Brian Gottfried and Guillermo Vilas, players of contrasting styles who have been doing their own thing exceptionally well, advanced today to the final of the French Open tennis championships, second leg of the traditional Grand Slam.
Gottfried was never very far ahead in any set but always seemed in control of the match as he defeated Phil Dent, who had a prematch injection for a sore right wrist, 7-5, 6-3, 7-5.
Vilas blasted topspin passing shots that snapped, crackled and popped in a 6-2, 6-0, 6-3, rout of Raul Ramirez on the dusty red clay of Stade Roland Garros.
Ramirez virtually no resistance, playing dreadfully, without either touch or imagination, as he lost to Vilas for the ninth time as many career meetings.
Gottfried, 25, is the second American to reach the mens singles final of this most prestigious clay court tournament of Europe since 1957. Harold Solomon was runner-up to Adriano Panatta last year, but no U.S. man has won the singles here since Tony Trabert in 1955.
Vilas, 24, was runner-up here to Bjorn Borg in 1975, and was also the losing finalist in the World Championship Tennis (WTC) finals and the Italian Open in 1976 and the Australian Open this year.
Vilas has a 6-4 career advantage over Gottfried, but Gottfried has won two of three meetings this year. Vilas routed Gottfried, 6-2, 6-0, 6-4, in the opening match of Argentina's 3-2 victory over the U.S. in the Davis Cup American Zone final five weeks ago at Beunos Aries, on slow caly but with a slightly heavier ball that the one being used here.
Gottfried who has won four tournaments this year, has lost only two sets in six matches in this tournament. Those were the first two against Illie Nastase in the quarterfinals, before a stirring comeback that, despite his always placid appearance, rendered him so excited he had trouble sleeping the next morning.
Vilas has lost only one set, to Belus Prajoux in the second round, and has looked strong and fit. He is at home on clay, belting his lefthanded strokes with heavy topspin off both wings, unafraid to come in and hit a volley last opponents in baseline rallies, exploding outright winners and passing shots from the backcourt.
Gottfried, who is happiest at the net but patient enoufh to work his way there intelligently, has excuted the attacking game on clay superbly.
"If Brian keeps doing what he has been, he should have a good chance against Vilas," said Ramirez.
The match, to be televised on a delayed basis by NBC-TV at 3 p.m. (WRC-TY-4) should be a fascinating one. The winner gets $38,000 and the runner-up $19,000 but each player is much more interested in claiming his first "big four" singles title.
While conditions today were perfect, neither of the semifinal contests did much to excite the sellout crowd of 14,000.
Gottfried belted his forehand shots, passing nicely and getting to the net behind deep ground strokes. He also worked in behind backhand approaches cross-court or down the middle, always one of the foundations of his attack. And he always seemed calm, collected, unflappable.
"I love playing over here," Gottfried said afterward. "I like the color of the courts, for one thing. There's a tremendous atmosphere here and in the Italian open. And when you get a day like today, it makes you feel like playing."
He did get slightly annoyed when a critical point was replayed in the first set, after Dent argued at length that an easy smash he had apparently hit wide had clipped the line. He summoned the referee, who strongarmed the linesman into reconsidering his call, then ordered that two balls be played.
That was in the 12th game of the first set and would have put Dent at 15-40 on his serve - double set point. He eventually won the point but lost the game when Gottfried got in behind a deep backhand approach on his second break point and rifled a winning backhand volley down the line.
Dent stayed close, but stopped walloping his forehand, his best stroke, midway through the second set. He aggravated a sprain he suffered after his quarterfinal victory over Jose Higueras.
Dent had finished that match flat on his back, slipping on the last point before Higueras pushed a ball out. "The kids knew the match was over before I did, and they got out there," Dent said. "Isn't that a great way to get an injury?"
Dent decided to hit out on his forehand only occasionally - he did three times in the 10th game of the third set to break back when Gottfried served for the match the first time - and Gottfried was of two minds about reacting to the change in Dent's game.
"I didn't know if I should start hitting more to that side or to keep up what I had done the first two sets, when I was trying to keep the ball away from his forehand and attack the net on his backhand," Gottfried said. "I changed my game plan for a little while, but he was playing pretty steadily so I decided to go back to my original attack."
Vilas hardly had to change anything because Ramirez was playing so badly. The Mexican held his serve in the first game of the match and then did not hold again until he was down 0-4 in the third.
The Argentinian won 15 of 16 games in that stretch, including 11 straight points early in the second set. He broke Ramirez's serve at love three times in a row, five times in all.
It was one of those days on which Ramirez, in the tennis idiom, just couldn't find it. Unforced errors streamed from his racket. He was missing shots by embrassing margins - bungling easy volleys, lobbing poorly, serving erratically.
He had the touch of a Watergate plumber today.
Mary Carillo, 20, and John McEnroe, 18, both lefthanders from Douglaston, N.W., won the mixed-doubles title over Florentina Mihai and Ivan Molina, 7-6, 6-3. They are the first American team to win the mixed title here since Vic Seixas and Doris Hart in 1953.