YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Fleming Gets Hot in Cold : Tennis: He beats Tom Gullikson, 3-6, 7-5, 6-1, in first round at Sherwood Country Club.


THOUSAND OAKS — Rail-thin Peter Fleming used a withering service game for a 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 victory over Tom Gullikson in the opening match of the Digital PC Champions tennis tournament at the Sherwood Country Club on Wednesday night.

Fleming, who moves on to play tour co-founder Jimmy Connors tonight at 7, faced a perilous situation midway through the second set when Gullikson broke Fleming's serve to go up three games to two, then held his serve for a 4-2 advantage.

But Fleming racked up a break of his own two games later for a 4-4 deadlock, then wore Gullikson down with service velocity and a number of drop shots to capture the match's last two sets.

"Long matches aren't normally my major strength but the cold weather was great for me and I stayed fresh," said Fleming, one of 13 players 35-and-over in Thousand Oaks for the 11th stop in the tour's initial season.

Typical of the Champions tour were the match's long points and baseline volleys. Both Fleming and Gullikson played an almost-rhythmic style markedly different from the high-speed, power game of the mainstream pro tour.

"We may be a step slower than the young guys and maybe we don't hit the ball quite as hard, but people here can see the ball and watch the points develop," Gullikson said.

Gullikson, who first broke into pro tennis with Fleming in 1976, said his usually reliable service game deserted him late in the second set, leaving him defenseless.

"The conditions were dead and the ball wasn't going anywhere, at least off my racket," said Gullikson, captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team and personal coach of Pete Sampras.

"But Fleming gave me some opportunities and I just didn't serve well once I was up in the second."

Though competing fiercely, the two players teamed up to win over the chilled crowd of 1,500 with frequent banter and playful comments. "Even when we played on the regular tour we were more relaxed than the guys are today," said a sweating but cheerful Gullikson in the players' lounge.

"We had more camaraderie and hung out together more; the prize money wasn't so big and the top players didn't have entourages."

In Wednesday's second singles match, Larry Stefanki defeated Roscoe Tanner, 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.

Action today includes John Lloyd against Mel Purcell at 1 p.m., followed by Mansour Bahrami against Tim Gullikson. Bjorn Borg and Mel Purcell face Tanner and Johan Kriek in doubles after the Connors-Fleming singles match.

Los Angeles Times Articles