When they were beating such players as John McEnroe and Eliot Teltscher in junior tournaments, Juan Farrow and Bruce Foxworth never fancied themselves standard-bearers.
But being the top two black tennis players on the United States Tennis Association's satellite circuit, as well as two of the best players on that tour, carries some extra responsibilities.
"There are a lot of talented black players who have to hang up their rackets because they don't have the support and can't afford to compete on such a high level," said Farrow, a 24-year-old from St. Louis, who played for R. Walter Johnson, the same coach who taught Arthur Ashe.
"I feel like if some of the more fortunate players like Fox and me can have some success in the upper levels, it will give some of the young black players the incentive to keep on trying."
Said Foxworth, 25, of Los Angeles, "People are always looking for somebody to identify with or cling to, and I'm sure I play that role for a lot of people. That's something I guess I'm aware of, and I feel a certain responsibility. But it's not something that puts any more pressure on me."
Farrow, the No. 2 seed in this week's Michelob Masters Tournament at Rock Creek Tennis Stadium, was playing Bill Csipkay of Wykoff, N.J., in yesterday's semifinals when the match was suspended because of rain. Farrow led, 2-0, in the third set. Farrow won the first set, 6-4, and lost the second, 6-3.
The match will be completed at 11 a.m. today. The winner will play in the final at 1 p.m. against Chile's Ricardo Acuna, who beat Jeff Simpson of New Zealand, 7-6, 7-5, in yesterday's other semifinal.
While McEnroe and Teltscher have moved on to tennis' higher echelons, Farrow and Foxworth say they have been held back.
"I think the big difference is having the support--financial and whatever--to be able to worry just about tennis," said Farrow, a graduate of Southern Illinois University. "There's no shame in not having a sponsor. It just means you have to work a lot harder for your breaks.
"People know who I am, and most people know Fox, and they know we're coming. I'm raring to go. I've beaten the guys who are up there before in junior competitions, and that makes me think, 'Hey, I can play in the top five or 10.' I haven't put any time limit on it. I'm not rushing."
Neither Foxworth nor Farrow has a sponsor, which makes surviving difficult on a tour whose top prize money runs around $1,500. So far this year, Farrow and Foxworth each have won about $3,000. Most players earn only about $100 to $200 a week on the tour and must fall back on their savings.
"It gets kind of discouraging at times, especially when you have so many other things to worry about that can take away from your game," said Foxworth. "But I don't know too many things in life that aren't frustrating if you are battling the odds to be good."
Farrow and Foxworth, who Foxworth says "help each other out a lot spiritually and inspirationally," haven't discarded their ambitions. They've simply sharpened their perspective.
"People are always looking for somebody to identify with or cling to, and I'm sure I play that role for a lot of people. That's something I guess I'm aware of, and I feel a certain responsibility. But it's not something that puts any more pressure on me."
"If I wasn't playing tennis, I'd be looking up to somebody else. That's the way it is in life." Foxworth said.
Foxworth, who was seeded No. 1 in the tournament here, was upset by Acuna in the quarterfinals. After winning the first set, 7-6, and losing the second, 6-3, Foxworth led, 4-1 and 5-2, in the third set. He had triple match point against Acuna's service, but wound up losing, 7-5.
Still, this segment of the satellite circuit has been rewarding for Foxworth, who is seeking to improve his world ranking, once around 150, from its current place in the 400s. Despite losing here, he has enough points to win the five-tournament segment if Farrow does not win the final.
Last year, in his fourth swing through the circuit, Foxworth managed to advance to the quarterfinals of just one tournament. This year, he has already won tournaments in Augusta, Ga., and Richmond and has advanced to the semifinals in Clemmons, N.C.
Farrow, who has slumped in the world rankings from 160 last summer to 305 this season, has won a tournament in Greensboro, N.C., and has twice advanced to the quarterfinals.
But, Foxworth said, making the jump to the the Grand Prix tour is easier than surviving day in and day out on the satellite circuit.
"The competition among the players ranked between 100 and 250 is much more intense as far as people scrapping to move up and the competitiveness of it all," Foxworth said. "Once you make it into the top 50, you have established yourself and you can sort of relax and just go out and play. It's an entirely different atmosphere."