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L.A. Tennis : With Wilkison, It Isn't Win or Lose, but How Long He Gets to Play

September 24, 1987|LISA DILLMAN | Special to The Times

They told Tim Wilkison not to be concerned after his five-set loss to Boris Becker in the first round of the recent U.S. Open.

Don't worry, he was told, play like that against anyone else and you'll be able to beat 80% of the guys on the tour.

Which brings us to the hardest thing Wilkison faced after playing such a fine match: He was through playing, at least until the next tournament. Losing wasn't the worst thing for Wilkison; not being able to compete was.

"When I play a tournament, it's not like I really want to win the tournament," Wilkison said this week after winning his opening match in the Volvo/Los Angeles tournament at UCLA's L.A. Tennis Center.

"I just want to win, so I can play the next day. If I had lost today, it would have been, 'Oh, God, now I don't get to play for the rest of the week.' "

Wilkison, who plays Gary Muller today, managed to avert somewhat of a losing streak with his first-round victory over Sammy Giammalva Monday.

He lost in the first round of an exhibition tournament last week and, before the Open, also lost an opening-round match at Cincinnati. Since reaching the quarterfinals of last year's U.S. Open, Wilkison dropped from the top 25 in the world to his current No. 104 ranking, due mainly to disappointing performances in 1987, which, in turn were hampered by two knee operations.

Said Wilkison of his recent losing streak: "Even though they are all good players, and they are probably better than I am, I still lost. It just doesn't build up your confidence. Although Dustin (Hoffman) and I actually won a match (in a celebrity tournament). So, that pulled me up. We beat the ranch foreman from "Dallas" named Steve, I can't remember his last name (Kanaly), and another player."

Despite losing to Becker at the Open, Wilkison clearly enjoys talking about the match. It was played at night before a rowdy crowd at the National Tennis Center. Wilkison won the first two sets before Becker rallied, and CBS picked up the latter stages of the contest.

Wilkison was at his theatrical best, pumping his fists and getting the spectators involved in the match. Becker was less than thrilled by Wilkison's actions, and, apparently, Martina Navratilova also criticized him for the antics.

But Wilkison shrugged it off.

Later, he showed he can poke fun at his own expense.

"I don't know if I'm really good enough," Wilkison said when asked whether he thought he could break through into the top echelon. "I'm only 27, but in tennis that's like being 30. I feel like Phil Niekro out there already."

Among those advancing Wednesday were No. 1-seeded Stefan Edberg, No. 3 David Pate, Marty Davis and Eliot Teltscher. The unseeded Teltscher beat Rick Leach of Laguna Beach, 6-4, 6-3. Edberg needed a second-set tiebreaker to defeat unseeded Jay Berger, 6-3, 7-6.

Davis had the toughest singles match of the day as he defeated No. 6 Kevin Curren, 7-6, 6-7, 7-6, in 2 hours 28 minutes. Davis, who is from Harbor Bay Isle, Calif., had to win three rounds of qualifying to reach the main draw. After the qualifying and first two rounds here, Davis has certainly developed a reputation as a clutch player.

He needed a third-set tiebreaker to beat Todd Nelson in his final qualifying match. And in the opening round, Davis beat Jim Pugh, 7-6, 7-6. Wednesday, Davis won the first-set tiebreaker, 7-5, and the third-set tiebreaker, 7-2. He'll meet either Muller or Wilkison in the quarterfinals.

Which makes it six straight tiebreakers here for Davis, who was 0-3 against Curren before Wednesday's meeting. In 1986, he lost tiebreakers in the decisive set on four occasions.

With Curren's loss, there are four seeded players left in the field--Edberg, No. 2 Brad Gilbert, Pate and No. 5 Guy Forget.

Pate, who plays the winner of today's match between Forget and Andre Agassi, served 14 aces on his way to a 6-4, 6-4 second-round victory over Sweden's Peter Lundgren, who defeated Wimbledon champion Pat Cash in the first round at the U.S. Open.

Pate served 10 aces in the final set, including two in a row in the final game of the match.

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