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TENNIS : Stefanki Has Edge on Amritraj

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Larry Stefanki said he hadn’t played a competitive singles match in three years. Vijay Amritraj said he had been away from tennis even longer.

But neither player looked rusty or fatigued Wednesday in a one-hour 33-minute match that opened the $150,000 Infiniti Champions Tournament in front of 1,741 at Sherwood Country Club.

Stefanki outlasted Amritraj, 6-4, 7-6, winning the second-set tiebreaker, 7-2.

Stefanki had three advantages over Amritraj, a former Davis Cup player for India. Stefanki, at 36, is younger than Amritraj, who turns 40 in December. Stefanki was quicker than Amritraj, who wore a back brace.

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Stefanki also had a coach for the night--Patrick McEnroe. McEnroe, who reached the third round of the U.S. Open two weeks ago, is coached by Stefanki. But with McEnroe sitting in the audience and Stefanki on the court, the two switched roles.

The nerves produced some erratic play: five double faults, seven deuce games while he served and five break opportunities for Amritraj. But Stefanki broke Amritraj in the ninth game and won the first set.

With a 4-2 lead in the second-set tiebreaker, Stefanki hit a backhand return winner. Then, after Amritraj put a return into the net, Stefanki served an ace for the match.

In the second match, Harold Solomon defeated Roscoe Tanner, 6-3, 6-1. Solomon broke Tanner in the first game and never looked back. Tanner broke Solomon’s first service in the second set before Solomon won six in a row.

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