Tennis: Magnificent Mottram keeps British hopes alive

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The Independent Online
The last time Great Britain met the USA in the Davis Cup final was December, 1978 when young John McEnroe made his debut for the home team who were hot favourites. But one Briton had other ideas on the first day. This is how the Daily Express reported it.

BUSTER MOTTRAM magnificently kept British hopes alive against the US yesterday with a thrilling backs-to-the-wall victory over Brian Gottfried by 4-6, 2-6, 10-8, 6-4, 6-3.

The tall British No 1 won a four-and-a-quarter-hour marathon and Britain finished the first day of this world cup of tennis - their first final for 41 years - dead level.

John Lloyd, the British No 2, had gone down 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 to John McEnroe in the opening match. But Buster, playing at his meanest and most magnificent, had them stamping and waving their Union Jacks again as he snarled defiance at the Americans. Mottram looked down and out after two sets. But he produced some of the gutsiest tennis he has ever shown in international contests to turn the match upside down and claim a superb triumph.

Few men have been so completely beaten as 24-year-old Lloyd was in the opening match. McEnroe hardly put a foot or a ball wrong and there was little Lloyd could do to slow him down - let alone stop him. The match lasted just 100 minutes - every one of them torture for Lloyd.

Lloyd played under the handicap of a grazed finger which leaked blood onto his racket grip. "But that was no excuse. I just wish it was," he said later. "McEnroe was just too hot. Nobody has made me look such an idiot in my life before. He was two classes above me. I needed God on my side to have a chance. He attacked every one of my weaknesses. I didn't think he could keep the pressure on like that."

McEnroe's left-handed serve is one of the most difficult in the world to handle and Lloyd admitted: "I didn't have a clue where the ball was going." It was a fair summing up. McEnroe started with two aces and finished with another. That's confidence, and from a kid playing his first Davis Cup singles match, it was a staggeringly mature performance.

Mottram too, showed a tremendous maturity after losing the first two sets. He never gave up. He was in his best mood, contesting decisions he thought were wrong and refusing to be ruffled. When Gottfried battled to five-all in the third set after trailing 2-4, Buster snapped straight back by taking the eleventh game and was serving for the set.

But then his troubles really started. Two aces gave him two set points but he was foot-faulted and Gottfried broke service for 6-6. Mottram was foot-faulted five more times before he took the set 10-8 on his sixth set point six games later.

Mottram was Britain's only winner in the final which the US eventually won 4-1.