Stan Smith and Bob Lutz defeated Ivan Lendl and Thomas Smid of Czechoslovakia in straight sets today to give the United States a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five-match Davis Cup quarterfinal series.
The U.S. is now in excellent position to eliminate the Czechs Sunday when John McEnroe, the second-ranked player in the world, meets Smid at 1 p.m. on the Louis Armstrong Stadium Court. Even if McEnroe, who has not lost to Smid in three meetings, were to be upset again, Lendl would have to defeat Jimmy Connors, whom he has not beaten in seven tries, in Sunday's second singles for the Czechs to advance to the Cup semifinals in October, against either Sweden or Australia.
Smith and Lutz, Wimbledon doubles finalists last week, took advantage of the Czechs, who rarely play doubles together and were probably still tired from their singles matches Friday. The Americans' 9-7, 6-3, 6-2 victory before 9,799 on the sun-baked stadium court took less than two hours and pushed the Smith-Lutz Davis Cup record to 13-1.
Smith criticized Lendl afterward for "thinking more of his own image than keeping his team intact. Lendl didn't practice with his team this morning and he's been off in Connecticut practicing much of the time. He seems to think he's more an individual than part of a team."
Lendl, 21, is a brilliant singles player -- ranked No. 4 in the world -- and has what many say is the best forehand in tennis. But he and Smid often played as if they had never seen each other before the match.
Smith and Lutz, who have played together for 17 years, hit at least six shots up the middle of the court between the Czechs. "Lendl and Smid did get crossed up a few times," Lutz said.
"They're just too good for us," said Smid, who sounded like he had already given up hope of keeping his team alive on Sunday. "McEnroe is the best player in the world," he said. "Well, I always said the U.S. was the favorite."
U.s. cAptain Arthur Ashe said before the series that his strategy was to win the doubles and defeat Smid Twice. "If we win the doubles, it should be over by the first match on Sunday," Ashe said Friday.
"I've never lost to Smid and I shouldn't now," McEnroe said.
Connors, smiling shyly, said, "I'm looking forward to Sunday." It was Connors who, during the Grand Prix Masters in January, called Lendl a "chicken" after Lendl appeared to purposely lose a match so he could play Gene Mayer instead of Bjorn Borg in the next round.
Lendl said he is under "much more physical pressure" because he has to play all three days while the American singles players got a day off. "I would like to be in a position like the U.S. where we would have four players; two for doubles and two for singles," Lendl said. "I'd like to have a day off."
Lendl and Smid should have taken one today. After a hard-fought first set, they folded easily in the other two sets.
The best point of the match came with the U.S. leading, 8-7, in the first set, trying to break the Czechs for set point. Lendl unleased a tremendous first serve that Lutz somehow returned with power back to Lendl's feet. Lendl stroked the ball back to Smith, who volleyed between the two Czechs.
"Bob hits those all the time on set point," Smith quipped.
In the second set, the Americans broke Lendl's serve again to lead, 5-3, and Smith wrapped up the set with a fluid poach off Lendl's return of Lutz's serve. The third set was never in doublt.
Smith and Lutz tried as often as possible to play the ball to Smid, the better doubles player but not nearly as dangerous or unpredictable as Lendl.
"We just didn't know what to expect. We thought Lendl would be dangerous," Lutz said. "Smid is the better doubles player but he just had an offday. We didn't want Lendl running around hitting forehands off second serves."
But also, Smith said, Lendl "didn't serve or volley as well as I dreamed about at 5 o'clock this morning."
The first two days of this compeition have drawn about 28,000 spectators, but nearly 11,000 of those were not paying customers.
"We should have crowds of this size with nothing going on in New York," Ashe said. "This city is starved for sports. The Yankees aren't playing and the Mets aren't playing. All we've got to compete against is the NASL -- ha! -- the Leonard-Hearns hype and rehashed baseball strike stuff."