Storm KO's power, Mason 14 matches are reset, starting at 11 a.m. today

July 22, 1998|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON -- Jimmy Arias heard the storm coming early. He was serving in the second game of the second set when he double-faulted and then chastised himself.

"Serve!" Arias yelled. "Don't listen to the thunder or whatever that is!"

It was a low, constant rumble that rolled around the darkening sky for a good half-hour before finally blowing in swiftly over the tree tops with gusting winds and a furious downpour that suspended play and knocked out electricity at the Legg Mason Tennis Classic and in a large area surrounding the William H. G. FitzGerald Tennis Center.

Fans waited for nearly two hours before tournament director Ivan Blumberg announced that the power company would be unable to repair the lights in time to complete last night's session.

"[Storms] happen all the time," Blumberg said. "We're completely prepared for it. The important thing is that no one was hurt, plenty of tennis did get played and [this] morning we're going to honor these tickets with a morning session at 11."

The morning session will include former world No. 1 Jim Courier as the star attraction. Arias, 33, has been retired for four years, but he qualified for this tournament. He will resume his match, which was called with him leading by a set and down a break, at 6-4, 2-5, in a best-of-three-sets match against Wade McGuire.

Andre Agassi, who was to have played last night, has been rescheduled on Stadium Court (not before 7 o'clock) tonight and Michael Chang, the tournament's No. 1 seed, will follow him as the last match of the night.

The storm, when it came, came with a fury. Umpires around the Center's five courts barely had time to suspend play before swirling, pounding rain drenched everyone.

Many sought refuge in the hallways of the concrete building that surrounds the Stadium Court, and stood drenched in near total darkness when the lights went out.

It was a situation similar to that seen at Pimlico Race Course in May, when the lights went out during the Preakness. Only at Pimlico there was no relief from the sweltering heat. Here, there was the mixed blessing of rain, which while soaking thousands, did bring with it a cool breeze.

People were in good spirits after the storm blew through. They bided their time by eating ice cream, drinking lemonade and beer, and eating hamburgers and meatball sandwiches, all cooked over the still-operating gas grills.

Many others went back to the Stadium Court and watched Sargis Sargsian and Max Mirmyi practice for nearly 40 minutes.

"I kind of figured we wouldn't play any more today," said Sargsian, who was scheduled to play doubles last night on Court 1. "But I got a good hit in and the crowd seemed to really be enjoying it. The rainout? It happens way too often. It just means you always have to be prepared."

Sargsian was looking at a busy day today. His doubles match probably will be rescheduled for the morning, and a singles match against No. 5 seed Flip DeWulf no doubt looms this evening.

As people left the facility last night, Rockville resident Chris Cavallini was holding the hand of his 5-year-old son, Chris Jr., and promising they'd return today.

"I think they've handled it as best they can," Cavallini said.


First-round singles

Jeff Tarango (9) def. Johan Van Herck, 6-1, 6-2;

Sebastien Lareau def. Scott Humphries, 6-4, 6-4;

Grant Stafford def. Michael Tebbutt, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3;

Lars Burgsmuller def. Cristiano Caratti, 7-6 (8-6), 6-1;

Christophe Van Garsse def. Mauricio Hadad, 6-3, 6-4.

Pub Date: 7/22/98

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