Billy Higgins says he's too lazy to do wind sprints. He refuses to lift weights. And, unlike many of the top players in the U. S. Tennis Assn. Men's 45 Hardcourt Championships this week, Higgins will offer only three quick words when asked of his on-court strengths.
"I haven't any," he said.
Higgins, 45, and the tournament's No. 16 seeded player, seems to believe these words. But no one else does.
Especially those who watched Higgins upset top-seeded and defending champion Gordon Davis of Van Nuys, 6-4, 6-2, in Thursday's round of 16 at the Lindborg Racquet Club in Huntington Beach.
For Davis, the USTA's top-ranked 45-and-over player, it might have been just another one of those freak upsets that have become so popular in tennis this year.
Or Davis might have blamed the wind, which blew three large umbrellas inside-out above center court.
But this was no freak accident. This was no weather-caused win.
Because, unlike lightning, Higgins has struck the same spot twice, defeating Davis last month, 6-4, 6-1, on the same center court in the Lindborg Senior Invitational.
Higgins, a resident of Arcadia, won \o7 the\f7 Lindborg as he did Thursday \o7 at\f7 Lindborg--playing without any regard whatsoever to textbook tennis. Forget form and function, Higgins just plays to win.
"I'm a good scrapper," he said. "People say I win a lot of matches with my legs. I guess that's right. I don't really have much else to use."
His wife and long-time tennis partner, Linda, disagrees.
"Billy's very quick," she said. "And he returns well. And he doesn't make unforced errors. He doesn't give up, either. He concentrates well. Besides that, he's just better than the other guys."
Higgins, a little embarrassed, smiles at his wife's vote of confidence. Today, he will face one of those other guys--No. 5 Rob Cadwallader of Atlanta--in a 12:30 p.m. quarterfinal. And though he's not counting his points before the match, he would like to offer a small token of positive thinking.
"I think I've been a little lucky," Higgins said. "But everyone who plays knows it doesn't make any difference who's seeded first or last. So I just concentrate and play real hard and hope my luck stays with me."
Other than the No. 1 Davis, luck stayed with the other seeded players in the other fourth-round matches. The most notable being No. 7 Bob Duesler of Newport Beach, who outlasted Joe Bachman of Columbus, Ohio, 5-7, 6-4, 7-5, in a seesaw battle.
Duesler, 50, maintained his baseline position through most of the match, urging Bachman to the net for winners.
There, Duesler caught Bachman with lobs and sideline-skimming passing shots several times before Bachman decided to fight back with the same.
Bachman, a former Hungarian national junior champion, frustrated Duesler with drop shots and slices early in the third set, then Duesler began to return the favor.
Once Bachman, down 5-4, began to limp with a leg cramp, Duesler began powering to Bachman's forehand for winners. At match point, Duesler sliced into Bachman's backhand for the victory.
"I'm very tired, we both are I think," said Duesler, who exchanged pleasantries with Bachman through most of the match. "He is a wonderful competitor, but now I have to face my nemesis."
That would be No. 3 Jim Perley of Coronado, who used his powerful serve-and-volley game to defeat Jeff Schubert of Tucson, Ariz., 6-2, 6-2. Perley, No. 2 on the USTA 45s list, and Duesler will meet on center court today at 9:30 a.m.
In Thursday's other action, unseeded Ron Livingston of Laguna Beach played a tough two-hour match before finally falling to No. 15 Gil Howard of Daly City, Calif, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4. No. 2 Keith Diepraam of Sugarland, Texas, defeated club owner Lenny Lindborg of Laguna Niguel, 6-2, 6-3. No. 6 Larry Dodge of Piedmont defeated Bill Gardner of Tucson, 6-1, 4-6, 6-0. No. 4 Len Saputo of Walnut Creek defeated Mike Rabbitt of La Jolla, 6-4, 6-4, and No. 5 Rob Cadwallader of Atlanta, defeated Allen Shapter of Baton Rouge, La., 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.