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Overloaded With Circuit Breakers
Curry Kirkpatrick
May 03, 1982
Sparks flew as rival tournaments in Dallas and Las Vegas spotlighted the malaises of pro tennis
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May 03, 1982

Overloaded With Circuit Breakers

Sparks flew as rival tournaments in Dallas and Las Vegas spotlighted the malaises of pro tennis

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Notes and quotes and rumors and tumors from tennis' latest war zones:

•John McEnroe qualified for the World Championship Tennis (WCT) Finals in Dallas last week without playing in one WCT tournament in 1982. He gained admission to Dallas by filing an entry for WCT-Strasbourg, played in March. McEnroe may or may not have got a $400,000 guarantee for agreeing to play in the French event. If he did, he broke Grand Prix rules. Of course, WCT isn't part of the Grand Prix and isn't subject to its regulations. But McEnroe missed Strasbourg because of an ankle injury. "I feel a little guilty," he said in Dallas. "But at least I entered Strasbourg. I didn't totally chintz my way in here." If McEnroe had lost his first WCT match in Dallas, he would have won at least $50,000 in bonus money and other prizes. If he had defaulted with an injury, who can imagine what awesome riches in the bulging vaults that surround Reunion Arena would have been his for the taking?

•Bjorn (the Big Q, for qualifier) Borg, a martyr for all seasons, now plays tournaments only in those countries or at those hotels to which he is contractually obligated. That may or may not be against Grand Prix rules. He appears in Monte Carlo as a condition of his tax-exempt citizenship there. He plays Vegas—Caesars Palace, the Big Room, outdoors—so he can wear the hostelry's cute little patch on his shirt all over the universe. Before last week's qualifying at the Caesars Palace-Alan King Tennis Classic and celebrity orgy, King said jokingly of Borg, "The s.o.b.'s gonna have to play me to play Cosby." Instead, Borg lost in the first round of the qualifying to Dick Stockton, who's ranked 91 in the world. Throughout the match Borg disinterestedly served with two balls in his hand. He was last seen discussing strokes and perusing the baccarat tables with such other King tournament immortals as Walter Cronkite and Barbi Benton.

•Ivan Lendl, the defending champion in Las Vegas, relinquished his title by playing in Dallas. He undoubtedly showed up at the WCT finals to justify the—hold on to your Czech books—$753,000 in tournament winnings he had withdrawn from Lamar Hunt's bank account in barely four months on the WCT tour. That's not counting the $125,000 appearance money—which may or may not be against the Grand Prix rules—offered by a Grand Prix tournament promoter in Milan, which Lendl had to turn down because he was extremely busy doing a commercial for Ben Gay. At the WCT finals Lendl broke precedent by inviting the international press, with whom he had previously communicated as if it were the KGB, to a cocktail party in his hotel suite to celebrate the glories of tennis or Texas or capitalism or something. The canapés may or may not have included Ben Gay on Ritz crackers.

•Jimmy Connors, who has won Dallas twice and Las Vegas twice, chose the desert this time primarily because he was designated to play there by the Men's International Professional Tennis Council (MIPTC). Designations, of course, may or may not be illegal. "I told WCT I'd play Dallas if they'd pay the cost of my lawsuit in Vegas," said Connors. Connors may or may not play these days only if he is guaranteed a gargantuan appearance allowance or an unlimited wardrobe of Oshkosh overalls for his son, Brett. The local promoters of this week's WCT-Shipyard Classic in Hilton Head, S.C. wanted to offer a $250,000 condominium to a player if he should win both their event and the WCT-Tournament of Champions at Forest Hills in New York City the next week. WCT officials agreed that was a nice incentive, but then said they would rather see the condo given to Connors for merely showing up in Hilton Head. The local Islanders laughed and laughed...until they cried because they realized that the WCT was serious.

•Jose-Luis Clerc, behind 1-2 in sets but ahead 4-1 in the fourth against Lendl in the championship match of WCT-Houston two weeks ago, refused to adjourn to a lighted court with evening approaching. As an alternative, Clerc walked out on the River Oaks Country Club spectators, thus settling for the $32,000 runner-up money instead of competing for the $100,000 first prize. Lendl, who had threatened a similar conclusion when the match was delayed by rain twice in the third set, may or may not have been beaten to the walkout by his more resourceful opponent. "My assessment is that all of them are under the horrendous pressure of the game today," said WCT Executive Director Owen Williams in explaining Clerc's decision to blow the 68 thou. "There's too much pressure. Jose-Luis is going through that." During last week's opening ceremonies in Dallas, at which all players were required to appear, Clerc was nowhere to be found. As it turned out, he was at the Brookhaven Country Club seeking relief from the horrendous pressure of pro tennis. Playing golf.

•Vitas Gerulaitis made the finals of WCT-Zurich a month ago. If he had won the tournament, he would have been fined and/or suspended by somebody last week. Why? According to the terms of his contract with WCT, he would have been obligated to play Dallas, but by a Grand Prix designation he was obligated to play Las Vegas. "If I'd won Zurich, maybe I'd have hired a plane and made both tournaments," said Gerulaitis. Luckily, he lost to Bill Scanlon in Zurich. "You think they agreed to split the purse?" said Connors with a laugh. "Naw, tennis players don't do that." In Vegas Gerulaitis lost to Jeff Borowiak in the first round.

•Volvo sponsors the year-round Grand Prix tour. Mercedes-Benz is the local promoter of a Grand Prix event in Stuttgart in July. At present Mercedes-Benz is under investigation by the MIPTC for allegedly giving fabulously discounted automobiles to players and agents of players to entice these pros to play Stuttgart. One player, Sashi Menon, may or may not have already received his Mercedes and may or may not have already sold it at a huge profit. Whatever the case, Menon has let his ranking drop so low on the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) computer that he can't even get into the tournament anymore. The promoters may or may not wish they had given Menon a Jeep. Sashi Menon!

Is international tennis truly real? Or is it Memorex?

McEnroe in Dallas: "People are getting mad at us tennis players because they think we go around the world getting handed huge piles of money for doing nothing."

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