Perhaps now Jose-Luis Clerc remembers what it was like to be unseeded and unranked in the top 100 and to surprise the big shots with some big shots. In case Clerc didn't remember that far back, Bernard Fritz reminded him yesterday.
Fritz, who had reached a third round only once this year--he lost to Clerc in the French Open--made him reach back, far back. Finally, Clerc, who is ranked fifth in the world and seeded second in this tournament, found a will and a way to advance to the semifinals of the D.C. International Tennis Classic.
For the second night in a row, Clerc was beleaguered, going three sets, and losing the first. But he won, 2-6, 7-6, 6-1. "When you're in that situation, you have nothing to lose," he said, referring to his last two opponents. "You play better."
Which may be why he said he hoped he wouldn't have to face Jimmy Arias in the semifinals. Arias, 17, showed no deference to his elder Eric Fromm, beating him, 7-6, 6-3, and little for Clerc, whom he has never faced. He figures to be "awed early" in the 1 p.m. match, Arias said. "But . . . there'll be no pressure on me."
In the other semifinal, Ivan Lendl, who made quick work of Rodney Harmon, 6-1, 6-1, faces Yannick Noah at 7 in an encounter that could give the term "grudge match" new meaning.
Noah, who ended Lendl's 45-match winning streak in February, and beat him and the Czech Davis Cup team in Paris two weeks ago, eased by Van Winitsky, 6-0, 6-3.
"He ended my streak, he played well," Lendl said. "In Davis Cup, I didn't like what happened in Paris. I'm going to try to give it back to him. In Davis Cup, some countries are very patriotic. They will do anything for it."
Revenge? "I definitely would like to beat him very badly," Lendl said, in a rare and emphatic show of emotion.
Usually, Lendl saves those shots for the court--one ground stroke aimed at Harmon's abdomen turned him a full 360 degrees at the net. But he had a few for the officials, too.
"We're professionals," he said. "We're not being treated professionally. There should be 11 linesmen on the court. We have about six now."
All the officials in the world couldn't have helped Harmon, ranked 345th. The closest he came to breaking Lendl, the top seed here and fourth ranked in the world, was in the first game. He took Clerc to deuce three times, but could not break through.
The second game lasted 10 minutes and 17 points. Six times, they went to deuce. Four times, Harmon, serving and volleying, saved break points. Twice, Harmon had the advantage and lost it, once when Lendl made an other-worldy shot, a running backhand winner down the line.
Lendl even admitted to playing well. On the 16th point, he hit another winner, this a forehand cross court. Harmon, perhaps unnerved, hit a half-volley long and it was Lendl's ad. He broke with a glittering forehand passing shot down the line.
Winitsky gave Noah little in the way of resistance. "It seemed he was not trying," said Noah, seeded fourth. "It's difficult to play a good match if you feel you are going to win anyway."
Noah broke Winitsky's serve in the first game and every other until the fifth game of the second set. By the time Winitsky began to play respectably, eliminating some of the unforced errors that plagued him, it was too late. Noah served well when he had to, especially in some 30-30 points in the second set, and volleyed deftly.
"It is dangerous to win 6-0," he said. "Most of the time, you win 6-0, the other guy has no pressure. You lose a little concentration. I just wanted to break early in the second set (he did) and keep it (he did)."
As easily as Lendl and Noah won, that's how much Clerc struggled. His ground strokes abandoned him. He made repeated unforced errors, could not believe his lack of concentration. Clerc, who hurt his right Achilles' tendon Friday night, said it bothered him until the second set. Later, the tournament trainer treated it with damp heat.
Clerc, who played the last match Friday night, having flown in from Austria, where he won a tournament last week, said he had been tired all week. It showed. Fritz, who has been to a semifinal only once as a professional, outplayed and outmaneuvered Clerc in the first set. He broke to go ahead at 4-2 and staved off a break point a game later with two perfectly placed backhand volleys on break point.
With Clerc serving at 2-1 in the second set, chair umpire Rod Renner called a delay of game, a code violation, while Clerc toweled off in the 90 degree heat. As if to show his contempt, Clerc served his strongest game, with three aces. When the same thing happened Friday night, he was broken.
When he broke Fritz in the next game, it seemed Clerc might assert himself. But after several breaks, they were tied at 6.
The tie breaker did not begin well for Clerc, who lost the first point on yet another unforced error. But he got his serve and himself together, and the next point proved the difference. Fritz went for an all-out winner, a forehand down the line. Clerc, at the net for a change, stretched himself to the limit and dropped a soft backhand cross court volley across the net. The point had stretched him as much as Fritz had. He won the next five, and the differences between them were finally apparent.