Doubles semis: rain interrupts the Battle of the Ferreiras
by Ed Toombs
Saturday, Aug. 7, 1999
Ellis Ferreira/Rick Leach (5) lead Byron Black/Wayne Ferreira, 6-3, 6-5 (15-40)
It was Ferreira against Ferreira in the late night doubles semifinal tonight, the winner to face the popular Bjorkman/Rafter team tomorrow in the final. The match was suspended because of rain, with E. Ferreira/Leach leading, 6-3, 6-5 (15-40).
Ellis and Wayne Ferreira are not South Africa's version of the Black brothers of Zimbabwe. Both are fair-haired, but they are not related. Anyway, they were on opposite teams. Wayne Ferreira's partner, Byron Black, is related to Wayne Black, but Wayne Black was not the Wayne who was playing in this match. Ellis Ferreira's partner, American Rick Leach, is not the Rick Leach who was a star hockey player with the Philadelphia Flyers in the 1970s. So now I hope you have the principal actors straight in your mind.
This type of confrontation is always interesting: a well-oiled doubles partnership against two more individually-talented players. E. Ferreira/Leach are not factors in singles, but are ranked 5th in the team doubles standings and have played well in Super Nines (they were winners in Rome and finalists at Indian Wells). Black/W. Ferreira concentrate on singles, but are not shabby in doubles either (ranked 60 and 62 respectively).
If you've been following Chris Gerby's reports this week you know that Black/W. Ferreira have an ardent and vocal female fan with a long braid, who has been supporting them all week. It took us a while to locate her, but sure enough she was there tonight, sitting behind the umpire's chair giving throaty encouragement to her boys.
The first set was marked by wasted chances for Black/W. Ferreira. They had Team Ellis in trouble in each of their first three service games: in fact, Team Wayne was 0 for 11 in break point conversions in these games alone. In other words, Black (playing the deuce court), kept setting up the chances, and W. Ferreira (playing the ad court) could never nail the key return. Team Ellis only had two break points, but made the second one count, as E. Ferreira and Leach made consecutive blistering service returns to take a 5-3 lead against Black's serve. They consolidated the break, and the first set went to the 100% left-handed Team Ellis, 6-3.
The second set was without a break until the late stages. At 5-5, again it was Byron Black whose serve was broken, as E. Ferreira split his opponents with a cracking forehand from the baseline on break point. With Leach serving for the match at 6-5, Team Wayne decided that they were going to make things interesting. On the first point Black was being ganged up upon by both members of Team Ellis in a reflex volley exchange, but Byron had the last word with a forehand volley, his best moment of the match to this point. Team Wayne kept the pressure on with a huge backhand return by W. Ferreira (where was that shot in the first set, Wayne?) and a Leach volley error, and it was suddenly 15-40 and Team Wayne was on the verge of tying it at 6-6. Then.... rain! It was only a light sprinkle and Team Wayne seemed to want to continue, but Team Ellis, down a double break point, refused to play. The chair umpire came on court and executed a slide steps to check the slipperiness, then climbed back into the chair to announce that play was suspended.
During the rain delay Wayne Ferreira remained on court for a while to chat with a couple in the stands, while the other players retreated to the dressing room. Our favourite Team Wayne fan remained in her seat in the virtually empty stadium, her braid sheltered by an umbrella, waiting for the resumption of play and chatting with anyone in sight. As the rain delay wore on, there were more ushers than fans in the stadium, and they amused us by performing some energetic dance manoeuvers to the strains of Ricky Martin's "La Vida Loca" and "Un Dos Tres", which unfortunately were being played on the PA system for the 937th time this week. At one point there a conga line of 30 tournament employees and volunteers skipping around the stadium's first level. The braided fan was still in her seat, bobbing her umbrella in time with the music. It was sort of fun! Who needs Sir Cliff Richard? Alas, the light rain did not cease, and the dance show was suspended. Oh yes, the match was too. It will be resumed at 12:30 tomorrow afternoon, before the singles final, with Team Ellis leading, 6-3, 6-5 (15-40).