The $175,000 Washington Star International Tennis Tournament turned ugly yesterday afternoon, culminating with top-seeded Guillermo Vilas cursing at the tournament referee.
About 4,500 afternoon spectators were forced to endure two onesided matches as fourth-seeded Jose Higueras destroyed Pat DuPre, 6-3, 6-1, and Vilas routed Marty Riessen, 6-1, 6-3.
The Higueras-DuPre match was a romp for the bearded Spaniard as DuPre couldn't handle his steady back-court game and never really managed to get into the match.
But the Vilas-Riessen affair left many spectators and tournament officials shaking their heads in disgust.
The outcome of the match was never in doubt, but both players put on little sideshows to keep things interesting.
First, Riessen, taunted by several spectators for his nonaggressive tactics, walked over in front of the stands and challenged a heckler to come out onto the court.
"I thought the crowd was rude to both of us," he said later. "Some of these people, maybe 5 percent of them, treat us like animals. They're always insulting you and I just hate it.
"I don't think paying your way in gives you the right to act any way you want. I think when people act like that, you have to go after them. When I went over there, there was this one guy with about a quart of beer yelling at me. I told him to come on out. i didn't want to fight him, I just wanted to call him out."
His bout with the spectators over, Riessen resumed play. Moments later, serving at 2-3 and 15-30, he hit the ball down the middle and it appeared to catch the tape. The line judge called a fault, then reversed himself as Vilas hit the ball into the net.
Umpire Haig K. Tufenk ruled that the serve "was a clear winner," and awarded Riessen the point. "Clear winner?" Vilas said after the match. "The line judge called a fault, so I hit the ball into the net. Then he (Tufenk) says it is a winner.
"Then, when I ask for the referee as I'm entitled to do, he tells me "30 seconds," (to get the ball in play). These people think they are gods.
"Finally, at the change (with the score 5-2), when I demanded the referee, he came out. But all he wanted to do was joke; he wouldn't be serious. We're both supposed to be working and he's joking."
Tufenk said he did not call tournament referee Nick Powel initially because, "Under the rules, a player doesn't have the right to call for the referee on a judgment call.
"I finally called for him because Vilas would not continue until I did and I didn't want to have to default him."
Powel came out, spoke briefly with Vila and refused to change the call. "When it's a judgment call, there is nothing I can do," he said. "I have to go with what the man in the chair tells me."
Still furious at the end of the match, Vilas stopped in front of the referees' tent and began arguing with Powel again. When Powel suggested that Vilas, "Take a shower, calm down and then come back and talk about it," Vilas became enraged, cursed at Powel and stormed away.
"They are making it a circus acting like this," Vilas said. "We are professionals and they should act like professionals, too.I cannot believe they are so childish."
"He was wild and shouting," Powel said, "I was just trying to get him to calm down."
Perhaps the only positive aspect of the incident was that it took attention away from Riessen's atrocious play. The 37-year-old Northwestern graduate seemed content to keep the ball in play on most points, waiting for Vilas to hit a winner. He rarely ran down any shots and seemed more interested in arguing than playing.
In one comic interlude at the end of the first set, Riessen pattycaked one lob after another at Vilas, who patty-caked the ball back. For 158 hits and, according to a timed TV replay, 5 minutes and 35 seconds, the two men tapped the ball back and forth until Vilas finally hit a forehand down the line, which Riessen waved at.
The crowd cheered lustily, more for the end of the point than the Vilas winner.
Tennis finally took center stage again in the evening with Victor Pecci, the rising 24-year-old from Paraguay, putting on the best display of a power game to date as he dismantled Paul Ramirez, 6-2, 6-3.
Pecci, the No. 8 seed, was virtually untouchable until he reached 5-1 in the second set. At that point, Ramirez began clowning, winding up while awaiting serve and applauding himself. Pecci lost his concentration long enough to let Ramirez climb to 5-3, 0-30, on Pecci's serve. Pecci promptly nailed four first serves - two setting up winning volleys and two unreturnable - for the match.
"Until the end, he didn't miss a shot," Ramirez said. "When that happens, you just keep trying and hope."
Favorites won the other two evening singles matches as easily as Pecci. Second-sseded Eddie Dibbs broke hard-serving Butch Walts in the second game of their match and coasted to a 6-3, 6-4 win. Sixth-seeded Jose-Luis Clerc had an even easier time with George Hardie, winning 6-2, 6-3.
The evening matches were played before a record Washington tennis crowd of 7,000.
Ugly incidents were not restricted to the stadium court. Eleventh-seeded Eliot Teltscher, apparently frustrated by the closeness of his 6-2, 6-7, 6-3, victory over Mike Cahill spent part of the match yelling at ballboys who he thought were moving too slowly to pick up loose balls and later, to bring him his towel.
Even the relatively tame Higueras-DuPre match had an incident, with Higueras staging a lively argument with one of the linesmen after he had reversed a call. Then, when the players changed sides, Higueras said he asked DuPre, "How can you say that ball was good; it was out."
To which DuPre, pointing at another spot on the court answered, "The ball you hit at 4-2 in the first set was out and they called it in."
The two went on arguing for several minutes, setting the tone for the entire afternoon.
As one spectator commented while the stadium emptied, "it looks like all these guys spent the last week at the Bobby Knight school of sportsmanship." CAPTION: Picture, Guillermo Vilas, No. 1 seed in Star tournament, hits back at Marty Riessen in easy win. By Joel Richardson - The Washington Post