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TENNIS DAVIS CUP : Doubles Debut Is Forgettable for U.S. Pair

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Scott Davis and David Pate wear the same kind of shirts, the same kind of shorts, the same kind of shoes and the same kind of earrings.

Their accessories were together, even if they weren’t, which just went to show Saturday that the doubles team that dresses together, loses together.

The United States, which needed one more victory to win its Davis Cup semifinal against Germany, still needs one after Davis and Pate were beaten in straight sets by Eric Jelen and Michael Stich, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4, 6-4, on the clay court of Kemper Arena.

Still leading, 2-1, the United States can clinch in the singles matches today with a victory by either Jim Courier against Stich or Andre Agassi against Carl-Uwe Steeb.

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At stake is a berth in the finals against France, which clinched its semifinal against Yugoslavia with a victory in the doubles.

The United States had been in the same position Saturday but experienced an entirely different outcome that called into question something as basic as U.S. Captain Tom Gorman’s selection of Davis and Pate.

After the loss, the second-guessing commenced. Gorman continued to insist that Davis and Pate were the right team, even though they had not won a match on clay this year and had not played Davis Cup before.

“I think I had the right reasons,” Gorman said.

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It was the first time since 1975 that a U.S. doubles team lost its Davis Cup debut, since Bob Lutz and Dick Stockton were beaten by Mexico. Seven teams made debuts for the United States in that span.

“If I had a crystal ball, if somebody could have guaranteed me a victory, I would have played them, but nobody has been able to do that,” Gorman said.

“I thought a lot about what could happen or might happen, that there could be a little nervousness, but . . . ,” Gorman said. “It was three straight sets, but it sure seemed like it was closer.”

The match turned in the first-set tiebreaker, right after the United States took a disputed 1-0 lead when Pate clearly collided with the net. The next point was typical of what went wrong for Davis and Pate, who seemed out of sync just often enough to cost them.

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Stich mis-hit Pate’s serve, knocking it down the middle of the court, but neither Davis nor Pate made a move at the ball, which bounced three feet inside the baseline.

“We sort of both have to go for it,” Davis said. “I probably should have followed it better.”

Pate’s service winner gave the United States a 2-1 lead, but Jelen and Stich won six of the next seven points, closed out the set in 49 minutes and rolled through the second set to establish control.

That one shot by Stich in the tiebreaker was the big one that got away.

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Said Stich: “They let the ball through the middle.”

Davis and Pate had many problems of a similar nature. Pate said the fault wasn’t entirely their own.

“Well, Stich was hitting the ball pretty hard,” Pate said. “Maybe they just made us look like we were moving a little awkwardly.”

The U.S. team showed its inexperience both on clay and in the Davis Cup, but Stich and Jelen stayed unbeaten in the international competition in four matches.

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Stich said he knew how Davis and Pate must feel.

“That just shows they didn’t have too much confidence going out there today,” Stich said. “I’m sure those guys were nervous, and maybe they don’t play too well on clay, (but) now it doesn’t matter.

“Maybe Scott and David don’t play too well on clay and (it’s) their first Davis Cup experience, maybe that was an advantage for us. Maybe we would have beaten (Rick) Leach and (Jim) Pugh or (Ken) Flach and (Robert) Seguso anyway.”

A crowd of 10,328 didn’t stir any emotional advantage for the United States. Stich said a small but vocal pro-German rooting section might have been an advantage to his team. “It was like a home match,” Stich said.

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Gorman must have thought so, too. He complained to the referee about the use of noisemakers by the German supporters, who were asked to stop using them.

The fans were warned that the German team would be assessed a point penalty if the noisemakers interrupted play. That was the end of the noisemakers, although Gorman was powerless to stop the German fans from singing.

“There were about four guys behind me who had real nice voices,” Gorman said.

The noisemakers were put away, but the singing continued. Now, so does this semifinal.

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FRANCE ADVANCES: Guy Forget and Arnaud Boetsch defeated a makeshift Yugoslav doubles team as the French clinched a berth in the Davis Cup final. C12


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