Eddie Dibbs, one of the few Americans in Paris who usually feel at home on the red clay tennis courts here, today became the first major casualty of this year's French Open championships.
A semifinalist the last two years who wa seeded No. 4 and was considered a real title contender in this second leg of the tradition Grand Slam, Dibbs was beaten by Swedish Davis Cup player Rolf Norberg, 6-3, 3-6, 7-4, 6-4.
Dibbs first looked panic-stricken, then resigned and forlorn as Norberg whacked forehand cross-court passing shots by him on the last two points of the match.
Top seeded Ilie Nastase recieved a scare on the center court from Tim Gullikson, one of identical twins from Onalaska, Wis, who are starting to have an impact in international tennis. But Nastase scraped through to the third round, 6-3, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1.
Tom Gullikson, was one of four Americans who reached the last 32 in this most prestigious clay-court championship of Europe. He blew six match points in four different games but finally closed out Tomaz Koch, 6-1, 6-3, 6-7, 6-3.
Harold Solomon of Silver Spring, Md., rolled to a 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Andrew Pattision, who never seemed to recover from the experience of going to his locker just before the match and finally his wallet missing.
Brian Gottfried served, volleyed and approached superbly in dispatching Trey Waltke, 6-3, 7-5, 6-4, Gottfried was so efficient that defeat wasn't even painful for Waltke, who walked into the dressing room and told a fellow Californian, "I just got attached to death."
This had started as another formful day, pleasant enough with the sun shing brightly, but rather uninspiring. However, late in the afternoon, Nastase and Dibbs started struggling at about the same time. Nastase recovered; Dibbs did not.
The big surprise was that Dibbs, who has lost only one game in his opening match Monday against Martin Robinson, was not able to shake himself out of his match-long lethargy and mount a counter-attack against Norberg, who played above himself.
It seemed that Dibbs, the 5-foot-7 Miamian who just doesn't quite have the same fighting spirit as his best friend, Solomon, would survive when he took a 4-1 lead with two service breaks in the fourth set. But he promptly slid into a horrendous patch, losing 16 of the next 17 points and the last five games of the match.
They played on court No. 3, one of the most distracting of the eight outside courts at Stade Roland Garros.
The several hundred spectators who squeezed into the concrete stands around the court kept shuffling. Bursts of applause and scores from adjacent courts came at difficult moments. The engines, brakes and horns of rush-hour traffic on the Avenue de la Porte d'Auteuil, immediately behind the court, added to the commotion.
Dibbs seemed to lose his concentration completely and made an unusual number of unforced errors, especially two-fisted backhands that flew yards long, as he sputtered dismally through the last five games.
"I just played bad. I can't play with these balls. I've trouble since I got over to Europe," said Dibbs, who preferred the soft, pressureless balls used here in years past to the lighter, livelier Slazengers selected this year.
"I just felt weak and sluggish. I don't know why. I wasn't myself out there," he added.
"I thought I had a good shot to win here. I've been playing well enough the last few months," he said sadly. "You gear yourself to peak for the major championships and then something like this happens. It's a disappointment."
Norberg, 25, a sturdy 6-footer with broad sholders, powerful legs and a shaggy mane of blond hair, matched Dibbs from the backcourt in the first three sets, and carefully chose his spots to come in behind deep, sure approach shots.
Tim Gullikson served and volleyed extremely well and attacked Nastase's backhand successfully in the second and third sets, but couldn't sustain the pressure after the 15-minute intermission between the third and fourth.
Tiring in the 3 1/2 match that he said "seemed like forever," Gullikson was still getting openings at the end, but wasn't capitalizing on them. He missed far too many easy volleys.
"In the second and third sets, I was kicking my serves high to his backhand. He couldn't get his returns down so I was getting to knock off high, easy volleys," Gullikson said, "But I just couldn't serve well enough the last two sets to keep doing it. That was the key."
He said he was not awed by Nastase, whom he had practiced with but never played before, but was a little nervous because this was his first appearance on center court.
Solomon serve badly but did just about everything else well against Pattison, whose mind seemed to be on his missing cash, credit cards and papers.
"I have a head-heavy racket. I'm hitting my groundstrokes well but I can't quite get through the serve with it," said Solomon. "I was serving a little better at the end when I tossed the ball higher. But Andrew just never got into the match."