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Mansdorf's serve cools Martin Takes Newsweek Classic with straight-set victory


WASHINGTON -- Amos Mansdorf has been on the professional tennis tour for 10 years, so he knows big points when he sees them.

But yesterday, in the finals of the Newsweek Tennis Classic, the biggest point of all sneaked up on him.

Todd Martin was serving to force a tiebreaker and Mansdorf was trying to prepare himself for the extended set.

Then it was break point -- which was also match point -- and Martin was flinging a baseline forehand into the net.

"The last game could have gone either way," said Mansdorf. "I didn't have time to prepare for winning."

But when he won, Mansdorf jumped up and down like a child, celebrating his first tournament victory in three years.

He won in straight sets, 7-6 (7-4), 7-5, and picked up a check for $84,000. Martin earned $44,000 for second, and ingratiated himself to the crowd of 7,041.

"I know it was hard on you to come to the finals and not get to see any of the big seeds," said Martin. "But you stuck with us and hopefully, we entertained you."

The weather, hot and humid with court temperatures above 100 degrees, was in Mansdorf's words, "brutal" and in Martin's opinion "unfortunate."

"I played all but one match at night here," said Martin, 23, who had an early break in the first set, but could not hold against Mansdorf's brilliant passing shots. "I think that and the fact that this was the most humid and warmest day of the week worked against me. But Amos played very well and I think it would have been hard to beat him even if it was 50 degrees."

Mansdorf, about 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds, seemed to be at a disadvantage. Physically, he gave ground to the 6-foot-6 Martin and mentally Martin was the one brimming with confidence, after a victory in May and an impressive run to the quarterfinals at Wimbledon.

But none of that mattered on stadium court at the William H. G. FitzGerald Tennis Center.

It was the site of upsets all week and this match, while perhaps not on the scale of Robbie Weiss upsetting Ivan Lendl or Aaron Krickstein beating Andre Agassi, still was following the same path.

Mansdorf, No. 28 in the world, was seeded eighth, while Martin, No. 24, was seeded seventh.

A big distraction for both players was the crowd fanning itself with yellow and white cardboard fans.

"I'm trying to focus and the background is waving like this," Mansdorf said, flapping his hand back and forth. "It was disturbing to both of us. But you can't expect people not to move on a day like this. But I think no other sport has such a problem. It is a very small yellow ball we are trying to focus on and it is about to come at you very fast. It is not like basketball, where you are holding the ball and it is big and the basket is a few feet away.

"But I have a friend who plays basketball and he tells me, 'If people say to you when you are serving, what they say to me when I am shooting, there is no way you could handle it.' Maybe so, but I still think this is harder, that there is nothing else like it," Mansdorf said.

Mansdorf worked hard on his serve yesterday. Martin said it was the difference in the match. Mansdorf won 69 percent of his first-serve points and 66 percent of his second, while Martin managed just 42 percent on his second serve.

"My serve is getting better," said Mansdorf, 27. "I am working on it. I probably win more points off my second serve than anyone else on tour, so if I could get my first serve up to about 75 percent, I think my results will improve noticeably."

In fact, Mansdorf said he anticipates playing the best tennis of his career in the next few years.

"When I was very young, there was not a lot of good tennis in Israel, so I did not have good competition and I did not understand what it meant when people told me about commitment and working hard," he said. "For me, it has been to learn the hard way."

In the doubles final, Byron Black and Rick Leach collected $33,500 when they defeated Grant Connell and Patrick Galbraith, 6-4, 7-5.

"My father is so excited," said Leach. "He called last night and said 'I told you to play with Byron!' "

Leach's father, Dick, is the tennis coach at USC, where he had his son and Black on the team, but at different times.

This was their first tournament together, but they will continue the partnership next week in Montreal and then in Los Angeles, where their old coach can see for himself just how much he taught them.

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