The young tennis pro looked at his wife and said, "What should I drink? Coke? Gatorade?" From her seat in the bleachers, she said something back, mouthing the words, and the pro sat at side-court for a rest at the change. He led four games to one, last set. And as he picked up his drink in a paper cup, Pat DuPre's hand trembled.
You may not know Pat DuPre. He's 23 years old, lean and handsome, on tour for the second full season. An All-America player at Stanford University, where his teams won two national championships, DuPre won $50,000 on tour last year. That isn't much in his world. It might cost half that just to get to the tournaments and pay the motel bills. By some accounts, Jimmy Connors won nearly $800,000 last year.
By simply qualifying to play both singles ans doubles in , say, 40 tour events a year - the qualifications are a stern test, by the way, based on the past season's results - a player is guaranteed nearly $50,000 in earnings. By losing in the first round in both singles and doubles in the Volvo Classic here this week, a man takes home $1,481.
So it's clear Pat DuPre doesn't win a match every week. If he did, his income would double. But there he was yesterday, ahead four games to one in the last set, and his opponent, Brian Teacher, was so off form he even had trouble tossing the ball up for his serve (four times in the last set, Teacher chose not to hit a toss)
DuPre's right hand, his racket hand, trembled as he set the paper cup down.It was time to play. With a towel, he rubbed the hand, drying each finger separately. Maybe no one noticed. For Jimbo and Guillermo, tens of thousands of people pay whatever it costs to watch them hit passing shots and adjust sweat bands. They can tell you the score when Gillermo poured ice water on his neck. Maybe none of the 400 customers at Smith Center saw Pat DuPre try to rub the trembles out of his racket hand.
Then, on Teacher's serve, Dupre was ahead, 15-40. Another point would give him a 5-1 lead in games. From there, a single game would bring a victory that would mean at least another $850 and points toward a season's end bonus. When you're 23 and you're not Jimbo, you're happy with small gains. DuPre has been playing tennis since his father taught him the game at age 10 in San Diego. He knows what he wants. And he knows what he can get.
"I want to make it to the top," he said yesterday. "I don't really think I can make it all the way to the top. But I can make it a helluva long way. I've beaten a lot o the top players and I think I'm capable of playing with those guys."
But not all the way?
"Connors and Violas and Borg. There's something about those three guys. They're headsabove everybody else. Jack Nicklaus doesn't do it anymore, but he used to be by far the best in golf. But these three guys, in tennis, they're more than Nicklaus ever was. I mean, he sometimes lost. If you put Connors, Vilas and Borg together in the same tournament and one of them doesn't win, it's a real shock."
DuPre has lost to all of them. He ranks Vilas third and says Connors and Borg would trade victories, depending on the surface. The three giants have been in one, losing last year's Mexican Open. Where Borg may be paid $50,000 to use a certain racket, DuPre gets nothing. "For shoes I get a couple thousand and for clothes I get something," he said.
He played in 41 tournaments last year. He's been in eight this year, even though he missed the last three weeks with the flu. The tournament here is his first back. He was feeling very tired and very weak and that's why his hand trembled, he said.
Sometimes, he said, his life is a blur. "I never know what day of the week it is," he said. "The only way I know what day it is, is that on Monday or Tuesday we play the first round of a new Tournament. My whole life is based on tournaments, not days of the week."
Needing only that single for a 5-1 lead. DuPre never score it. Teacher won the next three games to even the match, 4-4, in games in the last set. DuPre came back briefly for a 5-4 lead, but Teacher won the next three games. Down, 1-4 and 15-40, he had won six of the next seven games.
Somebody asked Pat DuPre what happened. "imissed shots and he didn't," DuPre said.
I'm tired, I'm reall tired," he said. "I'm just not in shape for this yet." DuPre said he would stay in Washington all week to practice, then go on to Dayton to do it all over again.