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Tennis: A 20th for Australia

2 minute read

There is, of course, more than one way to train for a Davis Cup match. Some ways are just better than others. Australia’s defending champions got ready for last week’s challenge round by playing in warmup tournaments and running laps. Their Spanish challengers had a different theory. They arrived in Australia two weeks late, explaining casually that they had missed a connection in Tahiti. (“It was,” sighed Spain’s Luis Arilla, “such a beautiful spot.”) Then they begged out of two Australian tournaments and didn’t even hoist a racket during a “practice session” at Sydney’s White City Stadium courts.

“We just want to smell the grass,” explained Arilla. Added Star Player Manuel Santana: “Don’t worry. We will take the Davis Cup back with us.”

They were lucky to leave with their sneakers. In the first singles match, Australia’s lanky Fred Stolle outlasted Santana in a three-hour marathon 10-12, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-5. Then Roy Emerson effortlessly disposed of Juan Gisbert 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. That gave the Aussies a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series. At that point Captain Harry Hopman decided to give his first team a rest. For the next day’s doubles, he called on a pair of youngsters—John Newcombe, 21, and Tony Roche, 20—who had never played a challenge round doubles match before. They polished off Santana and Arilla 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2, to win the Davis Cup for Australia for the 20th time, and the 13th in the last 16 years.

On the last day, when it no longer mattered, Santana finally came to life. Serving brilliantly and handling Emerson’s own, fabled serve with care, Santana beat the Aussie 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, 15-13 for Spain’s lone victory of the matches —and set off a delirious demonstration by 400 banner-waving, wine-swigging Spanish fans, who broke through police lines and danced across the court in a conga line. Their hero was more subdued. “Today there was no pressure on me,” he admitted. “I play better tennis that way.” Loser Emerson announced that he intends to hang up his racket. “At 29, I’ve lost my enthusiasm,” he said. “It’s time for me to step aside for . younger players.” Good thing he didn’t say that when he was only 28.

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