Back in 1983, I was in my heyday as I enjoyed one of my best years on the pro tour. I had advanced to the finals of the Monte Carlo Open (but lost) and the semifinals in Gstaad, Switzerland and the U.S. Clay Courts in Indianapolis.
In the 1983 U.S. Open, my first-round opponent was a good friend of mine, Randy Druz. He played at Indiana University and it was a nice draw for me to open with. I went on to win 6-3, 6-2, 6-1, and drew my second round opponent Mark Dickson of Tampa, Florida. He played college at Clemson and he had a strong serve. Our game was funny because we were on a back court, like court 25 or so, and there was a hamburger stand right next to the court and the smoke was blowing right across the court through the match. The whole time, I kept thinking about how much I could go for a burger, so I wish it would’ve been a hot dog stand instead since I’d already eaten one of those in a match before.
Anyways, his serve was incredible and I couldn’t get a lob over his head (he was 6’5) and I went down in straight sets 6-3, 6-2, 6-4, in the hamburger smoke.
In double that year, I reunited with my Tennessee teammate Rodney Harmon, and we were able to advance to the third round with a couple of good wins.
We played John Mattke from Minnesota and Mark Vines. We were playing in Calcutta in Hampton’s Long Island Mansion. The money was more than most events and the play was intense. There was an easy shot that Scanlon had, and I just moved off the court because I was at the net.
Well, he drilled me right in the back at close range and that was uncool. So, I have never liked him. I won 4-6, 7-6, 6-2.
The second match, we drew Bill Scanlon and Steve Penton (aka “The Bull”), who were both from Texas. This was my chance for revenge against a guy that almost killed me with a first serve, not on purpose. It was just a huge serve.
It was a great match, and Bill Scanlon and I never got along too well.
We won 7-6, 4-6, 6-4. Next, we played Paycash — John Fitzgerald — from Australia. Fitzgerald had won seven grand slam doubles titles and cash was on the rise in the game.
We lost 6-2, 6-4. We were just outplayed and outclassed. In tennis, you will wind up on the wrong end every time when these two things happen.
In 1984, I drew one of my toughest first rounds ever in Kevin Curren from South Africa and NCAA Singles Champion representing the University of TCAAS (the other U.T.). Kevin had a wicked serve with a low toss, and you couldn’t tell where he was serving. He also every now and then hit a two-hand forehand.
The match was in the Grand Stand court at night, and it was a good crowd.
He just served bombers the whole night and the crowd gave me a break and didn’t yell at me like in Nastase’s match.
The score was 7-6 in the first set. It went on for an hour, and then I won 6-3 in the second.
I felt good but he just kept ripping the ball, and he overpowered me, 6-3, 6-2.
In doubles, I played with my buddy “Go Go” Andres Gomez, and I thought we would be a tough team. We drew Stefan Edberg-Anders Jarryd of Sweden. Jarryd has eight grand slam titles in doubles. We lost 6-4, 6-4. The match only had two service breaks and Go Go and I were a good team, but our opponents were just a little bit better. They advanced to the finals that year.
Back with my good friend and doubles partner Paula Smith.
We advanced to the quarterfinals that year. We were seeded 11th and beat Lisa Spain-Jeff Kaparapa, 6-4, 6-4. Then, Rosie Casals-Trey Waltke, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.
Then in the third round, we beat Pam Whytcross - David Graham 3-6, 7-6, 6-4. Then, we fell in the quarters to Liz Sayers - John Fitzgerald, 6-2, 6-2.
1985 I drew Libor Pimek from Most, Czechoslovakia. He was a tall, lanky player and a really good doubles player. I won 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. I returned his serve well, and that was the difference.
Second round I played Heinz Gunthardt from Zurich Switzerland. Here is someone I should have beaten. I won the first set 7-5, but he just kept coming into the net almost on every point. My game just fell apart.
You play so many matches, and sometimes your game gets exposed by a better player. The next three sets were 6-2, 6-1, 6-2. I’ll just tell you: I folded like a cheap suit. Then, I lost the first round in men’s and mixed-doubles.
1986 I drew Slobodan Zivojinovic from the former Yugoslavia. BoBo was his nickname, and he was a boy, 6’6” and built strong. I had beaten him every time we played.
I prevailed 6-4, 6-2, 6-1. I was playing well that year.
Second round, I defeated Robert Green from Boston. Bob was a newcomer of the year on the tour in 1984. Tall gentleman with a huge serve, we played on court 3 back then. It was a court for about 2500 people, and it was a good atmosphere, and of course, New York fans are not going to root for someone from Boston, and I was still carrying my Yankee batting helmet with me.
Well, it’s my fourth time in the third round of the open, and I draw Aaron Kickstein from Annarbor, Michigan. He is a young 19-year-old, and he was too quick. Plus, he had a big forehand, too. That is my best shot, and we exchanged many rallies, but he thumped me 6-3, 6-2, 6-1. In tennis, there is a term: “you got schooled.” But, man, he just toyed with me. I took my medicine.
My doubles partner was Dan Cassidy from Hollywood, Florida, who played at Auburn. We played Mark Edmondson-Siterwood Stewart.
We came out storming and won the first set 6-1. Then, we crumpled to them 6-3, 6-0.
In 1987, I played Broderick Dyke from Australia, and he was a lefty and a nice doubles player. I played terribly, and he played like a crafty lefty does. Score: 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 6-2.
And now — my biggest thrill. At the open, I played men’s doubles with the Great Andre Agassi. He was 12 in the world at the time, and we both had the same agents.
They thought it would be cool to match a veteran player like myself and a veteran rebel with the new kid rebel in town.
We played doubles that summer at a tournament in Stratton Mountain, Vermont.
We drew the number one seeds Ken Flach -Robert Seguso. The whole match was like a prize fight.
Andre did not like Flack - Seguso and throughout the entire match, he kept hitting every shot directly at them. There was no finesse involved. I was just in the way, fighting shots fired at me every now and then.
We lost 7-5 in the third set, and it was a scary scene, but I was happy to be in the mix. Andre did not like playing doubles and never played hardly in any events.
I am a trivia question now as, “Who is the only player to ever play doubles with Andre Agassi at the U.S. open?” Yes, that is Mel Purcell in 1987.
Well, we played the second match at night on the grandstand court. Andre had already lost in the first round to Henri Leconte in four sets, and I think he was ready to leave town, but I wanted to prolong my stay in the tournament, as well as my stay in the Big Apple.
We drew Alex Antonitsch – “Austria” and Wojtek Fibak – Poland. It was a match that we should have won.
We lost the first set 6-3, and Andre was still just ripping the ball on every shot. We took the second set 6-3, and we were up 5-3 in the third set. We were sitting on a match point and lost the first one, had another, and five more match points.
We could not finish the job. We blew seven match points that night, and my nastase fans came out because Connors had finished his match on the Louis Armstrong Stadium Court and people started rolling from the main court. We were in the third set, and, of course, you hear the same thing: “nice head band” and mocking of my name. I don’t think even my Yankee helmet could have mattered that night.
After we blew our lead and match points, most of the fans were giving it to us: “Nice choke job, you hackers!”
Unfortunately, they were right and Andre and I walked out in a whimper and felt beaten physically and mentally.
I lost first round with my old friend Paula Smith. We lost to Terry Phelps and Jim Pugtt, 7-6, 6-1. Our U.S. Open record was 10-5, so we did pretty okay during our partnership.
In 1988, I only played doubles because I was in South Africa playing a six-week circuit. I arrived too late except for men’s doubles.
My partner Jeff Klaparda and I lost to Dan Goldie – Mike Schapers, 6-3, 7-6.
With Federer out and Djockive out, it looks like Napal might just take it all, and Serena is looking stronger each match. Keep on playing tennis, the sport of a lifetime.