Fourth-seeded Alex Swetka played inspired tennis yesterday, overwhelming the top seed and four-time defending champion Gardnar Mulloy, 6-3, 6-2, in the men's 70-and-over National Clay Court Championships at the Army Navy Country Club in Arlington.
In six previous matches with Mulloy, Swetka had won only two. Yesterday, Swetka, 70, had a major change of strategy midway through the first set.
With the match tied at 3-3, Swetka decided to stay firmly on the base line, a decision that helped him win nine of the next 11 games.
After a short base line rally in the seventh game of the first set, Mulloy, 74, charged the net hoping to rattle Swetka. However, Swetka sliced an easy cross court drop shot just out of the reach of Mulloy's outstretched racket for a 15-0 lead. More important, it set the tone for the rest of the match.
"Too good," said Mulloy.
After Mulloy's cross court forehand tied the score at 30-30 in the seventh game, he found Swetka flat-footed deep in the court. But a drop shot by Mulloy bounced just high enough to allow Swetka to send a forehand winner down the line. Swetka led, 40-30.
Swetka won the game for a 4-3 lead on a perfectly placed drop shot.
Swetka broke Mulloy in the next game, winning on a cross court drop shot. He held serve to win the set.
In the second set, with Swetka sticking to his base line game plan, Mulloy lost his serve in the first game. Swetka broke again in the seventh game for a 5-2 lead and held serve for the victory.
"I couldn't get into my game plan," said Mulloy. "I could never get set. When I charged he'd lob me, and when I played base line he'd drop. I just couldn't get set, and then I'd hit balls either wide or into the net."
"I think I did a lot of things well today," said Swetka. "But then I guess I had to do everything well. I was able to make him run from side to side and I think that helped my game. Everything seemed to go good, my serve was in and my confidence was up."