With the feature match a sleeper, the talk at the Infiniti Open turned to Derrick Rostagno, Alexander Volkov and a shoe.
Second-seeded Michael Stich defeated Manhattan Beach’s Jeff Tarango, 6-3, 6-3, Wednesday night at UCLA’s Los Angeles Tennis Center in an uneventful but speedy hour that was supposed to be the day’s highlight.
But thanks to Volkov’s 6-4, 1-6, 6-4 victory over Rostagno of Pacific Palisades, the day was not a total bore.
The question from the start was how far Rostagno’s drop shot and feet would take him against the Russian’s smooth and strong ground strokes, but that theme was cast aside as The Man With One Good Shoe became the match’s unofficial title.
The plot unfolded during Volkov’s victory in the first set. The heel of Volkov’s right shoe tore after he was returning a serve, so between he games he talked with his wife, Yaroslava, who rushed back to their hotel but was unable to locate a replacement pair.
She returned with the score 1-1 in the second set and told him.
“When she came back I couldn’t believe she could not find them,” Volkov said. “After that we had a few more words in Russian.”
Either Rostagno or the knowledge that he would have to play under a handicap sidetracked Volkov in the second set. The distraction seemed to last into the third set, in which Rostagno, who had beaten Volkov in their two previous meetings, broke his serve and went up, 2-1.
In the third game, Volkov complained to the chair umpire about people in the seats behind the server fanning themselves. Rostagno responded by yelling playfully, “It’s all right. It’s not match point yet.”
Volkov picked up his game from there, and the 33rd-ranked player in the world, seventh seeded in the tournament, refused to lose to unseeded Rostagno, No. 176.
A questionable call that went against Rostagno and his two missed break opportunities helped.
The controversial call came with Rostagno serving at 3-2 but facing a break point. His first serve sailed long, but the return was a winner down the line past Volkov, because the line judge remained silent.
Rostagno yelled, “It was long,” even as Volkov’s shot sailed past. The fans behind the line judge repeated his words, and Rostagno gestured toward them as he spoke with the chair umpire.
Rostagno had a chance to break back, leading, 40-30, in the next game, but hit a shot into the net. Frustrated, Rostagno threw his racket into the net and covered his face with his hands.
At 4-4, Rostagno hit another sure winner into the net.
Volkov said the size of his hotel room may be partially to blame for the lost shoes.
“Maybe it is good that my wife does not know where my things are,” he said smiling. “I can keep phone numbers around [where] she will not find them.”
The top-seeded doubles team of John Fitzgerald and Mark Woodforde, winners here in 1994, beat Brian MacPhie and Greg Rusedski, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2. The crowd favorite among the doubles field, Jimmy Connors and Jim Courier, were ousted by Australians Andrew Florent and Paul Kilderry, 6-3, 7-6 (7-3).