Bob Lutz moved into the semifinals of the $100,000 Volvo Classic yesterday, whipping John Whitlinger so decisively that he turned the match into a recital, a solo of tennis percussion.
"After awhile, I was just practicing may serve and ground strokes, staying back and seeing how hard I could hit the ball and keep it in," Lutz said after his 6-1, 6-0 victory, which required barely 50 minutes.
Lutz, who ran off the first five games of the match of and never showed any sign of difficulty, abandoned his usual serve-and-volley style to do some on-the-job experimentation. He whipped Whitlinger, the 1974 NCAA singles and doubles champ from Stanford, with ground strokes ripped deep and hard off both wings.
"I know I can volley. I just practicing my ground strokes. If it was a tight game. I'd come in and try and force the play, but if I was up 30-0 or so, I'd stay back," said Lutz, 29, who won the NCAA singles and doubles for Southern California in 1967, and the doubles the next year with longtime partner Stan Smith.
"I was just having fun out there, having fun pounding the ball."
It is not often that a player can afford the luxury of doing that in the quarterfinals of a Grand Priz tournament, but Lutz was on top of the ball and Whitlinger from the outset.
He lost only seven points on his serve - two in the first set, five in the second - and served nine aces.
Whitlinger won only 13 points in first set, six of thsoe in the sixth game, the only one he won.
The Neenah, Wis., native won 19 points in the second set, five of those in the first game and nine in the fifth, but he could not snag a game.
In another match last night, No. 3 seed Brian Gottfried defeated No. 5 seed Stan Smith, 6-1, 7-6.
In Saturday's semifinals, Gottfried will meet his doubles partner, Raul Ramirez, at 1 p.m. (WETA-TV Channed 26), and at 7 p.m. Lutz will play the winner of a match between Tom Gorman and Jeff Borowiak, who beat top-seeded Bjorn Borg, 6-1, 6-2, in the stunner of the tournament Thursday night.
"I was just hitting the ball super. I had a lot of sting on my serve and everyting was in the groove," said Lutz, the 1972 U.S. Pro champion who is working his way back to peak form after surgery on both knees in 1973 and 1974.
"I'm playing well right now. I'm in a good section of the draw and trying to make the most of it."
Whitlinger, who had not been in the quarterfinals of a tournament since the Japan Open in November, lost in the final qualifying round last weekend but got into the draw as a "lucker loser," taking the place of former Stanford teammate Roscoe Tanner, the No. 4 seed, who withdrew with bronchitis.
Whitlinger, who must have felt as if he was being run over by one of the trucks manufactured by the tournament sponsor, took the ignominious defeat philosophically.
"They guy just didn't miss a ball," he said. "I 'm not discouraged. This has still been my best week in quite awhile. I'm feeling great, and I don't think it's any embarrasment to lose that way to a guy who played as well as he did."
"John might have been a little nervous because he hadn't been in the quarters for awhile," siad Lutz. "He always seemed a step too late. I was clocking forehands, and he seemed to be sticking to the court. Ordinarily he's very fast.
"I lost to Borg, 6-1, 6-1, in Memphis a couple of weeks ago and I was the same way. I played awful. He got on top of me, and I seemed to be five inches away from every ball. It's funny how it happens. Tennis is different every day."
Lutz is fresh and eager, having taken last week off at his home in San Clemente to surf, play golf and lie in the sun.
This week he has done some weight training at the Regency Racquet Club in McLean to strengthen his left leg, the first such work he has done since his postoperative rehabilitation period.
"I just decided to try it because at Memphis my right leg felt weaker than the left one," Lutz explained. "I started lifting 20-pound weights and the right leg started feeling stronger.
"I'm going to call Carter Rowe (the Boston surgeon who perfomed hi soperations) and see if Ishould do exercises if the legs feel weak. I thought just running and playing tennis woudl be enough, but maybe not."