In the heat of the night, Jose-Luis Clerc finally played in the $200,000 D.C. National Bank Classic.
Clerc, the No. 1 seed whose match Wednesday night was delayed by a torrential thundershower, overpowered Eddie Dibbs, 6-2, 6-2, in 65 minutes last night before 9,071 fans, a tournament record.
It was clean, neat and sweaty.
After every point Clerc toweled off, keeping ball boys Doug Harris and Steve Efantis almost as busy as Dibbs. "I told the ball boys to come in quick and give me the towel," Clerc said.
For Clerc, troubled in 1983 by a prolonged slump, the victory was, in reality, no sweat. "I was really surprised. I have never beat him so easily," Clerc said.
"He didn't miss a shot," said a bemused Dibbs. "I beat him at Forest Hills (earlier in the year) and he played so much better tonight. I felt a little flat tonight. I never got into it with him. He was always ahead of me."
Clerc started out ahead last night because he had broken Dibbs' serve in the first game Wednesday night before rain stopped the game at 15-all in the second.
"I didn't mind. We played only one game. It was nothing," Clerc said of the 24-hour delay between points.
Dibbs also welcomed the daylong respite. "Actually I thought it'd be better for me, because it was another day's rest," Dibbs said about his bad hip.
Clerc broke Dibbs to go up 3-0, and then breeze through the first set in less than 30 minutes.
Searing forehand after forehand chased Dibbs all over the base line. In the second set, Clerc received a warning for a code violation--delay of the match--an unwarranted slap on the wrist because Clerc had no choice but to wait until the public address announcer finished.
"There are so many rules here," said Clerc. "It's putting a lot of pressure on me and I'm feeling that. Before the match they told me my patch (on his sleeve) was too large and that I would have to pay $1,000 to wear it.
"I wore it last week. But, here, this week, so many rules," he said.
Oversized patches were the least of the concerns for the afternoon session when the temperature on the court hit 105 degrees.
"It was tough breathing because it was a smoggy day," said fifth-seeded Mel Purcell, a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, winner over Diego Perez. "I couldn't feel anything come down my throat when I tried to breathe in the third set."
"It took a lot of energy to hit my forehand in this heat," said second-seeded Jimmy Arias, who breezed by John Mattke, 6-2, 6-4, in 63 minutes. "It was hot in Boston for a few days, but nothing like this," he said.
Arias wore an ice pack around his right wrist because he has suffered from tendinitis. "It hurts for five minutes in the morning and then I must ice it after matches," Arias said.
While Arias looked like the walking wounded, amateur Eric Korita moved into the quarterfinals by upsetting eighth-seeded Fernando Luna, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, after staving off two match points.
Korita, a 20-year-old junior at Southern Methodist University, flashed a booming serve in the midday heat. He scored 12 aces against Luna, three in the 10th game of the third set, enabling Korita to tie the match and break Luna's spirit.
"I think he's got the best serve in the world," said Luna. "He was too fast for me."
"I just tried to play normal tennis," Korita said about the two match points that Luna had in the 10th game. "I just tossed the ball nice and high and went after it. I didn't think: 'Oh, my God, it's match point.' "
Surprisingly, the lithe Clerc had three aces in his match-winning game. "That was lucky," he said laughing.
Lucky, maybe. Overheated, definitely.