Last-minute substitute Brad Gilbert rallied to beat Carl-Uwe Steeb in five sets today and gave the United States a 1-0 lead over defending champion West Germany in their Davis Cup semifinal in Munich.
Gilbert, filling in for the injured John McEnroe, downed Steeb 6-2, 2-6, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in just under three hours before a subdued capacity crowd of 12,300 at Olympic Hall.
The victory was crucial for the United States because it means the American team will gain at least a split on the opening day of the best-of-five-matches series. With West German ace Boris Becker scheduled to play Andre Agassi in the second match, the U.S. team needed to win the opener to avoid a possible 0-2 deficit going into Saturday's doubles match.
The winner will play the victor of the Sweden-Yugoslavia semifinal for the Davis Cup championship in December. The United States has not won the Davis Cup since 1982 and has not reached the final since 1984.
In Bastad, Sweden, Jonas Svensson and Mats Wilander gave Sweden a commanding 2-0 lead over Yugoslavia in their semifinals after both men won their singles matches today.
Wilander, ranked fourth in the world, struggled early but then turned it into a rout as he posted a 7-6, 6-1, 6-0 win over Goran Prpic.
Earlier, Svensson beat teen-ager Goran Ivanisevic 6-4, 7-6, 3-6, 6-4 on the slow clay.
Sweden, trying to reach the final for the seventh consecutive year, has never lost a Davis Cup best-of-five-matches series after winning the first two singles.
Stefan Edberg, who was replaced by Svensson in singles after spraining his ankle last weekend, and Anders Jarryd are heavily favored to wrap up the semifinal in Saturday's doubles.
The reverse singles are set for Sunday at this seaside resort in southern Sweden.