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To start our warmup, I served—and Reisman smashed the ball back for unreturnable winners. When he served, I would smash the ball at him, only to see him whip it back even harder for more winners. If he was trying to intimidate me, he succeeded. And he had yet to take off his coat and scarf. My knees could hardly support me.
Normally, early-round matches at tournaments below the national level are officiated by the players themselves. But because this was Reisman, the No. 2-ranked player in the U.S., an umpire had been summoned.
The umpire announced, "This is a first-round match, two out of three. Marty Reisman of New York will serve to Parton Keese of Hanover, New Hampshire. Play!"
Most of what followed was dreamlike, and I found myself playing each point on instinct. I barely knew the score and was primarily concerned not to make a fool of myself in front of the huge throng that by now had assembled to watch. I could overhear remarks such as "Who's that guy?" and "Do you think Marty will take his overcoat off?"
Amazingly, by the end of the first game (Reisman 21, Keese 10) my jitters had disappeared and so had Reisman's coat and intimidating attitude. Reisman had feelings, it turned out, and, seemingly aware of my predicament, courteously gave me every benefit of the doubt, several times declaring that a ball hit by me had nicked the corner on his side, even though no one, including the umpire or me, had heard it.
In the second game a curious thing happened. Instead of ramming the ball by me, as he had so easily proved he could do, Reisman began to drift farther and farther back from the table, setting up high shots that enabled me to slug the ball with all the strength I could muster. In big matches against his peers, Reisman's returns were notable for just skimming the net, but now he seemed to be enticing me to drive one by him.
I knew, of course, that he was using me as a guinea pig so that he could practice defense, but I didn't mind. Even though I was going to lose, the score might at least be more respectable this way. So with great glee I leaped to the attack, and, fed one setup after another, I forged a lead that not even Reisman could overcome. Not that he seemed to mind. On the final point of my 21-18 victory, he was still standing 10 feet back and sending up lob after lob for me to hit.
"Thanks." I muttered appreciatively as we changed sides for the third and final game, but Reisman just kept the same smile on his face that he had started play with. I knew it was going to be different now. but nevertheless I considered it a splendid gesture on his part.
To my surprise, however, we started out the third game the same way as the second. Reisman, declining to batter me with his unstoppable drives, continued to run around, float back my smashes and turn what should have been a dull rout into an exciting show. That was it. I thought. He's just giving the fans a thrill. Well, it's O.K. by me. Sure beats getting whipped 21-2 or something like that. So I continued my part in the charade.
Don't think, however, that these points were "giveaways" by Reisman. As easy as he was setting the ball up. he still returned practically everything, and no doubt he could have beaten me doing just that. But a show's a show, so besides lofting the ball back. Reisman often attempted to counter a drive of mine with one of his own. which is one of the most sensational tactics in the sport, especially when accomplished from 20 or 30 feet behind the table.