Purcell Gets Knocked Off by Keeping Eye on the Ball

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Coopers & Lybrand Champions tennis tournament at the Sherwood Country Club began Tuesday night with a match that ended in the blink of an eye.

Actually, had Mel Purcell blinked earlier, his singles match with Tim Wilkison likely would have reached a natural conclusion. As it was, Purcell was forced to retire because of an eye injury after the seventh game of the first set.

In Tuesday's other match, Jose-Luis Clerc defeated Peter Fleming, 6-4, 6-4, The tournament is the seventh stop on the 14-event Champions Tour for players 35 and older.

Purcell led, 4-2, when he lofted a 30-foot lob to Wilkison on the first point of the seventh game.

As Wilkison prepared an overhead return, Purcell charged the net. Wilkison's blistering shot deflected off the frame of Purcell's racket and into his right eye.

Purcell, the 1980 Assn. of Tennis Professionals (ATP) rookie of the year and a quarterfinalist at Wimbledon in 1983, finished the game but was advised to retire by the tournament's medical staff after a three-minute injury timeout.

Purcell suffered hemorrhaging in the pupil and was unable to see out of the eye for 10 minutes. Half an hour after the match he had blurred vision. He is listed as questionable for Friday, when doubles play begins.

"It was bad luck for [Purcell] because he was playing better than me," said Wilkison, who faces Bjorn Borg in a Thursday night quarterfinal match. "I have to think that the way he was going he would have won."

Purcell forged his lead by making few unforced errors and by driving winners into the far corners of the court from the baseline.

In today's action, John Lloyd takes on Tom Gullikson, and Guillermo Vilas faces Roscoe Tanner. The winner of the Vilas-Tanner match will play top-seeded Jimmy Connors on Friday night.

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