Clown time was over. Professional tennis had settled in at the Civic Center.
Yannick Noah, braids cascading down his head, sent a forehand past Ivan Lendl. Then a marvelous backhand passing shot after a hard first serve. Break point in game one of the second set.
The crowd of 5,139 was through griping and groping for the night. The first set, won by Noah 7-6 (7-5), had been unsettling, languid, filled with unforced errors, fast serves and service winners. Now it was break time.
A long pause. Only the whir of the air conditioning broke the silence. Finally, Noah flashed a hard and low backhand return. Lendl netted the ball and swished his racket in the air.
A broad, proud smile swept across Noah's face. He knew the match, even though it was an exhibition, was his. Noah won the set quickly and convincingly, 6-2 .
This rivalry has been fierce ever since Noah ended Lendl's 44-match winning streak at the Congoleum Classic in La Quinta, Calif., in 1982. Then Noah beat Lendl in Paris during the Davis Cup semifinals that year.
"I don't think there's bad blood between us," said Lendl, grimacing.
"We did well (tonight)," said a delighted Noah, playing his first match since winning the French Open in June. Noah had been suspended for 42 days for not playing in a World Team Cup match.
"It's very hard to come out here," Noah said. "The court (Supreme Court) was so fast, so very fast. I'm not used to it. It was hard to rally."off, Noah went to the Riviera "looking for a girlfriend" and sailing on a boat. He began practicing two weeks ago at home. "I've been relaxing," he said.
Naturally, he was displeased with his suspension by the Men's International Professional Tennis Council. "It was a lot of frustration. I didn't get a chance to talk to them. They were mistaken. Forty-two days is a lot. It felt kind of strange."
Tonight, Noah was too much for Lendl, ranked second in the world. He served three aces in the first set and six more in the second, including one to win the match.
"After I won the first set, I got more confidence," Noah said.