Like Scott and Leschly, Graebner had never before reached the semifinals at Forest Hills, and at 23, married and with a young daughter, he had arrived at the stage where he, too, was considering giving up year-round tennis for a job. Graebner had no problems in the early stages of the tournament, but in the quarterfinals he met Roy Emerson, now 31 and only the shadow of the player he once was. Still, the shadow was enough to push Graebner to four sets, including a titanic 19-17 third set, before Graebner won. Thus the reformed bad boy joined the pharmacist and the lawyer in the semifinals with John Newcombe.
On Saturday in the Forest Hills stadium, Gene Scott's adventure came to an abrupt ending. Newcombe ran through him in three straight sets. For a while it looked as if the Graebner-Leschly match would last only three sets, too. Playing like a man too happy to be nervous ("I woke up this morning and couldn't believe I was in the semifinals"), Leschly won the first two sets, never losing more than one point on his serve. Graebner, on the other hand, looked stiff and double-faulted frequently, whereas the day before his serves had made Emerson shake his head.
Graebner continued to double-fault in the third set, but he held on and finally broke Leschly's serve to win it. As he entered a dressing room beneath the stadium for the 10-minute break, he was followed almost immediately by Bill Talbert and Gardnar Mulloy and by his wife Carole, who throughout the tournament (when she was not playing herself) signaled encouragement from the stands.
"You're not throwing the ball high enough on your serve," said Talbert.
"You're not throwing the ball high enough," repeated Mulloy.
"Honey, please throw it higher," pleaded Carole.
After the intermission Graebner took over. He won the fourth set quickly, and gained an early service break in the fifth. Leschly made a gallant effort, breaking Graebner's serve to even it at 5-5, but he immediately lost his own and, minutes later, the match. At the final point Graebner flipped his racket in the air and leaped the net to console his opponent, but Leschly, a comedian to the end, also leaped the net, passing the startled Graebner in mid-air. Landing, Leschly gave a hilarious "where did he go?" pantomime, then stepped back over the net to congratulate the American.
It was no clown that Graebner faced the following day. Newcombe was merciless and swift, beating the American in three sets. Thus for the 12th year in a row the U.S. was unable to win its own National men's singles title (the Australians have won it nine times in that period). Unless someone can convince John Newcombe to join the crowd who stayed away from Forest Hills this year, the drought may last indefinitely.