With most Parisians not working because of the general strike by France's major unions, a large and colorful crowd paraded out to Stade Roland Garros today for an early glimpse of the French Open tennis championships.
The throng saw Harold Solomon of Silver Spring, Md., runner-up to Adriano Panatta here last year in Europe's most prestigious clay court championship, defeat John Feaver, a reserve who aspires a playing postion on the British Davis Cup team, 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-2.
No. 1-seeded Ilie Nastase was uninspired but as effective as he had to be in beating Lito Alvarez, 7-6, 6-3, 6-2, and Frenchman Francois Jauffret overcame a two-set deficit to beat Frank Gebert in the other features.
Nastase, the champion here in 1973 was extened to 6-6 in the first-set the breaker, but after winning it, 8-6, he pulled away from Alvarez, a thoughtful, 28-year-old Argentine Davis Cup player who studied film-making at UCLA.
Jauffret, 35, a tennis player-businessman who has twice reached the semifinals and is very popular here, started like the part-time professional he is but stirred the crowd as he came back to win, 2-6, 0-6, 6-2, 7-6, 6-2.
There was supposed to be no public transportation today, but some Metro lines and buses and most taxis operated. "Wouldn't you know it?" muttered an Englishman who had braced for a long walk to Roland Garros but took the Metro as usual. "They can't even organize a bloody strike properly over here."
No matter. After months of unseaonably chilly and raw weather, spring has sprung in Paris.
Although a thunderstorm did develop at nightfall, suspending the match between Fred McNair IV of Chevy Chase, Md., and Jurgen Fassbender with Fassbender leading, 6-4, 3-2, most of today's matches were played in glorious sunshine, with just enough breeze to rustle the chestnut trees.
"The weather and strike have helped us," said the tournament director Pierre Darmon as he battled his way through a mob on the main concourse of Roland Garros, where groundsman Robert Grignard's flower beds were in full bloom. More than 12,000 people wandered around the nine courts and gloriously landscaped walkways of this garden spot of international tennis.
Darmon was headed for the press center, where he announced that trans-sexual Renee Richards had withdrawn after being informed of the results of a sex test administered Monday at the same Paris hospital where olympic athletes are given chromosome tests.
Darmon said that, as a matter of medical ethics, the results were a private matter between Richards and the physician who administered the test, but that she had withdrawn and would have no further comment. The French tennis federation had accepted her entry, conditional on her passing the standard Olympic test. Presumably, she failed.
Spectators watching Solomon's match had to be more attentive than usual because the electric scoreboards and the umpire's microphone were incapacitated by the strike of utility workers.
Roland Garros, like most of the city, was without electricity until late afternoon. Players found their way around darkened dressing rooms with flashlights and candles and were thankful for hot water in the showers, but most of the women and some of the men were upset that they could not use their hair dryers.
Solomon's victory was a classic example of a little guy who is in his element on slow clay courts beating a big guy who isn't.
Feaver is a sturdy 6-foot-2 1/2, 185-pounder who served 42 aces in losing a five-setter to John Newcombe at Wimbledon last year. He can trouble anyone on fast courts with his powerful serve and volley but is only beginning to learn the patience that clay court tennis demands.
Solomon, 5-6 and 138 pounds, won almost all the backcourt rallies. He is comfortable digging in the red dust here, whereas Feaver had constant problems with his footing, as unsure as young Bambi trying to scamper on ice.
Solomon, keeping his serve deep and well-placed, was in control the first two set, losing his serve only once in each, after building 5-2 and 4-2 leads. Feaver butchered backhands to lose his serve for both sets.
Solomon teed off on Feaver's short, high-bouncing second serves and puzzled him with soft, sharply angled shots. He also exploded some outright winners from the baseline and hit some sizzling passing shots.
Feaver, the power of his serve blunted by the surface, made so many unforced errors that he several times dropped his racket in disgust. He also slipped repeatedly, and by the end of two sets had large red clay stains on his right shoulder and thigh.
Solomon lost his serve in the first game of the third set, but led, 3-2, after winning 12 straight points. As he tired, though, his serve got shorter, and Feaver was able to pounct on them and follow his returns to the net for winning volleys.
Feaver, playing his most aggressive tennis, ran the last three games of the third set. But after the 15-minute intermission, Solomon, showered and refreshed, looked stronger again and started hitting out on his returns.
He broke in the first game of the fourth set, which Feaver considered vital. "If I had held in that game," he said, "he might have gotten a little defensive again and I could have attacked him. Instead, he got more confident."
"I feel fine off the court now, and it's just a matter of getting a little more stamina and match toughness," said Solomon, the No. 7 seed, who is regaining his strength after a bout with a mysterious virus that caused a liver disfunction.
Solomon, 24, was out of action four weeks and did not touch a racket for three, resuming practice two weeks ago and cmpetition last wek at a tournament in Dusseldorf, Germany, where he lost in the second round to Ivan Molina.