Lew Hoad, the former Australian champion who coaches the Spanish team, had figured on two sure points against the college boy and either a victory in the doubles or one over Smith to clinch the match. But Ralston saw it differently. "We've got a surprise for them," he said earlier in the day. "A star is born right here. Solly just might win twice."
Now, under special pressure, Solomon had to win at least once. "I didn't come here to lose," he said. "I just want to move my feet and throw him some moons."
In truth Gisbert should have won the match in straight sets and buried Solomon and the U.S. team right away. But, ahead by 5-3 in the first and second sets and serving for both, he folded. As the crowd roared at Martini, the toothless Italian referee, "Vendetta, Mafioso. Vendetta, spaghetti" Solomon broke through with deft passing shots to lead 9-7, 7-5.
Gisbert, fighting angry and glaring at his youthful adversary as if he should be ashamed of himself, dashed off the next set at love when Solomon was reduced almost to spectator status by a cramp in the wrist. Fortunately, the light was failing and play was suspended until ma�ana.
Solomon knew full well the situation facing him. If he could not recover and defeat Gisbert, Spain would have a commanding 2-0 lead and, almost as important, if the matches ultimately came down to a decisive Gisbert-Smith confrontation on Monday, the Spaniard would be riding confidently atop his wave of recent victories.
The next afternoon Gisbert came out swarming the net and attacking everything to sweep the fourth set 6-1. He played so well it was frightening. But in the first game of the fifth set Solomon lunged for a backhand, barely caught the ball and won an amazing point that he himself confessed lie didn't even see. Gisbert stared after the ball, glared once more and must have known his spell was broken.
Wearying now in the Mediterranean sun and oblivious to the chants of "Gis-bert! Gis-bert!" from his partisans, the Spaniard faltered and dropped his last three service games of the set. Exhausted, and with his nerves strung out, Solomon threw away his own final two service games but he kept the pressure on and finally won, 6-4, when he skipped around his backhand and slashed a return past Gisbert on the second match point.
"It's moon-ball city," crowed Eric Van Dillen, who helped Smith win the critical doubles match next day. LA ELIMINADORA EN EL AIRE screamed the headlines, but then the moon ball failed on Monday against Gimeno. Solomon lost 6-3, 6-1, 2-6, 6-2 and emotional Latins suddenly realized that they were still in the running. And they still had Gisbert and his pista m�gica against Smith.
But it turned out that Stan Smith had some magic of his own: the big serve and power game that had deserted him so badly on Friday. Smith outfought the Spaniard in three dramatic sets, 11-9, 10-8, 6-4, sending the U.S. into the Davis Cup Challenge Round for the 48th time.
But when the Americans play Rumania in Bucharest in October it will be their first Davis Cup appearance behind the Iron Curtain—and Ilie Nastase already has served hyperbolic warning the matches will be held in a football stadium before 35,000 people, and that the Americans "will have chance of zero."