Besides, even if McEnroe were not being obliged to top his Wimbledon triumph just a few days later, his boorish controversies over there followed him home, snapping at his heels even as his barber snipped his curls. McEnroe himself couldn't help but appreciate that the Davis Cup was too much too soon. Taking off just a few hours to celebrate in an uptown East Side saloon with friends the night after he returned from England, McEnroe had to shake his head as he downed another beer. "Thank God this team has Connors," he said with a laugh.
Of course, that the team also has Ashe may, over the long haul, be just as felicitous for the celebrated McNasty. As outgoing as Junior has, Lord knows, proved to be, his close affiliations in tennis are rather limited. As with Connors before him, the family tends to circle the wagons whenever the dear boy is criticized. Even business is handled within, by his father. So, if nothing else, Ashe is at least a foreign substance that can be rubbed on McEnroe's noggin. At Wimbledon, he went over videotapes of McEnroe serving, showing him where he was going off form, and the day before the finals Ashe visited with the referee and chair umpire to discuss precisely what sort of behavior would be tolerated from his charge. Moreover, Ashe—decked out at Flushing Meadow in a special sea captain-type cap, complete with scrambled eggs on the visor—has a great sense of tradition. "Look, the main thing," Ashe says of his handling McEnroe, "is that he's still only 22, and I just don't want him to bleep up his place in tennis history."
Certainly, against Lendl (and Smid, too) he was a regular McLovely right to the end, when Lendl got the decisive service break, snapping off his best shot, the crosscourt forehand. But, in a curious way, although Lendl always seemed to have an edge, and although McEnroe played without the passion that so often distinguishes him, he never seemed far out of the match. In the long rallies on the steaming court—once an hour and 39 minutes passed between clouds—Lendl would have to stretch and dash about, while McEnroe stood back as collected as ever, his racket always ready, in place, as if it steered him about, rather than the other way around. For all his effortlessness, for all his good manners, there were too many mistakes. After three hours and 14 minutes, Czechoslovakia had its first point.
As it happened, there would be no more. But given the powerful quality of this American squad, as well as our home-surface advantage, it is unlikely that any whole team can threaten the Americans the rest of the way as much as the one great player did. At the moment, it is time to reorganize the Cup again. The only fair tie would be America vs. the world.