WASHINGTON -- Amos Mansdorf has seen hotter days and longer days. He served in the Israeli army for three years before resuming his professional tennis career full time in 1987.
So an hour and 47 minutes spent in the hot, steamy confines of the William H. G. FitzGerald Tennis Center's stadium court yesterday didn't faze him.
Mansdorf played a strong third set against Richey Reneberg to pull out a 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 victory and move into today's 2 p.m. final of the Newsweek Tennis Classic.
"This is my first final since Osaka [last March] and I haven't won a tournament since 1990," said Mansdorf, 27. "It is a long time. I've been in two or three finals since then, but I've not been able to win. For me, after three years, I would really like to win."
Mansdorf, who is seeded No. 8, will face No. 7 seed Todd Martin, who defeated Aaron Krickstein, 6-3, 7-5. This will be the first meeting between the two.
Martin has been on a powerful run. The only player who has
stopped him has been Jim Courier, who beat him in the finals in Memphis, Tenn., in February, and in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon.
At Wimbledon, Courier apologized, "I'm sorry," he said, when shaking Martin's hand at the net. "I always seem to be having a good tournament when you're having a good tournament."
Courier has actually ousted Martin from tournaments five times. Last night, Martin initially said, "No comment," when asked if he was relieved to find Mansdorf and not Courier on his game card.
"I think five times is enough," he then added. "I think, I can beat him the sixth time."
Instead, he will have to beat Mansdorf. This will be the first official meeting between the two.
Mansdorf, a native and resident of Tel Aviv, Israel, considers the past three years another test of his commitment to tennis.
"Just because you don't win, you don't quit," said Mansdorf, who has won five tournaments in his career and reached the finals eight other times. "It's my job and you win a lot of money. You keep playing."
Even when he was in the Israeli army he managed to keep playing for all but the first three months of his three-year tour of duty.
The first year and a half, he got no respect. No one knew who he was. Israel is a country caught up in soccer and basketball. Tennis? Israel and its army weren't sure about tennis.
"I'd go to a tournament and when I'd come back, they'd say, 'Ah, Mansdorf, you are back from Milan. Good. Go paint that building.' It was a joke.
"It was very tough to come back from tournaments and be treated like that. It was very bad mentally, because I knew how hard everyone else was working on their games, and I couldn't play and practice regularly. I had to apply every time I wanted to go to a tournament."
When he started playing well, the army was more willing to compromise. Over the last 18 months of duty, he would travel with tennis for 30 days and then serve in the army, in an office, for 30 days.
"It put me behind, but my goal was to remain in the top 200 while I was in the army and the day I got out, I was ranked 36th in the world," he said.
He ended 1992 as the 25th ranked player on the pro tour. Today he is 28th.
Soccer and basketball are still the top two sports in Israel, but tennis is moving up.
"I am recognized well enough," he said.
The fact that the top seeds departed this tournament days ago will not bother either player.
"For the top guys, it is more important for them to win the Grand Slams," Martin said. "For me, it is just important to win. And it is not my problem that the top players haven't won."
* For Reneberg, it was a bad day all around as he and his doubles partner Patrick McEnroe failed to capitalize on three match points in their semifinal match against Byron Black and Rick Leach. Black and Leach eventually won in the tiebreaker, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6). Some might think it fitting in this tournament, given McEnroe and Reneberg were the No. 1 seeds and Black and Leach No. 4.
Black and Leach move into today's final against the winner of the last night's late -night match between Bryan Shelton and Todd Witsken and No. 2 seeds Grant Connell and Patrick Galbraith, who defeated Bryan Shelton and Todd Witsken, 6-2, 3-6, 7-6 (8-6).
When: Today. Singles final, 2 p.m., followed by doubles final.
Where: William H. G. FitzGerald Tennis Center, 16th and Kennedy streets, NW, Washington. From Baltimore, take Interstate 95 South to I-495 (Capital Beltway) West. Take Exit 31 (Georgia Avenue) south to 16th Street.
Tickets: $35. Available at the FitzGerald Center box office or through TicketMaster at (202) 432-7328.