For once, Sherwood Stewart didn't have to share the winner's check.
Essentially, Stewart's successes on the tennis court have been defined as shared experiences, rather than singular. In other words, he's mostly a doubles player.
But, at least for one day, the usual turned into the unusual as Stewart defeated Bob Lutz, 6-3, 5-7, 7-6, in a 2-hour 26-minute match in the $40,000 Prudential-Bache Grand Champions men's singles final Sunday at Riviera Tennis Club in Pacific Palisades.
"It's been three or four years (it was four) since I won a title in one of these, but I can't exactly tell you when it was," said the 41-year-old Stewart, who won $8,000 for the championship.
Stewart's victory here this week was anything but easy. He had three-set matches against Tim Gullikson and Colin Dibley, before beating Tom Gullikson in the semifinals Saturday. In the final, Stewart was forced to stave off a determined rally from the 40-year-old Lutz, who against Dick Stockton in the semifinals Saturday rallied from two match points down to win.
Sunday, in the decisive third-set tiebreaker, Stewart got out in front early and went on to win it, 7-2. He was helped when Lutz was bothered by crowd noise outside of the court area.
Down in the tiebreaker, 2-4, Lutz pulled back because of the noise before hitting his second serve. Then he hit his second serve long, giving Stewart a 5-2 lead. Two points later, Stewart won the match with a forehand crosscourt passing shot.
"I just knew it was going to be noisy here all week," Stewart said. "I said to myself, 'No matter what happens, don't let it bother you and don't complain.' It did bother Bob when he pulled up before serving, and it was nip and tuck at that stage. It did hurt him, so that's a shame."
And it probably helped Stewart that he had just played a tournament in what is perhaps the nosiest venue in all of tennis, the U.S. Open at Flushing Meadow. Stewart and Zina Garrison reached the semifinals there before losing to Paul Annacone and Betsy Naglesen. At the French Open, Stewart and Lori McNeil lost to Pam Shriver and Emilio Sanchez in the final, and Stewart and Garrison won the Australian Open in January.
But that's doubles and this was singles and his success at the latter left Stewart as surprised as anyone Sunday. Especially since he hadn't played a singles tournament since the beginning of the summer.
"I don't want to pat myself too much on the back, but today was just as good tennis as you'll see next week at UCLA (at this week's Grand Prix tournament) , with the exception of the semis and finals," Stewart said.
Twins Tim and Tom Gullikson continued their dominance in the doubles events on the Grand Champions tour, defeating Sherwood Stewart and Marty Riessen, 6-3, 6-3, in the final. The Gulliksons have won all seven doubles finals on the circuit this year. . . . Bjorn Borg made his first U.S. appearance in almost two years, when he played Vitas Gerulaitis in a one-set exhibition as part of the Mita Festival at Riviera. Both players were obviously rusty but somebody had to win, and Gerulaitis did, 6-3. Afterward, Stefan Edberg defeated Brad Gilbert, 6-4. The two are the top-seeded players at the tournament at UCLA's Tennis Center, starting Monday.