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Tennis / Lisa Dillman : USC-UCLA Battles Really Are Bloody--Just Ask Jensen

May 03, 1987|Lisa Dillman

They put the bloodstained clothes in the trophy case at USC's Marks Stadium as a reminder to future Trojans: To slay a Bruin, one must shed blood.

But no one will ever have to remind Luke Jensen, the proud owner of the shorts, shirt and towel.

The USC sophomore hits the court more often than a hockey player hits the ice. He makes Boris Becker look like a sissy. If someone told him he'd have to break an arm to win the NCAA title, Jensen would probably say, "Which one?"

A few weeks ago in USC's 8-1 victory over the Bruins, Jensen dived for a ball and came up wounded. He had caught his right pinky between his racket handle and the court, and had scraped his leg.

Later, Jensen's finger needed four stitches. But during his three-set comeback victory over Buff Farrow, nothing was able to stop the blood. The bandages and tape kept falling off. That's how the towel became stained.

"He brought (the clothes) in afterward and hung them up," said USC Coach Dick Leach, who had never seen so much blood on the court. "I thought they should stay there as a reminder to show what it takes to beat UCLA."

If it takes that much to beat UCLA, a 20-7 team, then what does it take to knock off top-ranked USC?

The Trojans are 30-0, the first time USC has accomplished that since 1963. This is despite an off year by No. 1 singles player, Rick Leach, who has suffered from injuries and sickness most of the season.

"This team is so competitive," Jensen said. "It's more than talent. We've proven we're fighters out there. We've beaten 30 teams . . . UCLA at UCLA, Alabama and Georgia. You just look at our team and we have (Eric) Amend, an Olympian, at No. 6. This year will be one we will never forget."

Unfortunately, for the Trojans, there are many who will forget 30-0 if USC comes up short at the NCAA tournament May 16-24 in Athens, Ga.

But Coach Leach understands the cruel reality of the what-have-you-done-lately syndrome.

"I'm just hoping we don't get an injury with Rick (Leach), Luke (Jensen) or Scott (Melville)" he said. "Because in Georgia, there's no recovery time. You have to play singles and doubles the very next day."

USC is expected to play Georgia in the semifinals if both get that far. The Bulldogs may not be the toughest team on talent, but the partisan crowd will make up some of the difference.

Even during the Ojai tournament last weekend, Leach's mind was Down South.

"Back in Georgia, we're going to have to get on the crowd," he said. "We're not going to go into Georgia like lambs. It's going to be 12 of us against all of Georgia."

Add Jensen: As soon as the words slipped out, Jensen probably felt like stuffing a sock into his mouth at the Ojai tournament last Sunday.

He had missed an easy shot in the second set of the Pacific 10 singles final against Patrick McEnroe, and yelled to himself: "Take the skirt off!"

With the Pac-10 women's singles final under way on the next court, that prompted some boos and other choice comments from the crowd. "Leave it on," one fan yelled back at Jensen.

Jensen, realizing how he had sounded, smiled and said something about having used the wrong choice of words.

Charlie Pasarell's men's tournament at Grand Champions Resort in Indian Wells has been given a new title for 1988.

The Newsweek North American Open, originally scheduled for mid-March, will be held Feb. 29-March 6 instead. The men's tour changed the dates.

The switch also sent the women's tour officials back to the table.

Pasarell is trying to get a sanctioned women's tournament for the week before the men's. So now, the Women's International Professional Tennis Council is expected to make an announcement about Indian Wells within the next two weeks.

Tennis Notes

There will probably be five teams from California invited to Athens, Ga., for the NCAA team tournament: USC, Cal State Long Beach, UCLA, Pepperdine and California. UC Irvine, ranked No. 16, helped its cause with a recent 5-4 victory over Long Beach. What hurt the Anteaters, though, was a 5-4 loss to eighth-ranked Pepperdine last Tuesday. Now, Irvine's best bet would be to win a Pacific Coast Athletic Assn. team title. Most likely, Pac-10 defending champion Stanford will not get an invitation despite its strong finish in the last month. The last time the Cardinal failed to reach the team tournament was in 1982. . . . The USTA Women's National Hardcourt Championships in the 50-and-over and 60-and-over divisions will be held this week at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. . . . The Subaru junior tournament will conclude today at the Los Angeles Tennis Center.

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