Vijay Amritraj, part-time actor and full-time tennis ambassador, found time enough in his busy schedule to defeat Brian Teacher, 7-5, 7-6 (7-2), in the title match to win his debut on the Grand Champions Tour in front of 1,423 at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center yesterday.
Amritraj, president of the Association of Tennis Professionals Players' Council and a member of India's Davis Cup team for more than 20 years, held off a furious second-set comeback by Teacher to secure the $13,000 winner's check.
Amritraj, who has appeared in the films "Octopussy" and "Star Trek IV," built a 5-2 lead in the second set, but was helpless as Teacher strung together 15 points and four games, breaking serve twice, before the colorful Indian from Madras gathered himself and put Teacher to rest.
But there was no rest for Amritraj, who also played in the doubles final with John McEnroe's former longtime partner, Peter Fleming. Jaime Fillol and Marty Riessen prevailed, 6-3, 6-4.
"When you start to run away with a set like I did," said Amritraj, "the worst thing you can do is start to think about the doubles."
While it was Amritraj's first outing on the 35-and-over tour, he's not exactly an old-timer. He qualified for Wimbledon last month, losing a first-round match to Joey Rive.
"My main problem is not playing tennis every day," said Amritraj, who reached the quarterfinals of Wimbledon in 1973 and 1981.
Amritraj said he would try to balance his duties with the ATP with his new-found career on the Grand Champions Tour. "The regular tour is not that important to me anymore," he said. "But being with the ATP, I need to be at several tournaments to hear what the players have to say."
Even though it fell short, Teacher's comeback was a work of art. Down by 5-2 and serving to stay in the match, Teacher fought off double match point to begin his run of 15 points. At 15-40 he drilled a cross-court winner, watched as Amritraj netted a volley for deuce, then closed to 5-3 with consecutive approach-shot winners.
But Teacher still had to break serve to stay alive. And he did -- at love. Then he held serve at love to tie at 5 and won the first three points of Amritraj's service game before Amritraj finally scored with a passing winner. But Teacher won the next point to break for the third time in the set and go up, 6-5.
"I just started going for my shots," said Teacher, 35, who earned $9,000. "I didn't care anymore. But my shots started to go in and I ended up hitting better than I was before."
But, serving for the set, Teacher couldn't hold. Amritraj broke back to tie, then won the anticlimactic tiebreaker handily, punctuating it with a final ace.
"What happens with a guy like Teacher is he starts to get loose because he's so far down," said Amritraj. "And I just had to try to halt the run. But I knew when he got into position to win the set, he wouldn't play the same way."
Amritraj took control of the second set early, breaking serve in the fourth game. He won at love for 5-2, just before Teacher's onslaught.
Amritraj stole the first set by winning the last four games. Teacher had broken serve with a cross-court winner for a 4-3 advantage. But the set turned in the 10th game. Teacher was serving at 5-4, only to be broken when he missed an overhead into the net.
After holding serve to go up by 6-5, Amritraj broke serve again, on a powerful, backhand passing shot.