Triangles of the defunct World Team Tennis league.

“It makes you realize that Pittsburgh is not a transient town,” added Shriver. “People have lived here for years and years and they remember their tennis team.”

Tennis superstar Billie Jean King, who visited the Task Force last year to promote the Legends Tour, will serve as coach for her teammates, the defending Diamond Cup champions Team Navratilova. King, who recently underwent successful reconstructive surgery to repair damage to her right shoulder, will return to action during the Virginia Slims Legends fall tour to celebrate the 25th anniversary of her historic “Battle of the Sexes” match against Bobby Riggs.

Tennis action begins at 7pm on May 9 and again at 1pm on May 10. A special “Salute the Stars” cocktail party held before play begins May 9 will include a silent auction featuring items donated by the players. Items to be auctioned include autographed tennis racquets, a hockey stick belonging to Mario Lemeiux and a variety of sports-related memorabilia.

The Virginia Slims Legends players will auction off their autographed warm-up jackets May 10. At last year’s event, Martina Navratilova’s jacket was sold for a high bid of $1,325.

PATF Director of Development Frank Leavens said he is “grateful to the athletes in general and to Philip Morris for making this opportunity possible to support the PATF.”

“There is so much work to be done,” Shriver added, “and I am pleased that we can bring some attention to the outstanding efforts being made by local HIV and AIDS agencies across the country.”

Reserved seat tickets for the Virginia Slims Legends Tour are $35 and box seats are $50 per day; tickets for both days are $60. For ticket information, call (412) 323-1919.

This article originally appeared in Pittsburgh’s Out. This article is preserved as a part of the Q Archives project. Please consider donating to help preserve Pittsburgh’s Queer history.