Rick Fagel, a 25-year-old Floridian who admits he has "no backhand at all," didn't need one yesterday afternoon as he upset third-seeded Harold Solomon in the second round of the $175,000 Washington Star International Tennis Tournament.
Fagel, ranked 99th on the ATP computer list, ran around one backhand after another and eventually wore the normally indefatigable Solomon down, 6-3, 2/6, 6/4, to the delight of a large portion of the crowd of 3,500.
While Solomon was becoming the fifth seeded player bounced from the ournament in three days of play, 11 other seeds, including top-seeded Guillermo Vilas and second-seeded Eddie Dibbs, took relatively easy straight-set victories.
Vilas had perhaps the easiest match of the day, crushing 20-year-old Brad Drewett, 6-1, 6-1. Drewett, who beat Victor Pecci at Wimbledon, could do nothing right and the match lasted barely an hour.
"From the scores, it looked like an easy match," Vilas said. "But there were a lot of deuce games. I worked hard to win."
It didn't appear that way to the 4,000 evening spectators, who cheered whenever Drewett won a point.
It was different for Solomon. From the beginning it was apparent he was having problems with Fagel's cannonball forehand, which he hits on 90 percent of his ground strokes.
"I was confused the first set because I wasn't sure how I wanted to play him," Solomon said. "You can try and force the ball to his backhand or you can keep playing the forehand and wait for an error. Today, he wasn't making errors. He was hitting out very well."
Solomon, a disciple of the Erhard Seminars Training which is supposed to toughen you psychologically, got his ground game together in the second set and went up, 2-0, in the third.
"When he got up, 2-0, in the third, I thought I was in trouble," said Fagel, who practices with Solomon at times. "Then, he got into the argument with the umpire and it seemed to throw him off. He got sloppy on a couple of points and let me back in the match at 2-2."
Solomon was upset with two calls, the first when a chair in one of the boxes toppled in the middle of a point and umpire Haskell Llewellyn refused to pay a let. Later, Llewellyn refused to overrule a double-fault call on a ball that both players agreed was good.
"It's very frustrating when that happens," Solomon said. "I knew the ball was good and Ricky nodded to me to indicate the ball was good, and he wouldn't change the call. But that didn't make any difference. He played better, that's all."
From 0-2, Fagel streaked to a 5-2 lead, breaking Solomon's powder-puff $&(WORD ILLEGIBLE serve three times. When Fagel went up, 40-15, in the next game, it looked like a quick exit for Solomon.
"I was real tired," Solomon said. "I guess I haven't really been practicing as much as I used to. I need to work a little harder on my conditioning, maybe."
Tired or not, Solomon, considered one of the gutsiest players in the world, dug in for a last stand.
First, he surprised Fagel by coming to the net and Fagel lobbed out. Then, Fagel missed a forehand for deuce and Solomon hit two winners to climb to 3-5.
Quickly, Solomon was back at match point. The rally lasted 24 hits before Fagel got to net and hit a drop volley, seemingly for the match.But Solomon got to the ball and whipped it cross-court. By now there were shouts in the crowd for Solomon. He served out the game to make it 4-5.
Serving again, Fagel quickly got to 40-0. But on yet another match point, Solomon whipped a cross-court backhand to make it 40-15.
"What was I thinking?" Fagel asked rhetorically. "Just a lot of profanities."
A moment later, however, he was shaking hands and listening to cheers because Solomon had netted a forehand for the match.
For Fagel, a 1975 graduate of Columbia, it was his biggest win as a pro. "I majored in psychology," he said in answer to a question. "Does it help me on the court?Yes, it helps me realize I'm a borderline neurotic."
The heat and humidity seemed to have less effect on Dibbs, who, after a tough first set, rolled past Andrew Pattison, 7-5, 6-2.
No. 8 Victor Pecci broke Bruce Manson the first three times he served and dominated the net in a 6-2, 6-1 romp. Eliot Teltscher won almost as easily over Alvin Gardiner, 6-4, 6-1.
Pecci now faces Raul Ramirez, a 6-2, 6-1 winner over Robert Van't Hof, while Teltscher plays Mike Cahill, who is ranked 118th on the ATP computer but swamped Fritz Buehning Tuesday's conqueror of Manuel Orantes, 6-4, 6-3. Buehning was not only sent to the showers but to his razor - he had vowed not to shave until he lost.
Another youngster, 19-year-old Mel Purcell, who won a gold medal in the Pan American Games last week, also lost - 6-4, 6-3 to ninth-seeded Pat DuPre. CAPTION: Picture 1, Rick Fagel, upset winner over Harold Solomon, races to hit a forehand in Star tourney action. By Richard Darcey - The Washington Post; Picture 2, Harold Solomon, left, congratulates Rick Fagel. Photos by Richard Darcey - The Washington Post