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Certificates of bravery should be awarded to Lutz and Alexander, each of whom interrupted his honeymoon to be on hand. Five major life-insurance companies are headquartered in Hartford and there are few things an insurance salesman loves more than a newlywed. One could envision Alexander sitting down at courtside for a breather after having had his service broken and getting an earful of sales pitch from a Travelers agent sneaking in on Aetna's territory. But it never happened. The earfuls came from captains Stolle and Ralston, who did more than just wipe off racket handles.
Ralston, whose two bad knees have forced him into being a part-time, fill-in player on the pro circuit, coaches a college team in his hometown of Bakersfield, Calif. Last year, as captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team (a job he also holds this year), he worked well with Smith, battling in Bucharest against the antics and tirades of Nastase and Ion Tiriac, and Ralston was not about to let the press believe what he considered to be Australian propaganda, such as the word going around that Rosewall was playing poorly and that Newcombe had not played in two months.
"They may say that Ken Rosewall is not up to his usual form," said Ralston, "but I saw him in Chicago last week. He played good tennis even though he lost. In one situation he won 15 of 16 points. You'd have to call that good tennis."
And had Newcombe really been in hibernation in the Outback?
"I can't believe John hasn't held a racket in his hand for two months," said Ralston. "When you're a tennis player you just don't do those things."
After a celebrity tournament that featured comedian Bill Cosby as the world's funniest and least competent net judge, the serious competition began on the slow Supreme-Court surface. Smith met Newcombe, three-time Wimbledon champion and the only World Cupper not supplied by the World Championship of Tennis troupes. Newcombe, as Ralston had noted, claimed he had been resting at home in Sydney, keeping a safe distance from his racket. Smith had five WCT tournaments behind him and ranked second to Rod Laver in Group A. He was just back from risking his valuable limbs on the ski slopes of Utah. Smith and Newcombe had a close, tough match, the first service break not coming until the 29th game and the first two sets going to tie breakers. Smith won 7-6, 6-7, 7-5, and the U.S. was assured of at least matching last year's score.
"The adrenaline wasn't coming," complained Newcombe. "There wasn't enough killer there."
Smith and Ralston had gone over their strategy carefully and decided to make Newcombe volley with his backhand as much as possible. Not that his backhand volley is weak, but at least an opponent has a chance to get to it, whereas the forehand volley resembles a howitzer shot.
On the second night Ashe met Emerson, who had not beaten him in seven years, and the U.S. seemed to have a second point in the bag. But no, old Emmo won 6-4, 4-6, 6-3. Said Ashe: "When Emmo puts on the Australian jock or shirt or whatever it was he wore tonight, he does well." Then Riessen, who had beaten Rosewall four out of the last five times they had met, was beaten by the little star from Sydney 6-2, 7-6. It was probably Rosewall's best match of the year (he ranks five notches below leader Riessen in WCT's Group B).
Saturday night Riessen, using the same tactics that had worked for Smith, beat Newcombe 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, and showed off his improved first serve and his running forehand down the line. The two countries were tied 2-2 and it seemed certain that America's best doubles team, Smith and Lutz, would beat Rosewall-Alexander, who had played together just twice before (Rosewall is a mere 17 years older than the bridegroom). The Aussies had three match points against them in the 10th game of the third set but fought back to win in a tie breaker 3-6, 6-1, 7-6. Rosewall and Alexander concentrated on spinning serves close into Smith's body on his backhand side so that he didn't have room to swing out.