The USTA Pro Satellite Circuit came to Annandale yesterday, featuring some semifamous players, like Terry Moor, Vic Amaya and Van Winitsky, while offering others, like Eleutrio Martins of Brazil, a chance to sharpen their games in hopes of earning enough ATP points to qualify for the Grand Prix tour.
"This is good competition; good for experience and helps me become a more mature player," the 22-year old Martins said.
Martins is one of 32 players competing in the Toyota/Century 21 men's invitational championships at Wakefield Park, the 10th stop on a tour that began April 4 in Pompano Beach, Fla. The circuit is divided into five segments, with five tournaments making up each segment.
The Toyota tournament, the culmination of Segment Two, is not just a proving ground for aspiring pros. No. 1 seed Moor reached the fourth round of the French Open in 1982, No. 2 Winitsky was ranked 36th in the world last year and No. 8 Amaya teamed with Hank Pfister to finish second in the 1982 U.S. Open doubles.
"This is an abnormally strong circuit," said third-seeded David Carter. "There are players here who've been in the top 20 in the Grand Prix. The standard here is really high."
The differences in talent exhibited by the satellite-circuit players and by many of those on the Grand Prix tour are not tremendously pronounced. The bigger names often have as much trouble as the no-names.
"The 'bigs' come down for those tourneys, but they don't clean up," Bill Csipkay, 27, a North Carolina State graduate, said. "Most of the time they do pretty well, but that doesn't mean they're going to win the tournament each time."
While Moor, the winner of Segment One, is the odds-on favorite to repeat as champion, several others will offer resistance: Winitsky, the winner last week in Midlothian, Va.; Amaya, the powerful left-hander who once was ranked 17th in singles; Steve Meister, a Princeton graduate who won a Grand Prix doubles tournament in 1982, and Rick Fagel, who holds career wins over John McEnroe and Gene Mayer.
For some, like Martins, who left his wife and 5-month-old son in Porto Alegro, Brazil, happiness is more than tennis. "I'm going to visit the White House after this tournament. That's one of the best parts of the tour--new people and new places."
Others, like Csipkay, see the satellite circuit as the final merry-go-round: either they grab the ring or they get off. "I'm going to play until the end of the summer, and decide then whether I will continue to play," said Csipkay.
Csipkay's career choice is business. Most former satellite players, when they "retire," will, not surprisingly, teach tennis.
The veteran players seek a dose of an old-fashioned palliative: "I came here for confidence," Winitsky said. "I was either going to get better or worse. I think I'm getting . . . better." He laughed.
The tournament ends Sunday.