Jimmy Connors' shocking third-round loss in straight sets to Pascal Portes yesterday was the latest in a series of setbacks that have plagued the $175,00 Washington Star International tennis tournament.
Extremely hot temperatures accompanied the weekend qualifying rounds and thunderstorms forced cancellation of first-round matches Monday and Tuesday nights, causing losses in ticket sales. Eleven of the 16 seeded players, including three of the top four, had been eliminated before Connors lost, 6-5, 7-5, to the 20-year-old Portes.
"Black Wednesday," as the tournament officials refer to the upset-filled day, saw second-seeded Silver Spring native Harold Solomon and fourth-seeded Eddie Dibbs both lose. Connors' elimination left the quarterfinal field with virtually no top boxoffice names.
It appears the tournament will escape financial difficulties, however, because of strong advance ticket sales. Those tickets are non-refundable. Sunday's 2 p.m. final is sold out.
Officials announced that they've already sold 4,000 tickets for this afternoon and 5,000 for tonight's quarterfinal matches. More than 4,500 tickets have been sold for the Saturday afternoon and night semi finals at the Rock Creek Stadium court, which seats 5,800.
"The only thing customers ask about when they come to buy tickets is, 'When is Jimmy Connors going to play?'" said Karen Jones, the tournament box office manager, prior to Connors' elimination.
"In the past, they have always asked about (Buillermo) Vilas, Solomon and Dibbs. Everybody seemed to want to see Yannick Noah play this year, but after he pulled out with that injury, everybody has been asking about Connors, nobody else.
"But until now there's been no appreciable difference in sales from other years. Sure, it rained Monday and Tuesday, but we've never sold many tickets early in the week. But we've got good weather now and (we are) selling just as many tickets for the later rounds. We'll have to turn away a lot of people for Friday night's matches.It's pretty close to normal now, though."
A check with several ticket outlets in the Washington area showed that sales for the tournament were brisk before the Connors upset.
"The only slowdown we had in ticket sales was a week or so ago when people found out that Noah wasn't playing," said one box office spokesman. "It's close to normal now."
But tournament codirector Donald Dell conceded last night that Connors' defeat "will hurt our ticket sales, but I think those who come out this weekend will see some of the game's excellent young players and they are exciting, too."