However, Trabert admitted that strategy, not tactics, dictated that by no means would Ashe be permitted to burn himself out against Borg. "I want him strong for that first match on Sunday against Johansson," Trabert said. "If Arthur gets close to Borg he'll go after him. He won't make a travesty of any match. But if he doesn't win we won't feel that we are in trouble."
The Borg-Ashe match was in no way a travesty, although in the early games Ashe was not running full out for every shot. In the first set they both broke early on, but Borg, fighting hard, broke again to make it 5-4 and went on to win 6-4.
The second set was even tougher. The first game took eight minutes, went to deuce seven times. Five times the Swede held the advantage until Ashe took it. Playing with economy of effort through his full repertoire, he broke Borg's serve and he was ahead 3-1. But the resistance movement could not hold out against the heavy artillery. The second set went 7-5 to Borg and the third saw Arthur gracefully bowing out 6-3. A gentlemanly match, no disputes, no emotions and it was 1-0, Sweden, as expected.
But there was edge in the Gerulaitis-Johansson match even before the first ball was served, each player childishly refusing to be first to quit warming up after the regulation five minutes. "Please play," the umpire called anxiously. "Play please. We start now, yes?" When the match did start, the jeering and the heavy whistling came quickly. By the fifth game the crowd was applauding every first-serve fault that Gerulaitis made.
But Gerulaitis, in the first two sets, was never in trouble. Johansson had a good forehand and a good first serve when it came off, but his backhand was eminently attackable and his second serve sloppy. Swiftly it was 6-2, 6-1 and, by the time it was 5-1 in the third, the fans were streaming out of the stadium.
Then, unaccountably, Gerulaitis' serve went to pieces. He lost three successive games. When he fell, trying to get to a Johansson volley, what was left of the crowd roared as if it were at a football game. Amazingly, it seemed as if Johansson might wriggle off the hook. Indeed the 10th game went to deuce before Gerulaitis won the set 6-4, and the match.
Gerulaitis had done his job. The only thing he would have to concern himself with now was a possible Ashe failure against Johansson, which, given a U.S. doubles win, would mean that Gerulaitis' match with Borg would be decisive.
"If that happens I'll be taking tranquilizers," Vitas said.
The doubles match against Borg and Ove Bengston on Saturday was not given. It had to be taken. From the very beginning of the first set, U.S. confidence sagged perceptibly. Both Swedes served aggressively, and when Smith's serve was broken in the third game, the set became a 6-2 rout.
The Americans picked up in the second set, taking it 6-3, but no one was confident that it was a significant recovery. In the third set, the 6'5" Bengston hit his peak, dominating the net and serving powerfully. The set ended 6-3, Sweden, with the crowd chanting "Sverige! Sverige!" and the stamping feet and rhythmic clapping becoming more triumphant. The cheering reached a crescendo in the fourth set with Sweden leading 4-2 and seemingly certain of victory. "I was sure we had it won," Borg said later. And at that point, Lutz might have been regretting that late-night phone call from San Francisco.