Eddie Dibbs, Jose-Luis Clerc and Victor Pecci played impeccable tennis when they needed to last night and joined Guillermo Villas, who needed only an umbrella, in the semifinals of the $175,000 Washington Star International Tennis Tournament.
Dibbs, second seeded in the tournament, appeared in deep trouble against 20-year-old ELIOT Teltscher when he was down a set and was broken at 4-3 in the second set.
Teltscher did not win another game. Dibbs did a decent imitation of Bjorn Borg the rest of the match, ending the two-hour match on the stroke of midnight with a blackhand deep in the corner. He won 3-6, 6-4, 6-0.
"I think the key for me was after we got to 4-all in the second." Dibbs said. "He had me love-40 and I got out of it. He seemed to lose it then, and I got going. It was a tough night," though."
It was also a tough night for Clerc, the No. 2 player from Argentina, eager all week for a chance to play his country's hero, Vilas,
Hans Gildemeister, the Chilean two-fister almost upset those plans last night, matching Clerc ground stroke for ground stroke as the two split sets.
Then in the third, with Clerc leading, 3-2, and 30-15, came the key point in the match.
Gildemeister slammed a forehand for what looked like a clear winner on the line. The line judge called the ball long. Gildemeister argued, asked Clerc to show him a mark -- which he couldn't -- and then argue some more, to no avail.
From then on Clerc was in control. He ran off the last three games of the match, winning, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2. This afternoon he will get his shot at Vilas.
The 23-year-old Gildemeister did not leave without getting some final words: "The ball was in; everyone knew it including Clerc. I asked Clerc to show me a mark and he couldn't. I lost my concentration after that. It was a very important point."
Clerc had virtually no comment. "I let the umpires and line judges call the game," he said. "I just play."
Pecci won a masterful match from Spain's Jose Higueras, 6-1, 1-6, 6-3. Both players were flawless at different times, each hitting ground strikes with tremendous pace, making any foray into the net dangerous.
Pecci finally gained control in the third set by consistently following only his first serve into the net. It was the one shot in his reportoire that Higueras could not find an answer for, and it made the difference.
"The third set I got my first serve in consistently," Pecci said. "That gave me a chance at net. Before, if I came to net, I had no chance.
Immediately following the Pecci and Clerc victories, tournaments officials announced that, "due to the uncertainty of the weather and national television commitments TVS)," Sunday's finals scheduled for 7 p.m. will be played at 2 p.m.
Vilas was the only straight-set winner of the day. He survived a long rain delay and some excellent tennis by Australian Geoff Masters in the second set to win, 6-3, 7-6, setting up today's meeting with Clerc.
"dibbs will face Pecci in today's 7:30 p.m. match largely because Teltscher brilliant in his ground-stroking all night, suddenly lost his touch at 4-4 in the second set.
"I choked," Teltscher said. "I didn't have the guts to hit out at any service returns once we hit 4-4 in the second set. I didn't think. I lost control of what was going on."
Vilas never lost control of what was going on. It took him more than five hours to finish Masters off but it wasn't because the Aussie gave him any trouble.
The rain did. It came down for less than a hour, but when it rained, it poured. The Rcok Creek Tennis Stadium courts were under water within minutes and Vilas, having just won the first set, 6-3, had to wait three hours and 20 minutes to resume.
The delay didn't seem to bother the 26-year-old Argentine. He spent part of the time signing autographs, then had his coach, Ian Tiriac, carry him on his back to the players' lounge. Bored there, Vilas sloshed through the mud puddles and retired -- with the ever present Tiriac -- to the International Tent, the tournament's answer to the Waldorf.
When the delay was over at 5:30 p.m. Vilas played perhaps his best set of the tournament, a rousing 7-6 affair. Vilas' good play perhaps could be credited to Masters. The Australian, basically a grass court player, began hitting out on his ground strokes, going for winners in the realization that he was not going to outlast Vilas.
Vilas responded with his most aggresively play this week. His forehands picked up considerable pace and he even came to the net on occasion.
Masters had several chances to break Vilas and take control of the set, but at crucial moments his ground strokes failed him. At 3-3, 30-40, he blooped a backhand long. Then, at 4-4, 15-40, he missed two forehands one wide, one long.
The tie breaker was no contest as Vilas hit two winners and Masters had two net-cord balls fail to pop over. Vilas won the tie breaker, 7-1, and the match 6-3, 7-6, with a forehand passing shot reminiscent of his 1977 super-year.
Whether Vilas was happy with his play or not went unanswered because he went straight from the stadium court to a grandstand court to play a doubles match.
As Higueras and Pecci were preparing for their quarterfinal the rain resumed, driving the large evening crowd under cover.
About half of the afternoon spectators waited out the long delay to see the last set of the Vilas-Masters match.
"I think the delay helped both of us in a way," said Masters. "It was kind of sticky when we first went on the court, but when we came back it was very comfortable.
"What killed me were my ground strkes. On big points they just weren't there when I needed them. To beat Vilas uou have to take advantage of your opportunities. I didn't do that." CAPTION: Picture, Ian Tiriac, the good coach, carries student, Guillermo Vilas, across quagmire after heavy rains at Star International tennis tourney. By Richard Darcey - The Washington Post