Brian Fairlie, 28 and a family man now, admits that he is tiring of the nomadic life of the pro tennis circuit. "I'd rather hunt and fish," he said yesterday, "but you have to work, don't you?"
The easy-going and good-humored New Zealander beat qualifier Zan Guerry, 6-3, 7-6, in the first round of the $100,000 Volvo Classic at George Washington University's Smith Center. Meanwhile, most of the big game and fancy fish in this 32-man Grand Prix event had the day off.
Fairlie, a semifinalist in singles and doubles at the Washington Star International last July, was broken as he served for the match at 6-5 in the second set, but won the ensuing tio breaker, 7 points to 0.
Fairlie, No. 8, was the only one of the eight seeds who saw action in yesterday's opening matinee session.
Top seed Bjorn Borg, the 20-year-old Wimbledon champion who will be making his Washington debut, was en route from a Grand Prix tournament in South Africa to Cleveland. He will give depositions there, then fly here Wednesday morning for his rounder against Hank Pfister that night.
Borg, his Cleveland-based agents, and Grand Prix sponsor Colgate-Palmolive are being sued for $5.7 million in damages by World Championship Tennis, which charges that Borg reneged on a commitment to play its World Series of Tennis to complete in the rival Grand Prix.
No. 3 seed Brian Gottfried and No. 4 Roscoe Tanner, who played on the U.S. team that blanked Australia, 7-0, in the World Cup at Hartford over the weekend, begin play today against Ross Case and Tomaz Koch, respectively.
No. 2 and Raul Ramirez was scheduled to play a late match last night.
Fairlie, who is still bothered by an oft-aggravated left ankle that he injured originally in World Team Tennis two years ago, was not particularly sharp, but he waited out his opportunities to go to the net and then attacked.
He had never before played Guerry, who used to be the best player in Lookout Mountain, Tenn. That was until Tanner, a native of the same Chattanooga suburb but three years younger than the 28-year-old Guerry, started blasting his big lefthanded serves.
Guerry shovels his two-fisted backhand, tries to run around it and hit his potent forehand whenever possible, and prefers to stay in the backcourt. Fairlie rallied with him patiently, played to the backhand, and went in when he hit good approaches.
Guerry blasted a backhand crosscourt return winner at 30-40 to break Fairlie when he served for the match, but steered a forehand volley wide on the first point of the tie breaker and collapsed thereafter.
Fairlie played well here last summer to reach the semis against Ramirez, then "fell in a big heap," to use his phrase.He recalls taking some pills to kill the pain of an ailing back and "played the match feeling as if I had gulped three martinis."
After leaving Washington he played well enough the rest of the summer, and especially on the fall Asian circuit, to climb to his current No. 32 position in the computer rankings of the Association of Tennis Professionals.
"It's a new and pleasant experience getting seeded every week," he said, referring to the exalted status his rise on the computer list has given him. "Last week, in Hampton, Va., I was seeded No. 2. People were coming up and calling me 'Mr. Fairlie.'"
Fairlie also played well enough in doubles last season to reach the Grand Prix Masters playoff with Egyptian Ismail El Shafei, who will be his host next week at the Cairo Open.
After the Masters, he took time off to hunt and fish in the bush rear his hometown of Taupo, in New Zealand's beautiful lake and resort country. One day he caught 11 rainbow trout, averaging five pounds, in two hours. Another day, he and a friend shot 55 goats, which he says "are just vermin there. There's no limit on them."
"My wife knows how much I love hunting and fishing," he said. "She's very understanding. She understands that if she says anything, I'll leave her."
And yet it is the desire to spend more time with his wife Liz and their 21-month-old son Curtis that has Fairlie pondering retirement after this year to devote full time to the TV sales business he now runs with his father.
"The circuit is getting to me after 13 years," he said. "I'm thinking of leaving it to the young guys who like to run all day."
Several played yesterday, George Hardie ousted Nick Saviano, 6-4, 7-5, in the opening match, pairing lefthanded qualifiers.
In another all-lefty duel, Victor Amaya, a 6-5 1/2 giant with a thundering serve who lost in Sunday's qualifying but got in as a "lucky loser," defeated 17-year-old Tim Wilkison, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
The quick and athletic Wilkison, billed as the best high school player in the U.S., is a determined scrambler with great potential, but he was ultimately overanxious on the most critical points. He punched volleys long on the break points that cost him the last two sets after he had the lumbering Amaya on the ropes.