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HE WAS MORE LIKE A REGIMENT
Gwilym Brown
October 18, 1971
Stan Smith, although only a Pfc., brought a lot of heavy artillery to bear against those two tenacious Rumanians, Ilie Nastase and Ion Tiriac, to lead the U.S. Davis Cup team to victory in North Carolina
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October 18, 1971

He Was More Like A Regiment

Stan Smith, although only a Pfc., brought a lot of heavy artillery to bear against those two tenacious Rumanians, Ilie Nastase and Ion Tiriac, to lead the U.S. Davis Cup team to victory in North Carolina

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"Frank was just extremely nervous, which happens to a lot of players in the Davis Cup," said U.S. Coach Dennis Ralston later. "He wasn't moving his feet, he had no bounce. He was shifting his shoulders to meet Tiriac's shots, but not his feet. That's a sure sign of nerves. There's nothing to do but play out of it." Which is precisely what Froehling did, playing out of it in one of the most dramatic comebacks in the 71-year history of the Davis Cup.

"He had been on the offense, me on the defense," said Froehling after the match. "So I started coming to the net to take the offense away from him."

He also kept Tiriac, who claims to be 32 but who has the weatherbeaten look of someone nearer 40, scurrying from one deep corner to another. Tiriac began to tire, and where his game had been nearly flawless in the first two sets, it now began to unravel like frayed catgut. Froehling won the third set 6-1, taking the set point with a neatly executed cross-court backhand chip volley.

Six service aces (he rolled up 16 in all) helped Froehling capture the fourth set, but the set-winning point was an extraordinary shot that jolted the first-day crowd of 5,000 to its feet, arms raised and shouting. Tiriac had taken command at the net and now, after a long rally, he leaped high to apparently smash away an overhead volley. Froehling, loping deep to his right, snaked out his racket and then whipped back a top-spin forehand that nosedived just beyond Tiriac's lunge. The momentum carried the American to a 5-2 lead in the fifth and final set, but with the sun now vanished below the pines and the air turned chilly he lost concentration. Tiriac broke Froehling's service in the ninth game, stalled by demanding on several occasions that Referee Harry Hop-man overrule linesmen's decisions, and with the score 6-6 and darkness closing in Hopman suspended play until the next day.

Froehling and Tiriac had fought for three hours and nine minutes to obtain this result, but it was all wrapped up in six minutes the following afternoon. Froehling held service, then broke Tiriac for the match by passing him at the net with a bulletlike forehand. So Froehling came through when he had to, but his final match—against Nastase—was both anti-climactic and a loser, 6-3, 6-1, 1-6, 6-4.

The U.S. doubles team of Smith and 20-year-old Erik Van Dillen lost on Saturday to Tiriac and Nastase, a pair that had been playing together for six years, finishing up just as a downpour drenched the area. It was only a temporary delay on the road to victory, however. Tiriac certainly seemed little cheered at the prospect of meeting Smith in singles on the next day.

Tiriac had a right to be apprehensive. After the sodden court had been fired by gasoline and fanned by helicopter to put it in shape on Sunday, Smith dominated the play. He closed out the match and gained the decisive third point with a delicate lob that floated just over Tiriac's head and squirted away to the rear wall. After all that had gone before, the end seemed effortless.

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