Dick Stockton played a solid, steady match in defeating Stan Smith yesterday in the Prudential-Bache Grand Champions tennis tournament, the kind that was over quickly and didn't cause much excitement at Rock Creek Tennis Stadium.
But neither Smith nor the spectators could resist when Stockton stretched his body to the limit to make a backhand cross-court winner in the final game of his 6-2, 6-1 victory.
While Stockton smiled, Smith stood on the base line before his next serve, his arms hanging helplessly. "Where did you get that shot?" Smith yelled.
Stockton said later, "I was so tired I could hardly hear him. I was so glad he hit that last point in the net. We played just about an hour match, but I feel like I've been out there for three hours."
Stockton didn't play as if the heat -- officially 89 degrees in the District -- was a factor. He broke Smith's usually effective serve three times in the first set, and in the second set, Smith made too many unforced errors.
"I never seemed to get a feel for the ball," said Smith, 39. "I had a kind of funny third game with the score tied, 1-1, in the first set , and he had a good game from then on."
With his victory yesterday in the last day of the round robin matches, Stockton, 35, advances to today's semifinals against Colin Dibley, a 7-6 (8-6), 6-1 winner over Manuel Orantes.
By the time Dibley and Orantes got to play, it was 2:30 and the sun had come out to make the humidity even more unbearable. After a drawn-out first set, Orantes had more trouble than Dibley in the second.
Dibley, 41, quickly took a 4-0 lead, winning the third game when Orantes pulled up on reachable shots on the last two points.
"Every year I come to Washington, I have the same problem," Orantes, 37, said of the weather. "I feel I don't have any energy. He was just trying to keep the ball in play and keep me moving."
In the other semifinal match today, Jaime Fillol, 41, will play Steve Krulevitz, 35, a local of sorts who lives in Baltimore. Fillol yesterday defeated 40-year-old Sherwood Stewart, 6-4, 6-3, and Krulevitz beat 34-year-old Ross Case, 6-3, 6-1.
Krulevitz, playing in his second Grand Champions tournament, played as if he didn't notice the heat. He took a 4-1 lead in the second set by breaking Case and made it 5-1 with a nice forehand passing shot with the score 40-30.
"Maybe I've got something to prove," he said. "The older you get, you see the end of the line. Maybe that makes you try a little harder."