Then, in the 95th game of the second set, Lenny Schloss, with a double fault to plague him, abruptly lost his serve and the second set of the match 47-49—an enormous total of games that only went to square the match at a set apiece. Dollar bills exchanged hands among the clutch of Australians, and everyone settled back for the third set. Once again there was a service break in the first game of the set—the Leach-Dell team letting down just infinitesimally after winning the second set. They broke back again immediately, just as they had in the second set, and then once again the servers began to prevail.
Finally, in the 147th game of the match, the end came. Mozur was serving. Suddenly he had a match point against him. He served well and came to the net to volley the return. He drove the ball well, but an intercepting fluke shot off the wood of Dell's racket went by him, and Ruffels, the Australian who held Mozur's name in the pool game, gave a great shout, his wooden chair went over behind him, and the match was done.
The most surprised person at the match point was Dick Leach. The possibility of breaking serve had become so remote during the steady succession of services held that the point came and went without Leach being aware. "Think of that," he said later. "The first I realized that something out of the ordinary had happened was when the other three players had their arms out, wanting to shake hands. Can you imagine that? We'd gone through 147 games and I was so numbed by them that I wasn't even able to savor the match point. I thought the score was 30—all. 'Wha'? Wha'?' is what I said, and they had to explain it to me."
Afterward, around the grounds of the Casino, the players sat and talked about the marathon match. The consensus seemed to be that the reason for the long sets was not the power of the individual serve (none of the players owns a particularly impressive serve) but the comparative drop in ability to return service with pace and authority. Tennis players say that the big step into high-ranking play comes with learning how to return service. Despite all the talk about how the big serve has ruined tennis, there has only been one service in the past decade, and probably in the whole history of tennis, which at its best absolutely defied solution: that of Pancho Gonzalez. In the professional ranks and at the top of the amateur standings the players achieve the ability to anticipate and make some sort of forcing or controlled shot off a powerful serve. A match of top-ranking tennis players would never find a string of 50 or 60 games without a service break. At Newport, on both days of play, the players were all getting their first serves in and moving to the net well and volleying crisply. The return of service was another matter.
But they had the record—just about everyone agreed. The figure was often heard at Newport that week. "Hundred and forty-seven games," and then a shake of the head in awe. People stared at the four participants as if they were quadruplets. Lenny Schloss said: "I hope we're not remembered just for that match. After all, we lost. But I hope it's the record. That'd be some sort of compensation."
That was the other topic—the need of a record book for tennis. Someone mentioned The Golfer's Handbook as a model—the red-covered British publication that is the browser's delight. In it one can find such facts as the winner of the 1948 Kinghorn Grip Tournament (John Panton) and the length of the longest drive ever recorded hit (460 yards). Its most interesting section is entitled "Interesting Facts, Feats and Extraordinary Occurrences" (at Mowbray Course, Cape Town, Len Richardson, who represented South Africa in the Olympics, played a round which measured 6,248 yards in 31 minutes, 22 seconds, etc.), and in such a section in an equivalent tennis volume would go the short accounts of the great marathon matches of this August. The players had a number of categories to suggest. Besides Longest Matches, they offered such categories as Most Consecutive Sets Won Without Loss; Most Consecutive Games Won; Most Consecutive Aces; Hardest Serve (in mph); Shortest Match; Most Consecutive Double Faults; the rankings back through the years would be included, of course, and then there were some quixotic possibilities such as Highest Lob; Extraordinary Occurrences would include such shots as one that a player described as glancing off his racket and hitting the umpire sitting up in his wooden chair, hitting him directly between the eyes and breaking his glasses.
I had the temerity to offer a shot for this latter category. This summer a friend of mine dropped back to slam a lob thrown up rather poorly by his sister-in-law across the net. He stumbled on a ball rolling loose on the court as he reached up and he missed the ball completely. But on his swing through he bopped a small bird that had picked that unfortunate moment to meander across the court. The deed was done at 4:15 in the afternoon, and the score was deuce at the time, in the first game of the second set—all of paramount importance to the statistics lover. The bird was a wren, and it recovered.