As 23-year-old Victor Pecci slumped to the steamy Rock Creek Tennis Stadium clay court yesterday afternoon injured and exhausted from the 95-degree heat, spectators, reporters, players and tournament officials engulfed the court and a mob scene ensued.
With press pass and television camera in hand, Argentine television reporter Silvia Fernandex was shoved to the ground by tournament security men as she tried to gain access to the court.
"I was carrying a camera THIS big," said Fernandez, stretching her hands wide apart, "but they still pushed me around. I'm all the way from Channel 7 in Buenos Aires and I told them I had my pass and needed to get to the court."
Fernandez and her crew had traveled to Washington to cover their countryman, Guillermo Vilas, and interview him after the match. Witnesses said an usher pushed Fernandez, who fell down. She stayed down for about 30 seconds as the usher tried to close the fence while she lay in the entry way, unable to get up.
Fernandez was in good spirits and uninjured after the incident. Pecci did not get up as quickly as Fernandez.
The usher refused any comment following the incident. Tournament codirector John Harris, who was on the court at the time, said after learning of the incident: "I plan to talk to our head usher and to try and find out more about what happened. Normally if something like that is happening on the court we like to keep people away if we can. But if someone insists on getting in and has a right to get in, we ask the ushers to use their discretion and let them by."
This match with Vilas was just shaping up as classic - the closest match of the week here. Villas had won the first set, 7-6, in a tie breaker and was leading the second set tie breaker, 5-3, after Pecci cramped up.
"Pecci made one false movement just before he fell," said Bill Norris, trainer for the Association of Tennis Professionals. "It was clear that he was fatigued to the point that any type of movement like that would cause a cramp. He had lost a lot of liquid during the match.
"During the second set, I was thinking it was going to happen at any moment. Just taking salt pills can help, but it's not always the answer in heat like this," Norris added.
While Pecci lay motionless on the ground, J. D. Strong, the chair umpire, was counting him out of the match, much like a fallen prize fighter.
When Pecci went down, he technically had 90 seconds to get up. He had 30 seconds more to put the ball in play then a 30-second warning period. The second half-minute cost him a point penalty - awarded to Vilas - and the final 30 seconds cost him a game penalty.
The tie breaker was the game in this case so the match ended with Vilas winning the second set 7-6 by a 7-3 score in the tie breaker.
In the championship doubles match, the to-seeded team of Sherwood Stewart and Marty Riessen outlasted second-seeded Brian Gottfried and Pual Ramirez, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4. Riessen and Stewart split $9,000.