In what is becoming a daily occurrence on the Rock Creek Stadium Court, the Washington Star International lost another seeded tennis player yesterday -- this time No. 8 Yannick Noah, the most charismatic player in the field.
The young black Frenchman never gained control of his powerful game and whacked shot after shot long and wide in a straight-set loss, 6-3, 6-2, to Ecuador's Andres Gomez.
Noah's departure means that eight of the 16 seeded players were unable to advance to the round of 16, which starts today at noon.
In the evening matches: three-time champion Guillermo Vilas easily defeated Marco Ostoja, 6-2, 6-2, and will play Erik van Dillen in today's last afternoon match on the Stadium court, and top-seeded Ivan Lendl defeated Fernando Dalla-Fontana, 6-0, 6-3, and will play 10th-seeded Eddie Dibbs tonight at 7.
The afternoon began predictably enough when 11th-seeded Jose Higueras, an agile Spaniard, defeated Vince Van Patten, 6-4, 6-2, in the Stadium. Jose-Luis Clerc, the third seed, easily disposed of fellow Argentine Ricardo Cano, 6-3, 6-2, also in the Stadium.
On a side court, 12th-seeded Mel Purcell, a crowd-pleaser from Murray, Ky., stopped Ricardo Ycaza, 6-2, 6-1. And in the second-biggest surprise of the day, Mexico's Davis Cup veteran Raul Ramirez, who has been struggling lately, advanced into the round of 16 with a 6-4, 6-2 triumph over Nick Saviano.
Hardly anybody saw the Ramirez and Purcell matches because everyone knew Noah was on stage in the Stadium. Before Noah knew what was happening, Gomez had broken serve twice and won the first set, 6-3.
Noah lost the first set in his opening match against Belus Prajoux, but came back to take the next two sets. The closest he got to a comeback yesterday was tying the second set, 2-2, after being down love-2. But that was over soon, as Gomez held for a 3-2 lead, broke to 4-2, then won eight of the last 11 points to take the match.
"I knew if I could break him early in the second set that the match would be over," Gomez said. "He came back to 2-2, but I still broke him. He just never got control of himself the entire time."
Gomez, 20, is a year younger than Noah and, at 6-foot-5, is an inch taller. Gomez demonstrated a better-than-average net game and surprised Noah, who isn't used to dueling at the net with someone who has a longer reach than he has. "The most important thing is I only come to the net behind deep approach shots," Gomez said.
Gomez tired Noah by hitting three or four deep shots, pinning the Frenchman on the base line, then dropping a short one over the net to make Noah run. By the middle of the second set. Gomez's tactic had worked perfectly. Noah was out of gas.
"I went into the match thinking 'just keep the ball in play,'" Gomez said. "I had a win over Eddie Dibbs last week and now Noah. My confidence is rising."
Noah played like a qualifier instead of the No. 14-ranked player in the world. And he knew it.
"I just didn't serve well, move well or play well; I knew I wasn't playing well. I'm still not really fit," he said, referring to his 10-day layoff before the Star. "I was waiting for a few more matches to get my confidence back, my stroke back and my serve back.
"But he played the right shots at the right time and never gave me a change at all. We never had many rallies."
Noah was upset with himself for "letting people down." His arrival in Washington was long-awaited, especially in the city's Northwest black community around Rock Creek.
"It's a very nice feeling to know that many people want to see you win," Noah said. "I wanted to go further. I feel bad that I let people down. I hope I can do better the next time."
Noah's match was followed by one in which 16-year-old Jimmy Arias cramped in both calves and thigs and had to default in the third set. Bolivia's Mario Martinez advanced to the next round when Arias fell to the court after stretching for a passing shot. Martinez won, 7-6, 3-6, 3-3 (40-30), retired.