Virginia Slims Tennis : Ending Isn’t What Gurney Expects and She Loses to Fairbank, 6-2, 6-1

Times Staff Writer

Melissa Gurney did not win the featured match Monday evening as the $250,000 Virginia Slims of Los Angeles tennis tournament began at the Manhattan Country Club in Manhattan Beach.

She had planned to. Her coach expected her to. A lot of her fans came out to see her win. But she lost to Rosalyn Fairbank, 6-2, 6-1, before 1,500 fans.

Even Fairbank, who was ranked No. 14 for this tournament, was surprised at the score.


Fairbank was not surprised, however, at how hard she had to work to get that seemingly easy victory over the little 16-year-old from Palos Verdes.

“I definitely think the pressure was on me,” Fairbank said. “I knew she was very good and she had nothing to lose at all.”

Gurney didn’t see it quite that way. It was at this tournament last year that she didn’t have anything to lose. That was when she surprised Chris Evert Lloyd and extended her to three sets before losing.

“Last year I was totally the underdog,” Gurney said. “But I know a lot of people expected me to win tonight. I, too, thought I had a chance. A good chance.”

Last year Gurney won the national 18-and-under tournament to gain a wild-card spot in the U.S. Open, where she advanced to the third round with victories over Terry Phelps and Rosie Casals.

She really made people sit up and take notice, though, when she played so well against Lloyd.

Just last April she advanced to the semifinals of the Virginia Slims of San Diego with victories over Terry Holladay, Andrea Jaeger and Beth Herr.

She is being taken seriously.

But, against Fairbank, she seemed a little tight. She didn’t think she was patient enough and her coach, Robert Landsdorp, said: “She probably didn’t feel confident enough to change the pace the way she should have.

“Ros was much more crafty,” Landsdorp said. “She knew when to come in. She plays a style that is very different from someone like Melissa. Melissa still plays a lot like a junior, where you play your own game. . . . Melissa is still developing physically. She’s getting stronger. But she needs to be stronger and she needs more experience.

“Mentally, I think she has the ability to be one of the top players.”

She certainly didn’t let up, even though Fairbank was in good control as the match progressed.

Fairbank said: “I sensed that she was getting a little bit frustrated because she was playing hard but she was not getting the points.”

In the first game, Fairbank broke Gurney’s serve to go up, 5-2, on a point that reached deuce six times.

Ted Tinling, an international consultant for the tour, said: “Melissa definitely has what it takes . . . but she hasn’t yet come into her own. I think she was better at this time last year, but that does not mean that she’s not progressing. The French have a saying--you retreat to jump farther.”

Gurney’s father, Ramsdell, was her first coach, starting her when she was four. But now she is coached by Lansdorp, who also coached Tracy Austin. Gurney just turned pro at Wimbledon. But she is not yet ready to go on the pro tour fulltime.

“I think it’s important to stay in school (Chadwick) and my parents think it’s important, too,” Gurney said. “I probably won’t go to college right away, but I do want to finish high school before I go on the tour fulltime.”

In another featured match, Bettina Bunge, seeded No. 9, beat Emilse Raponi-Longo of Buenos Aires, 6-0, 6-2, in the final match of the afternoon session. Bunge was the highest-seeded singles player to play Monday.

Second-round play will begin Tuesday at 10 a.m. The evening session will begin at 7 p.m. with Pam Shriver, seeded No. 2, playing the first match and Zina Garrison, seeded No. 4, playing the second match.