And Vitas Gerulaitis said, "If Nastase wins this tournament against these crowds, it will be the most monumental accomplishment in tennis."
A more serious problem was that the Nastase syndrome was spreading like brushfire through the tournament. From the moment Nastase and Pohmann walked off the court, the U.S. Open started falling apart. Crowds grew loud and ill-tempered. Umpires and linesmen were either intimidated or power-hungry. Players admitted to paranoia over line calls and rules. Everywhere one looked, there was trouble.
Vitas Gerulaitis called an umpire a "dummy" in the midst of his defeat by Connors, and was reprimanded. Kodes held up a match with Frew McMillan for a full five minutes to protest a line call, and later blamed his defeat by Connors on a bad call.
Among the women, Kerry Reid was defaulted by an official after only 20 seconds of nursing a sore ankle. Even such stalwart sportsmen as Guillermo Vilas and Borg were seen traipsing all the way around the net and deep into their opponent's territory to point out a ball mark to a line judge, a rare action indeed.
"It's the influence of team tennis," said Gerulaitis. "The crowd yells, groans, boos, participates. The lines people are shellshocked by the Nastase thing. They're too nervous to be forceful. The players have to protect themselves."
Charles Hare, the tournament referee who admitted he erred in not taking quicker action against Nastase, spent the remainder of the week watching Nastase's matches from the window of a small green shack in the northeast corner of the stadium. "This is not the jungle," he said. "I'm not going to be the guy to let the players take control. There will be no anarchy here, no riots."
It was indicative of the wackiness of the whole affair that events were put into perspective by, of all people, Connors. "We are professionals," he said. "The crowd must be allowed to participate." When asked exactly why Forest Hills patrons sounded like a Yankee Stadium mob reacting to Billy Martin kicking dirt on Nestor Chylak, Connors said simply, "New Yorkers want blood."
One curly-haired fellow New Yorkers also wanted was the defending champion, Manuel Orantes, who, since his memorable victory over Connors last September, had managed to lose a Vegas challenge match, damage his confidence, destroy his arm and get himself seeded sixth, possibly the lowest spot for a defender in history.
Nevertheless the Catalonian was as cheerful as ever, exposing his enormous thighs, flashing his equally enormous teeth and displaying the easy chips and spins that will keep him around soft-court events forever. It was suddenly last summer, too, when Orantes rallied from two sets behind to defeat Stan Smith, then came from 0-4 in the fourth to draw even with Borg in the quarterfinals.
Everybody remembered how Orantes beat Vilas in last year's semis from 0-5 and five match points down, but as Orantes pointed out, " Borg, he is different story. You look on his face for some emotion and there is nothing."