No more jokes, please, bout Vitas Gerulaitis' second serve, which used to crack them up on the pro tennis tour.
His colleagues said it had nearly as much bite as the late Hazel Wightman's. Gerulaitis himself liked to tell the one about bopping his partner on the head with one in a doubles match last year.
"I'm so used to serving badly that when I serve well, I'm ecstatic," the flamboyant 22 year-old New Yorker said today.
He must have been happier than a crab who escaped the polluted Chesapeake Bay as he collected the biggest paycheck of his three-yeat pro career, $32,000, for beating Bob Lutz in the final of the Ocean City international tennis tournament.
Gerulaitis served very well indeed as he abruptly turned around a match Lutz had dominated for one set and beat the Californian with the football player's physique, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2, before 2,500 spectators at the Convention Hall.
Gerulaitis served light aces on the medium-pace carpet surface, but the big difference from his previous encounters with the muscular Lutz was his second serve.
He repeatedly kiked it deep to the forehand and followed it swiftly in to the net, where he capitalized on what he considers his biggest asset, quickness.
"His second serve used to be a duck. He had trouble with his toss, got it behind him and never got any depth on the ball. Now it comes in with mu ch more authority," observed Lutz, who hit some slashing volley winners in the first set, either deep to the corners or sharply angled, and then unaccountably ran out of steam.
"There was one game early in the second set that I just suddenly felt gassed," said Lutz, who received $20,000 worth of rejuventation after the match.
"It was probably my earlier matches catching up with me. My legs tightened up. I lost my mobility. The first set I played the best I have all week, then I just lost my rhythm."
Alex Metreveli and Bill Scanlon won the $2,000 top prize in a doubles event plagued by defaults, beating Cliff Richey and amatuer John McEnroe, 7-6, 6-2.
Lutz and Gerulaitis had never played each other in a tournament and were about even in one-set World Team Tennis matches.
Geruliatis was seeded No. 3, Lutz No. 4 in this tournament, which was televised nationally as part of something called "The CBS Double-header."
Part II is another 16-man, $100,000 event at Virginia Beach, Va., April 19-23, and the top four performers in the two tournaments split a $100,000 bonus pot in shares of $50,000, $25,000, $15,000 and $10,000.
The finalists had probably the toughest draws of the 16 starters here. Lutz beat Butch Walts, Cliff Richey and No. 1 seed Guillermo Vilas to get his TV time. Gerulaitis toppled Charlie Pasarell, Jan Kodes and No. 2 seed Ilie Nastase.
Lutz, 29, is back in form after surgery on both knees in 1973-74 that interrupted an ascending career. Exceptionally strong in the forearm and wrist, he plays the kind of solid serve-and-volley style that troubles Geruliatis, a quick, scrappy and flashy scrambler.
Lutz seemed in control in the first set as he broke for a 4-2 lead ith a beautiful shot: a perfectly disguised lob he flicked for a winner when he looked as if he would hit a running forehand down-the-line.
Lutz served out the set at love, but Gerulaitis held at 15 in the first gam of the second with an ace down the center and then broke Lutz four of the next six times he served to take the second set quickly and bolt to a 4-1 lead in the third.
"I got more aggressive in the second set. I decided to move in a little more on his serve and keep the ball lower and harder so he couldn't put away so many volleys," Gerulaitis said.
"I told myself, 'Stop chipping your forehand and whack it; maybe you might put a few together and break him.'"
Gerulaitis also won several key points with backhand cross-courts that surprised Lutz.
"Like most of the guys, he knows I go down the line most of the time. That's my favorite shot off both sides, but I practiced the cross-courts this week and caught him off guard," explained Gerulaitis, son of a former Lithuanian Davis Cup player.
"And I served well, which surprised him," added the bright, flip former Columbia student who hadn't won a tournament since the Towson International, 125 miles from here, 13 months ago.
"He always used to climb on my second serve. I could never come in behind it against him.I had to stay back and be a raodrunner," he said.
This time Gerulaitis mixed up his serves intelligently, ofter resisting the temptation to hit hard ones in favor of spin or twist that gave him time to get to the net.
"I didn't serve bullets," he said, "but the guy couldn't hurt me. I put pressure on him to make a good passing shot."