Colin Dibley, his 41-year-old body cramping in the midday heat and humidity of Rock Creek Tennis Stadium, knew it would be wiser to forfeit the third and deciding set of the Grand Champions semifinal than to run the risk of being rushed to the hospital, as has happened to him before.
Immediately after losing to Dick Stockton, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), retired, Dibley smiled because he had at least beaten the heat. Or so he thought. Two hours later, when he was just standing around outside the men's locker room, Dibley was overcome by cramps again and was taken to Providence Hospital, where he was treated and released.
Stockton advances to today's 7 p.m. final against 40-year-old Jaime Fillol, who needed three sets to beat Steve Krulevitz, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2.
Today's final will be played on Rock Creek's Stadium Court, sharing time with some opening-round matches of the Sovran Bank/D.C. National Tennis Classic, which runs through Sunday.
Andres Gomez is top seed, followed by Thierry Tulasne, Martin Jaite and three-time champion Guillermo Vilas. None is scheduled for opening day appearances. Fourteenth seed Pablo Arraya will play Jonny Levine in the opening Stadium Court match at 1 to be followed by No. 13 Jaime Yzaga against Karel Novacek. Tenth-seeded Francisco Macier of Mexico will then play Marcelo Ingaramo of Argentina.
The tournament will continue with afternoon and evening sessions through Saturday with the championship scheduled for Sunday at 7.
Heat might be a problem all week, as it was yesterday. Dibley, an Australian seniors player who has a history of cramping in hot weather, felt cramps in his legs in the tie breaker of the second set. As soon as Stockton, 35, won the final point, Dibley said he was through for the day.
"I wasn't tired, but my tennis was miserable and I couldn't move," Dibley said minutes after the match. "So why lose, six-love, and end up in the hospital for four hours, which has happened to me a couple of times before?
"Didn't you see me in the tie breaker? I couldn't move after that ace."
Dibley had a chance to put away an overhead to win the match, but had problems just keeping the ball in play. "I couldn't jump to hit it," he said. "I knew then if I could win the tie breaker, great. Stay and play another day. But if not, I had to get off the court. I'm just so scared of cramps."
He drank liquids and toweled off for nearly two hours before asking for medical help. He was carried from the grounds on a stretcher.
"Playing here has always been like being in the National Guard," Stockton said. "You have to report once a year to boot camp the last week in July."
Stockton lost the first set when Dibley, who once had the game's fastest serve (148 mph), served four aces to take the first set, 6-3.
Fillol said he has never had problems with cramps, and the level of his game rose as the match wore on.
Fillol took a 5-0 lead in the second set and held on for a 6-3 victory, then played some of his best tennis in the third.