Stan Smith and Bob Lutz, who have been doubles partners for 14 years, produced perhaps their greatest masterpiece of teamwork and strategy today to give the United States a 2-1 lead over Great Britain in the best-of-five-match Davis Cup final.
With the 6-foot-4 Smith providing a truly towering performance in the right court, serving superbly and blending with Lutz in a spree of poaching and volleying that made their bewildered opponents look wooden, the Americans buried David Lloyd and Mark Cox, 6-2, 6-2, 6-3, for the pivotal doubles point in just 1 hour 14 minutes.
Thus John McEnroe, who made a brilliant debut as a Davis Cup singles player in overwhelming John Lloyd (David's younger brother), 6-1, 6-2, 6-2, in Friday's opener, will have a chance to clinch the sterling punch bowl that symbolizes international team supremacy in tennis.
McEnroe plays Britain's Buster Mottram in the fourth match of the series Sunday (WETA-TV-26, 2 p.m.). Mottram came back from two sets and a match point down to beat Brian Gottfried, 4-5, 2-6, 10-8, 6-4, 6-3, in nearfreezing temperatures Friday evening.
Gottfried will play John Lloyd in the finale. It is unlikely that Britain will be able to sweep the final singles on the cement stadium court of the Mission Hills Country Club -- a ludicrous setting for a Davis Cup final n this age when tennis is supposed to be a game of the people -- and regain the trophy it relinquished to the U.S. in 1937, its last appearance in the final.
McEnroe's superior speed and agillty figure to make the 6-foot-4 Mottram look plodding, and give the U.S. possession of the cup for a record 25th time, the first since 1972.
The way McEnroe is playing, Mottram will be hard-pressed to recreate the improbable scene he occasioned Friday night by saving a match point in the 14th game of the third set -- a Gottfried backhand danced on the net cord and fell back -- and then resurrecting himself to win a twisting, torturous, 4 1/2-hour epic.
Some 100 British visitors -- bundled up against the nighttime chill of what one called "this curious plastic desert" -- waved miniature Union Jacks and serenaded Mcttram, 23, who has long been ostracized at home because of his churlish behavior and unpopular politics, including affiliation with the extreme right wing National Front.
It was 2 a.m. on the island, 6,000 miles away, from which Brittania used to rule the waves, but British radio and television broadcasters were on the air live, excitedly describing "Mottram's finest hour" as their countrymen here sang, "For He's A Jolly Good Fellow."
The British euphoria evaporated like a mirage today, gowever, as temperatures finally climbed into the 60s and Smith and Lutz went to work.
The snow-dusted Santa Rosa Mountains shimmered on the horizon, majestic against a pale blue sky dotted with high white clouds, and the handsome trophy that St. Louisan Dwight Davis launched 78 years ago as "the International Lawn Tennis Challenge Trophy" glistened in the sunlight on its massive pedestal, just behind the umpire's chair.
Smith held serve in the first game at love. giving the crowd announced at 3,923 (it appeared to be much smaller) a preview of the domination that was to come.
The Americans lost only two points in their first five service games, taking the first set in 17 minutes. After that, Cox and Lloyd tried to slow down the play and dislodge Smith and Lutz from their total command of the net. But as British captain Paul Hutchins said afterward, Whatever Mark and David tried, they seemed to have an answer for."
In all, Smith lost only 10 points in seven service games. He never had a break point against him, never even went to deuce on his serve until the last game of the match.
Lutz was broken once, serving at 5-1 in the second set, and lost only 10 points in six service games.
The Americans broke Cox in the sixth game of each set, Lloyd in the eighth game of the first, fourth game of the second and eighth game of the third.
"I fust felt they played as well as two people could play," Lloyd said. "We tried our best. They were too geed for us. What more can you say?"
Smith and Lutz are undefeated as a team in 10 Davis Cup doubles since 1968 -- they clinched the cup in 1968-69-70, the only doubles team to win the decisive point three times -- and both rated this as perhaps their supreme performance.
"On a scale of 1 to 10, this had to be at least a 9," said Lutz, who teamed with Smith for U.S. Open titles in 1968, '74 and '78.
Cox -- the only left-hander on the court, was made to look slow and leaden. He was asked to evaluate the Americans' great display of skill and elan.
"I suppose the work would be impeccable," he said.
"They had obviously thought a great deal about the match because they played a type of tennis they don't normally play. They did a tremendous amount of intercepting (poaching), both on our returns and in the niddle of rallies.
"The cress-court forehand is both David's and my best shot, and so by crossing over and intercepting it, they never allowed us to get any rhythm going," Cox continued. "It rether threw us."
"We knew that they both have great forehand returns, so we'd be looking down the cannon if we missed a lot of first serves," said Lutz. "We concentrated on getting the first serve in and moving at the net. Stan served particularly well. I don't know if he's ever served and volleyed better."
Cox and Lloyd have played only one tournament together, but they beat Wimbledon champs Geoff Masters and Ross Case to clinch Britain's 3-2 semifinal victory over Australia.
Smith and Lutz became partners in 1964, the year Smith enrolled at the University of Southern California.Lutz went to USC the next year. They were long the "odd couple" of tennis, known as Straight Arrow and Bent Arrow because Smith was a church going All-America Boy, Lutz a funloving swinger.
They won the crucial point in America's 3-2 semifinal victory over Sweden at Goteborg in October, coming back from two sets to one and 2-4 in the fourth set to beat Bjorn Borg and Ove Bengtson, 2-6, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3.
Lutz was a reluctant participant in Davis Dup this year -- "I didn't like the way a few things were being done, the way selections were made for the team, so I decided to give it a miss," he explained -- but was sent to Sweden as a last-minute replacement for Dick Stockton, who had aggravated a chronic bad back five days before the series. U.S. Captain Tony Trabert got off the phone with Lutz just in time to send a notarized cable to officials, three minutes before the deadline for substitutions.
"Obviously, if I was playing with anybody but Bob, we wouldn't have as good a chance. It was nice to have him in Sweden. Otherwise, we might not have gotten to the final," said Smith. "If we win, I'll pour a little champagne in the cup for Bob."