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TENNIS / LOS ANGELES TOURNAMENT : O'Brien Tees Off on Woodforde in First Round

August 03, 1993|THOMAS BONK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Is this a bad sign? Mark Woodforde's coach brought a set of golf clubs out on the court with him.

Maybe it was. Woodforde, a finalist in the Volvo/Los Angeles tournament last year, finished bogey-bogey and took himself out of contention for being a finalist again this year.

Instead, Alex O'Brien of Amarillo, Tex., and Stanford University, ended Woodforde's tournament on opening day by scoring a 7-6 (7-3), 4-6, 6-2 decision at UCLA.

It was sort of a swift end to Woodforde's re-entry into the tennis scene after taking a week off to play golf last week at Mission Hills in Rancho Mirage.

On the plus side, at least he found out what his handicap was against O'Brien.

"I came in underdone," Woodforde said.

Yes, he hadn't played enough tennis. Woodforde didn't start practicing until last Friday. That was after he decided to hit the golf course to decompress following his tennis journey from the clay courts of the French Open to the grass of Queen's Club and Wimbledon, then to indoor carpet in Tokyo and finally to clay in Palermo, Italy, in successive weeks.

So golf looked pretty good to Woodforde, who refused to feel sorry for himself.

"To see the grass on the golf course instead of looking at the grass at Wimbledon was a relief," he said.

For O'Brien, his relief was double. Not only had the No. 95-ranked player beaten No. 22, he also managed to do it without a heat stroke.

The red-haired Woodforde, his face the color of tomato sauce, fared about the same, although O'Brien observed a certain fatigue setting in about the time Woodforde sat down to rest.

Said O'Brien: "He looked redder than he already was."

Actually, O'Brien sort of enjoyed going up against Woodforde, even though they had never played before. "He's kind of fun to watch," he said. "He's the crafty veteran."

And O'Brien?

"I am the apprentice, right now," he said.

At Stanford, O'Brien was in the same group that featured such future pros as Jonathan Stark, Jeff Tarango and Jared Palmer. O'Brien prepared for his sojourn in Northern California by spending his youth in the Texas Panhandle.

Amarillo, where he grew up, is not everyone's cup of chili, O'Brien said. "It's so flat, you can see for 80 miles and it's in the middle of nowhere," he said.

*

About 10 1/2 hours after the first match of the day and after a celebrity doubles match that featured Dustin Hoffman, Chris Evert and Andre Agassi, Michael Chang walked on the court to play his match.

It was worth the wait for Chang, who dispatched Jonathan Stark, 6-2, 6-3, in 81 minutes.

"I think you can't really complain," Chang said about his late start in front of half-empty stands.

"I mean, there were a lot of celebrities out there.You can't say to Dustin Hoffman, 'Get out of there."

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