"I'm happy with Gonzales," he said.
A few heated discussions and many news stories later, a compromise was announced. Gonzales remained as referee, but Connors' two men were named umpire and deputy referee. Just who would have final say in case of an argument during the match was not clear. Calling the lines were a cluster of past greats, including Don Budge, Billy Talbert, Dick Savitt and Ted Schroeder. Nobody demanded they take eye tests.
Jimmy (The Greek) Snyder made Connors an 8-to-5 favorite early in the week but had him up to 11-to-5 by Saturday. Most of the tennis crowd hanging around Caesars during the week agreed.
The seats, priced at $25, $50 and $100, were not all sold (about 3,800 people paid $175,000), but there was a stageful of celebrities at courtside, including Johnny Carson, Alan King, Andy Williams, Clint Eastwood and Charlton Heston, into whose lap Connors almost landed after chasing one of Laver's shots. Riordan and Gloria Connors were there, as always, and the dark Ecuadorian, Segura, sat on the court like a boxer's corner man. Ordinarily, Pancho Segura is as entertaining a companion as one could want at a tennis match, calling shots and criticizing strategy. But any match that includes his boy "Jeemy" turns him into a dish of chocolate Jell-O.
When Laver came onto the court Sunday morning for the showdown, Connors was jumping up and down like a boxer warming up for a bout while Riordan gave him a pep talk and pummeled him lightly in the stomach. All the time he was jumping, Connors was looking toward Laver and muttering something, psyching himself up. One could imagine Riordan saying, "He can't hurt us, Champ. He won't lay a glove on us." Laver appeared relaxed, as if he were about to begin a stroll through a peaceful garden on a fine spring day.
Connors won the first two sets without having his serve broken, and it seemed obvious that the money, the car and the revenge were his. He was going to prove in short order that he was better than 7-Up, more like a vintage champagne worth revering. Suddenly Laver's serve, which had been pretty good all along, got much better and the fans, almost unanimously on his side, screamed and whistled at every ace, at every crisp volley, every time he held serve, every time he wiped his brow. The Aussie won the third set 6-3.
The fourth set brought, in addition to Laver's defeat, a game that some of the audience thought was the most thrilling they had ever seen. Connors was leading 5-4, Laver was serving. Laver's fifth ace made it 40-30, but Connors hit a forehand screecher down the line to make it deuce, and from there on they played 16 more points before Laver finally won the game. The score went to deuce eight times and Connors had match point five times. Twice Laver served aces with match point against him. And for just the kind of spice that was not needed, Connors responded to Comedienne Totie Fields' heckling with a tasteless gesture.
Perhaps that game took too much out of Laver. When he next served, trailing 5-6, Connors broke him easily, at love, finally making good on his sixth match point.
Now Connors may say, "Get me Newcombe" or "Get me Borg" or "While you're up, get me a Vilas," but what would Laver do if a rematch were offered?
"I'd give it some thought," he said, "but I'd like to be maybe a year younger."