The device was a system of signals, staged with almost theatrical effect. Before each point on our service, the net man would suddenly turn his back on the other team and flash a sign to the server, like a baseball catcher instructing his pitcher. One signal meant that as soon as the ball was served the net man was going to shift to the opposite side of the court. In that case the server would cross in the opposite direction to cover the other side. An alternate signal indicated that the net man would stay put, whereupon the server would come to net on his normal side of the court.
Simple as it was, this scheme had the powerful elements of mystery and novelty; that sudden, unusual move by the man at the net as he wheeled to face his partner was upsetting. The Australians fell apart under the psychological blow.
The doubles victory, however, was not quite enough. On the third day Trabert was beaten by young Lewis Hoad in one of the most exciting matches in recent Davis Cup history, and then Seixas lost to the other half of the Aussies' boy-genius act, Ken Rosewall. We were going home covered with the glory of an unexpected near-miss, but still empty-handed.
In the locker room afterward, Trabert glanced back from the mirror he was using to knot his tie. "You know something?" he said, with an expression of surprise, as if a happy thought had suddenly struck him. "We're good enough to beat those guys."
"All right," I said, "let's. Next year."
And 1954 was indeed our year. When the Challenge Round began before a record crowd of more than 25,000 people at White City Stadium, we were in good shape. Trabert, ready and eager to play the opener, had, in fact, drawn the first match, against Australia's Lew Hoad.
It was a contest of powerful hitters, but Tony gave it something besides muscle. A tricky wind increased the risks of a big service; we agreed that the situation called for less speed and more control. Tony, cutting down on the force of his first serve, got it in consistently. Hoad, on the other hand, faulted and was obliged to come in with an easier second serve.
From my canvas chair on the sidelines I watched the match seesaw, first in Tony's favor, then Hoad's. Too often Trabert was being passed at the net from Hoad's backhand. I kept looking for some pattern in the Australian's game that we could anticipate. Finally, in the second set, I spotted something.
At the next change of court I told Trabert, as I dried the handle of his racket with a towel, "Watch that backhand. When the ball comes in high to him on that side, he's hitting it straight down the line. When it comes to him low, he drives it cross-court with top spin."
Tony nodded, rinsing his mouth with water. When play resumed he responded perfectly, anticipating Hoad's returns and cutting them off with a volley.