The 1985 Lipton International Players Championships was one of the most significant changes in the ATP calendar in the Open era, serving as a predecessor of what would become Miami Masters 1000 event in 1990. Butch Buchholz established the tournament and the first edition was held at Laver's International Tennis Resort in Delray Beach, gathering the world's leading players (Connors and McEnroe were not there, though) in what had been the closest draw to Grand Slam events, with 128 players and best-of-five encounters from the quarter-final round, including the mixed doubles draw as well!
The tournament was full of surprises, with no top-eight seeds passing the fourth round and Tim Mayotte who would win the title, coming from two sets to love down against Scott Davis to lift his maiden ATP crown. Nonetheless, the most memorable moment occurred on the very first day (a crowd of 12,928 entered the gates that Tuesday) when Ivan Lendl played Larry Stefanki in the night session.
World no. 3 Lendl toppled his opponent to score a 6-2, 6-0 triumph, with a one-sided result overshadowed by the fact they played the last two games without an umpire and the linesmen! Ivan was marching towards the finish line when he hit a questionable ace at 40-15 in the fourth game of the second set, with both him and Larry admitting that it went out.
Stefanki came to talk with the chair umpire Luigi Brambilla from Italy, simply asking if the ball was good, but Brambilla was not in the mood for any explanations, giving Larry a point penalty for delaying the action. Brambilla stepped aside to discuss his decision with the other officials and that was the moment that brought Lendl into the story, saying Stefanki did nothing wrong and that the game should have started from the beginning.
Brambilla and the linesmen left the court while Ivan and Larry decided to take the things into their own hands and continue without them, making the calls and asking someone from the press to keep calling out the score. They reached deuce in the fifth game when Brambilla returned to the court, an act that made no differences as Lendl and Stefanki resumed where they were before, forcing the Italian to leave the court once again, this time permanently.
Both the players and the crowd enjoyed the entire episode and the match was over a few minutes later when Lendl held in game six to score one of the strangest wins of his illustrious career. After the encounter, a Chief of Supervisors Ken Farrar began an investigation that brought no radical moves, with the result accepted as legal and no further penalties for either Ivan or Larry.
Still, Brambilla couldn't escape like nothing had happened, serving as the linesman for the rest of the tournament as he allowed the situation to slip out from his hands. Lendl defeated John Sadri and Victor Pecci before losing in straight sets to Stefan Edberg in the fourth round, failing to reach the final at only three tournaments in 1985, including Wimbledon and the Australian Open.
"Lendl said we should play while they are talking it over," said Stefanki. "Tennis is entertainment and the fans loved it. When the umpire said we should start, we were already at deuce and told him that. I was getting ready to serve and I just asked him one simple question.
It was already 4-0 and I was getting thrashed. All I wanted was to hear the umpire say something. I wanted to see if he was paying attention. That's what happened. We kept playing and the umpire left. Lendl and I made our own calls and somebody in the press box kept calling out the score.
We were having fun and it was totally in control. The match wasn't close and we just wanted to have some fun." "I've played a few times when the umpire didn't know the score but never when the umpire walked off," Lendl said.
"It was ridiculous. Stefanki is one of the nicest guys on the Tour. He just asked a question and deserved an answer. I told the umpire we would play at love-love."