THIS YEAR IT`S MEN`S TURN TO KEEP LIPC FLYING
Sunday, February 9, 1986
The 1975 Boca West International was played here in front of a cozy grandstand where the old pro shop used to be. Jimmy Connors won. It was a charming little tournament.
Connors returns to Boca West this week, and times have changed. The Boca West International is wistful nostaglia, and hardly anyone remembers where the old pro shop used to be.
In its place is the $1.8 million Lipton International Players Championships, which will fill 11 courts, keeping 256 men and women pros busy for 14 days (and 12 nights) and giving an anticipated crowd of 150,000 a tennis overdose, not to mention a likely traffic migraine.
Helicopter is the preferred mode of transportation.
Thankfully, Boca West is only temporary housing for the world`s fourth- richest tennis tournament, which will settle down at Weston in 1987.
The LIPC got off the ground in 1985 -- surprising critics who didn`t think Butch Buchholz could build the plane -- and managed to fly through the storms of bad weather, missing stars and unexpected upsets.
"We hit a tennis ball," said Buchholz, who saw his dream become a reality at Laver`s International Resort in 1985. "No one knew the tournament would happen. What I`m most proud of is that we played. Now we`re on the calendar and no one`s taking shots at it."
In Year Two, Buchholz hopes to cultivate a strong image for the LIPC at its new Arvida home.
"One of my goals is to introduce the players, sponsors and spectators to Arvida quality," Buchholz said. "I want the tournament image to be first-class.
"Arvida didn`t want to do the tournament at Boca West this year. It`s upsetting some of the home-owners. So it`s important to have everyone understand that Arvida will do it in a first-class way.
"I`m very conscious of the image of the tournament. We`re moving to Weston (another Arvida development) next year and everyone is going to want to know what that`s going to be like."
Class is nice, but the players` tournament can only be as good as its players. This year the top men have rallied around the LIPC while the top women, so supportive last year, have turned up their noses.
Nine of the top 10 men, including late-entry Connors, a celebrated no-show in 1985, are playing.
Only John McEnroe failed to return his invitation, but his loss is diminished by the fact that he has taken a two-month break from the tour. Also, McEnroe is no longer the No. 1 player. Ivan Lendl, who took McEnroe`s crown away at the U.S. Open, heads the men`s field.
Defending champion Martina Navratilova, the No. 1 woman, however, is missing along with No. 3 Hana Mandlikova and No. 5 Claudia Kohde-Kilsch.
With Navratilova out, Chris Evert Lloyd is the overwhelming favorite.
"From the players` point of view, it`s going to take another few years for the players to make this a habit," Buchholz said.
"The older players like Connors, McEnroe and Navratilova have been making their schedules for 10 years and it`s not easy for them to change. The younger kids like (Boris) Becker wouldn`t think of missing the tournament.
"That`s why I`m tickled that Jimmy is playing. He helps our credibility."
Connors gives the men`s tournament four strong potential semifinalists, and Saturday`s draw set up the most desirable pairings: Lendl vs. Connors and Wilander vs. Becker. The LIPC would love a Becker-Lendl or a Becker-Connors final.
Last year Tim Mayotte defeated Scott Davis in a battle of two All-American overachievers.
This year the LIPC and ABC would like a household name.
The women`s event will be a supporting act with only half of sports` best rivalry.
"So much of women`s tennis is the Martina-Chris rivalry, and we don`t have it this year," Buchholz said. "But we have Chrissie, who is probably the most recognizable sports person in the world."
Navratilova entered the LIPC but pulled out when she realized she could not play and also meet her Virginia Slims commitments.
West German teen-ager Steffi Graf is the second seed behind Evert.