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Because of recent form and experience, Ralston had chosen Gorman over Harold Solomon for the second singles spot. He figured the U.S. could beat Tiriac twice and capture the doubles for a 3-2 victory. "Nastase should beat Smith on the clay," he said the night before the matches began, "but if Stan wins the first match it's extra cake for us. It'll be all over."
In the opener between the champions of Wimbledon and Forest Hills, Nastase began his nettling routine early, but he was tight and nervous. He was leading 9-8 in the first set and serving when the Argentine referee, Enrique Morea, ruled double fault on the first point. The call unglued Nastase and eventually he missed an easy volley to drop the game. Smith held and Nastase double-faulted twice more in his next service to lose the set 9-11. It was not much of a margin but it finished Ilie.
Smith dominated play from there, blanketing the net, giving the Rumanian only five games in two sets and, just as important, never letting the suddenly stunned crowd get into the match as he finished it off 11-9, 6-2, 6-3.
Gorman, who followed against the wily Tiriac, was not as fortunate. Despite losing some line decisions, the handsome Irishman was rolling along at 6-4, 6-2 and twice was a break ahead in the third set before his opponent finally began to show some life and broke back twice to tie. And now Tiriac, realizing the cup was almost gone before it had arrived, went to his bag of tricks.
Glaring at linesmen, sitting down, refusing to play, appealing for lets, Tiriac was a master of guile and deceit. He took the crowd by the neck, and led it to strangle Gorman. On set point against him, the American blew an easy overhead smash to lose 6-4. After the 20-minute break Gorman lost everything else—except his class.
In the last two sets the Rumanian put on one of the fine tragicomic displays of his time. As the Balkan shadows turned to night he directed the crowd, which booed and whistled Gorman's backswing apart. It chanted "TIR-I-AC, TIR-I-AC" and hurled epithets at Referee Morea. Tiriac continued to intimidate linesmen, to stall and laugh, to rest and fume, to delay and, almost incidentally, to play some marvelous tennis. He himself called Morea every four-letter word invented and at one point even grabbed the referee and pushed him. He was, as he loves to say of himself, "Dracula—ready for bite." As Bud Collins of the Boston Globe put it, " Gorman needed a cross, not a racket."
On the sidelines the U.S. team, especially van Dillen, was in an uproar and began screaming curses at Tiriac. Some shady customers started down from the crowd toward the Americans but they were stopped by the ever-present "translators." Soon the slaughter was over 4-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. Gorman was in tears and Ralston was furious. "Tiriac should be thrown out of tennis for life," he said. "This is the most disgraceful day in the history of the Davis Cup." Smith was calmer. "Excitement is good for tennis," he said. "It just shouldn't take over completely."
Now the doubles on Saturday was the critical point, for surely Smith and Nastase would split victories in the final singles. The Rumanians, who had ripped Smith and van Dillen easily at Charlotte last year while taking advantage of the younger American's inability to return service, were confident. The Progresul noise was tuning up and they planned to shake the senior from Southern Cal at least as easily as they had Gorman. On the other side, however, van Dillen was optimistic. "Watching Nastase choke out of his mind makes me feel good," he said. "If we get ahead early, look out."
Then all van Dillen did was go out and play the finest doubles match of his life. He lost his first service game and double-faulted twice in his second, but the Americans won it anyway and that was the extent of van Dillen's errors. He was decisive at net, quick on recoveries, creative and daring.
Nastase meanwhile was in perfect form. In the sixth game he walked to the side of the court to converse with the James Van Alens of Newport, R.I., who had been applauding Rumanian errors much as nearly 7,000 others had been screaming for American blood.