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CLOSE SHAVE FOR THE U.S.
Richard W. Johnston
August 15, 1960
A revolt-minded Mexican Davis Cup team, starting fast and finishing strong, came perilously close to upsetting its Yanqui masters
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August 15, 1960

Close Shave For The U.s.

A revolt-minded Mexican Davis Cup team, starting fast and finishing strong, came perilously close to upsetting its Yanqui masters

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But that was Saturday, and in the light of what happened Sunday it is only prudent to note that Osuna, for all his brilliance, had a good deal of help from MacKay in scoring his singles victory. MacKay got only 51% of his first services into play, scored only 11 aces and double-faulted a shocking 21 times. It is unkind but fair to say that on a bad day nobody can break MacKay's service as effectively as MacKay.

At 12 noon on Sunday, Osuna was still a god to a gallery popping with optimism. Teamed with 24-year-old Antonio Palafox, he was considered an inevitable winner in the doubles. Even Dave Freed smiled sadly and shook his head when asked to predict the immediate future of his young doubles combination of Buchholz and McKinley.

The smile, it soon developed, was something of a come-on. The day before Freed had plotted on a chart every shot in MacKay's game with Osuna and had discovered that Osuna rifled serves to his backhand straight back into MacKay's teeth. Osuna's forehand return, however, was weak, particularly when he was unable to come in on the ball and instead was forced to take a step to the right. In the doubles Buchholz and McKinley succeeded in placing 60% of their serves deep on Osuna's forehand. They also rushed the net faster, helping to minimize Osuna's speed, which had so upset the slow-moving MacKay the day before.

The strategy began to pay off handsomely after the third set when the Mexicans led 2-1. On set point in the fourth game, Osuna hit a soft second service into the net. This was bad enough, but he sank still further in the fifth set when he collided with Palafox, almost knocking him out. Finally, at 6-5, the U.S. leading, McKinley aced Osuna. On balance, Freed's shot chart won the doubles.

The fourth singles decided the issue. MacKay won the match for the U.S. and, for all intents and purposes, earned for it the right to challenge Australia for the Davis Cup this December (the U.S. must now face only weak Venezuela). It was not a refurbished MacKay so much as an opponent made to order that brought ultimate victory. Where Osuna had been incredibly fast, often beating MacKay to the net on his own service, Llamas was a slow, controlled player who depended on placements for his points. Against this type of game MacKay had a chance to try placements himself, and at this he is almost unbeatable among the world's amateurs.

He proved this conclusively on Monday in a game that was by far the best of the test match. After a bad start, Llamas, encouraged by the noisy crowd chanting his name, got better and better. But just when it seemed he would break through, MacKay would shock him with a beautiful cross-court placement. MacKay's service also came to his aid. He aced Llamas 19 times, seldom double-faulted and got his first service in most of the time. In the 20th game, with tension becoming almost unbearable and the spectators groaning in suppressed but polite excitement, MacKay broke Llamas' serve with a brilliant cross-court placement. And two points from the end Llamas committed one of his rare double faults. It was a sad denouement for the crowd that had cried "Mario, Mario, Mario!" but it served as a lovely comeback for MacKay.

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