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It looks like our cup again
Kim Chapin
August 26, 1968
The main reasons for the considerable charm and appeal Davis Cup play holds for people, whether or not they are outright tennis fans, are that the competition is sufficiently old (the first Challenge Round was held in 1902), sufficiently amateur and sufficiently tradition-encrusted to please the establishmentarian instinct. It is also a sporting event with true worldwide participation. This year 49 nations entered teams in one of four zones—two European, one Asian and one American—to determine which will challenge Australia, the present cup holder, in December. Finally, and perhaps most significantly, it provides the closest approximation in sports to the star system. Give a country—no matter how small—one super player, and it is ready to challenge the world.
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August 26, 1968

It Looks Like Our Cup Again

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Dell and Ralston did not decide on their choices until late on the night of the first day, and finally picked Pasarell and Graebner. The other possibility was Bob Lutz, who had actually looked the best of the Americans in doubles play, but, like Orantes, was untested. In earlier ties against the British West Indies, Mexico and Ecuador, Lutz had played twice with Stan Smith and once with Graebner, but in all three instances the United States had had 2-0 leads at the end of the first day.

Graebner needed the match to restore his somewhat frayed confidence and to work out the problems with his service, and Pasarell was picked because, when he chooses, he is the most tenacious and gutty player in the country. "All I want to do is win," he said. "I don't care if we look good, bad or indifferent doing it. I just want to win."

The Americans were heavily favored in the doubles but, surprisingly, that match turned out to be the best of the tie. Perry Jones, now 81 and the person most responsible for the tremendous amount of tennis talent produced in Southern California for decades, said later, "This was one of the most interesting doubles I've seen in 50 years."

Graebner went into the match still worried about his service. "You know how big a part of my game it is," he said. "This morning during practice it was still terrible." Graebner needed eight points to hold service his first time up, but, as it turned out, did not lose it the entire afternoon.

The first set went to Spain 13-11, and it is fortunate Pasarell had such a self-effacing attitude toward his game, because while serving at set point, in the 24th game of the set, he double-faulted. That was bad enough, but it was more the way he did it. After missing his first service, as he said, "I threw the ball up wrong, the wind [a considerable 17 mph] carried it away from me and I choked." He barely made contact with the ball and it sailed, like a knuckleball, not only over the net but over a surprised Gisbert, a shocked Santana and an indifferent baseline umpire in the general direction of Lake Erie.

The second set was even longer—32 games—but chinks were developing in the Spanish armor. The obvious American strategy was to play Gisbert, but he was difficult to find. Santana was everywhere, exhorting himself, exhorting Gisbert and occasionally running from sideline to sideline on consecutive shots while Gisbert watched the action only as an interested observer. Santana poached whenever he could, and this, of course, often left his sideline unprotected while Gisbert was serving.

In the 31st game of the set, with Gisbert behind 15-30, Pasarell went for that sideline and passed Santana to give the Americans two break points. They only needed one. Pasarell held his service for the set, and even Dell, who had not been too sure up to that point, permitted himself a smile. The second set was the key to the match, and the match—11-13, 17-15, 7-5, 6-2—the key to the tie. It had taken three hours, 45 minutes. 422 points and 12 quarts of Gatorade, the unofficial official U.S. team drink, to play.

Even though Spain, which trailed 2-1, still had a chance going into the third day, in which the first afternoon's singles assignments were reversed, the tie was over. Graebner, full of the confidence he had lost against. Santana and regained in the doubles, disposed of Gisbert in straight sets, 9-7, 6-3, 6-1, to give the United States the third and deciding point. That relegated the final match between Ashe and Santana to the status of pride only. Both played superbly; Santana won the first and fourth sets (13-11, 15-13), Ashe the second and third (7-5, 6-3), when darkness forced postponement of the fifth. Ashe finally won the next day 6-3. It was a fitting conclusion to a good tie, and surely the most important one the United States team will play all year.

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