World Cup week is also a time for a bit of needling and gamesmanship. It started the first year, when Fred Stolle and Newcombe played against four Americans. "Oh, well," said Stolle, "that makes it about even—two Aussies against four Yanks." Australia won 5-2 and has won two out of three since. This year Stolle, as captain and alternate player, said, "We're planning a party Saturday night because it will be over by then."
Ralston, the U.S. captain, got under Stolle's skin by objecting to the Aussies' yellow shirts, which he said would be a "tough background when you're using yellow balls."
"People have been using white balls and white shirts for a hundred years," scoffed Stolle, "and nobody ever complained."
"Yes," countered Ralston, "but everyone wore white. Let us wear yellow, too, instead of blue. It could only mean a point a match, but that's enough. I know I wear yellow every chance I get." ( Smith backed up his captain, claiming that he had lost sight of the ball against Newcombe's shirt during several volley exchanges.)
Stolle was also the object of some good-natured kidding because he has signed to play World Team Tennis for the Philadelphia Freedoms, coached by the feisty Billie Jean King. Yes, one of the chief instigators of the notorious masculine, beer-drinking camaraderie of Australian tennis players is going to be taking orders from a woman. The sports-writers in attendance at Hartford prepared an awards ceremony for Stolle, calling him potentially "the world's first henpecked pro athlete" and presented him with Ms. King's book, Tennis to Win, with orders to study it carefully.
Before the first ball was served, Ralston was forced to explain once again that the country's co-No. 1 player, Jimmy Connors, had turned down an invitation to play on the team, just as he had repeatedly spurned Davis Cup invitations.
"O.K., look at Stan Smith, Arthur Ashe and Tom Gorman," Ralston told the press. "Look what they've done on the WCT circuit this year and whom they've played against. Now look at Connors and do the same thing. If he makes No. 3 among that group, it has to be questionable. I hate to keep harping on Connors, but you people keep bringing him up. His attitude stinks. His manners are awful. I can't say many good things about him."
The draw determined that the opening singles match was Laver against Smith, which was considered a good break for the U.S., and not just because of the eight-year difference in their ages. Smith had been playing well for the Blue group, ranking second to Newcombe, while Laver was only sixth in the Green and had lost badly in the second round in Barcelona the week before.
Nevertheless, Laver won in straight sets 7-5, 6-3, preying on Smith's second serve, forcing Stan to be so conscious of making that delivery good that he double-faulted four times. When Ashe started off Friday's program by losing a tough match to Newcombe 6-2, 5-7, 6-4, it looked as if the U.S. was going to suffer another rout, one it could not blame on high altitude or absent stars.
Gorman, playing with the usual shamrock stenciled on his racket face and the usual leprechaun twinkle in his eyes, saved the day—and NBC's Sunday telecast—by beating Ken Rosewall 6-4, 6-4. Rosewall, 39, had not played in any tournaments since a Davis Cup round in Melbourne in November and obviously was not sharp. Gorman was hyped up, giving a primordial yelp as he pounced on an easy volley to win the match. Then came Ashe's upset of Laver on Saturday to tie the series, and the U.S. might even have gone into Sunday leading 3-2 if Smith and Ashe had not pulled an el foldo in the doubles against Newcombe and Tony Roche.