As Victor Amaya sat in the locker room at George Washington University's Smith Center, someone wondered how to return his serve.
"I think there are two ways to do it," the 6-foot-7 left-hander replied. "You can play in and hit the deuce out of it or play way back and chip." He neglected a third alternative: begging for mercy.
Amaya's power often reduces opponents to muttering and glancing heavenward for assistance, neither of which proves effective, as Nick Saviano, Amaya's 6-1, 7-6 victim in last night's first round of the $125,000 Volvo Tennis Classic, was made well aware.
Joining Amaya in the second round were Eliot Teltscher, who barely broke a sweat in beating John James, 6-0, 6-2, and No. 2 seed Harold Solomon, who defeated Terry Moor, 6-4, 6-2.
In afternoon action, Ray Moore edged Chris Lewis, 7-5, 6-4; Geoff Masters held off Mike Cahill, 6-1, 6-2; Davis Cup doubles star Bob Lutz easily handled Anand Amritraj, 6-1, 6-3; Tim Wilkison got a free ride when Trey Waltke retired due to flu after trailing, 4-1, and Bernie Mitton humbled John Lloyd, 6-0, 6-0.
"Victor's serve is very good, but I don't mind returning big serves," Saviano said. "You've got to stay in and reflex it. He's going to get his aces, so you try and cover as much of the court as you can and get balls he's not used to seeing come back. You're crazy if you stay back on him."
During the first set, Saviano appeared crazy for being on the court. Amaya ran off five games from 1-1, and the entire process took only 19 minutes. On the few occasions when Saviano got his racket on Amaya's serve, the ball usually headed for the stands.
Saviano seemed no closer to sanity in the second set. Amaya won the first two games, lost the third, then won the next three, mixing in three aces and numerous service winners en route.
"I'm glad I got play a point, one normal point," Saviano congratulated himself after a cross-court backhand passing shot in the sixth game, which he lost despite two break points.
Then suddenly, he was playing abnormal points. Amaya's serves were coming back harder than they had left, and what had appeared a mismatch became a contest. Saviano won the next five games, breaking Amaya twice, and seemed poised to even the match.
"It's so rare when I play a match from the first point to the last," Saviano said disgustedly. "I don't know if it's mental or not. I just know it happens all the time. I felt that he shouldn't be beating me, 6-1, 5-1, and I certainly thought I should be holding serve more than twice on this surface.
"I tried not to give him anything cheap and make him pay for his second serve. If you don't jump on that, he'll have more of an advantage than he has already. But if you can make him worry about hitting his second serve, then you've got the advantage."
But not necessarily the match. Amaya held serve in the 12th game to force a 12-point tie breaker. It lasted only eight, as Amaya hit three forehand and two service winners and capitalized on a missed service return and a match-ending double fault by Saviano.
"I thought if I could just get to the tie breaker and hit a couple of good early shots," Amaya explained, "he might realize how close to he was to losing the match and might let up. At least I tried to talk myself into that logic."
Solomon's logic, as always, was his ground strokes. He was pressed by Moor, who came back from 5-2 to 5-4 in the first set, then succumbed in a long, difficult 10th game. Moor, who hit as hard but not as steadily, held off four match points in the eighth game of the second set before mis-hitting an overhead and sending a backhand over the baseline.
"He plays a good game for me," said Solomon, wearing a bandage to protect a slightly pulled hamstring. "He doesn't serve quite well enough to put me in trouble and his topspin doesn't bounce high enough to make me jump off the ground much."