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Gimmicky tennis showdown just for fun?; Retton boosts bowling

How important is the Aug. 23 battle-of-the-sexes doubles tennis match, the one that pits Vitas Gerulaitis and 1939 Wimbledon and US Open champion Bobby Riggs against Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver? The promoters are charging $25 to $150 to see it at an Atlantic City hotel, but to Shriver it's a ``fun challenge,'' not a title bout with a lot at stake. ``There's something just after it that is a lot more important in my mind, as well as Martina's and Vitas's,'' says Shriver, ``and that's the US Open. Priority-wise, getting ready for the Open comes first, so mainly we will be practicing our singles, with maybe a set or so of doubles.''

The timing of the match, Shriver believes, could mean there will be less pressure than if it were held in ``a nothing month like February,'' when there would be little in the way of competing tennis attractions. The famous Riggs-Billie Jean King match, incidentally, was played Sept. 20, 1973, with King winning in straight sets 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

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The inspiration for the latest challenge grew out of a post-match press conference at last year's US Open in which Gerulaitis said Navratilova couldn't beat the 100th ranked male player in singles.

Steve Flink, a columnist for World Tennis magazine, believes that as one of the premier women's doubles teams in the world, Shriver and Navratilova are risking too much by participating in this sideshow. ``As a longtime observer of the women's game, I'm worried about the possible repercussions of a Navratilova-Shriver defeat in Atlantic City,'' he writes. ``A loss, no matter how close, would be a considerable embarrassment.''

``I don't know what's going to happen, because it's hard to compare it to anything. There's no precedent,'' Shriver says. ``Vitas is obviously a lot stronger player than Martina and me, but we are stronger than Bobby.''

Gymnast Mary Lou Retton, America's sweetheart since winning the all-around Olympic gold last summer, is a busy young woman. Having quit training for awhile to fulfill various corporate commitments, she has no plans to compete in the immediate future, which means that she will miss the women's US Classic in Atlanta Aug. 22-24. That meet represents her last chance to make the American team for next November's world championships. Neither she nor Julianne McNamara, another Olympic star, is entered. The special significance of the world meet in Montreal is that, with the Soviets and East Germans participating, it's expected to boast a stronger field than last year's boycott-marred Olympics.

Mary Lou is still going full tilt, only when people see her now, it's likely to be in a commercial spot just filmed for the National Bowling Council. She is the sport's new spokesperson.

In explaining why Mary Lou was selected, Arnold Fogel, the council's president, said ``We wanted an individual who is contemporary, appeals to youth and adults, sets a fine example for the young people in our game through her high sense of commitment, and who is enduring and ascending in popularity.''

Retton is certainly all of those things, but one thing she hasn't been up to now is a bowler. She's just learning the game.

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As Lee Trevino gave chase to Hubert Green during last Sunday's final holes of the PGA Championship in Denver, lightning flashed in the distance. The dramatic backdrop, the TV announcers observed, may have made Trevino, who was once struck by lightning during the Western Open, especially keen to reach the clubhouse. Both golfers completed the round safely, with Green tapping in a short, victory-clinching putt during a cloudburst. As most golfers realize, summer thunderstorms can arrive in a hurry. When they do, the wisest place to be is usually the clubhouse or in a closed car, according to the Lightning Protection Institute.

If caught on the course, properly protected shelters can provide an adequate temporary haven. The institute offers the reminder, however, that lightning seeks out the tallest object in the area, whether a tree or a shelter. It's advisable, therefore, to stay away from lone trees, or to seek shelter under the smallest one in a grove. If caught in the open, stay as low as possible in a low spot. 30{et

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