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Flach, Seguso Help U.S. Put Down Paraguay

February 05, 1989|BILL DWYRE | Times Sports Editor

FT. MYERS, Fla. — Shortly after completing the exorcism of the Ghost of Jimmy Arias Past, the dashing duo of American tennis, Team Flach and Seguso, did their Comedy Store routine Saturday. That proved that although no doubles team in the world is safe against this pair, Johnny Carson is.

Flach and Seguso had just beaten Paraguay's Francisco Gonzalez and Victor Pecci for the clinching point in this first-round Davis Cup matchup at the Sonesta Sanibel Harbour Resort Stadium, before an enthusiastic sellout crowd of 5,500, whose only complaint might have been that it ended so quickly. Flach and Seguso won, 6-1, 6-3, 6-4, in a match that took 1 hour 26 minutes, hardly more than a warm-up in Davis Cup play.

And their victory, added to singles victories Friday by Michael Chang and Andre Agassi, brought about the desired pay-back to Paraguay, which had sent the U.S. Davis Cup effort reeling with a 3-2 stunner in Asuncion, Paraguay, in March, 1987. In that one, Arias was leading Hugo Chapacu, 5-1, in the fifth set of a match that would have won it for the United States. But that match, not to mention America's immediate Davis Cup future, disintegrated into an ugly scene of bad line calls and loud catcalls.

When Arias eventually lost, 9-7 in the fifth, and teammate Aaron Krickstein went out in straight sets to Pecci in the deciding match, the U.S. players kept special spots in their hearts for Paraguay. Or perhaps it was other parts of their anatomy.

As Flach said in a news conference Thursday, his fondest memory of Paraguay was "the flight out." To which Seguso added that his was "the death threat."

So when the World Group Draw for Davis Cup was made last October, and the U.S. team had clawed its way back into that elite company after nearly a 2-year absence caused by the defeat at Paraguay, there was great delight when Paraguay came out of the hat. The word "revenge" suddenly got big play.

When all that talk became reality Saturday, the prevailing mood was mellow and fun--at least for those from the United States.

Flach and Seguso were the fun leaders. Rowan and Martin they weren't, but that didn't stop them from trying. Normally, a news conference with Flach and Seguso resembles a tryout for the Improv. Shoot out some one-liners and see how they fly. Touch on tennis only in passing. Get some laughs.

And so it was Saturday, only more so.

--At one point during the rout, Flach double faulted twice in a row to give Gonzalez and Pecci two break points. A reporter, noticing Seguso had given a hand-signal at that point to Flach, asked if the thumbs-up was meant to be a gesture of encouragement. Seguso said, "No, it meant, just get the damn thing in this time."

--Another reporter, making the observation that the rap against Flach and Seguso has been that they tend to lose concentration during matches, asked them to comment. Seguso pointed to Flach and said, "Obviously, that question is for you."

--The network tennis commentator, Bud Collins of the Boston Globe, asked them what had happened in the Masters tournament late last year, when they played badly. Seguso said, "It was a long year, Bud." Flach added, "We lost a couple of matches at 7-6 in the fifth. Plus, we went to the Olympics and that took something out of us. Geez, when you think of it, we lost all those Grand Prix points, gosh darn, and all for that stupid little gold medal."

--Flach was asked about his ongoing feud with Gonzalez. He had allegedly said something harsh to the Paraguayan during their '87 doubles match, and Gonzalez had allegedly spat at him. Here, they have exchanged thinly veiled niceties. Flach said: "When we did the gift exchange today, everybody had handed out their gifts and all that was left was Gonzalez and me. So Francisco and me, there we are. So we exchange gifts and shake hands. We're big buddies. We'll probably be going out to dinner a lot now."

--Asked to speculate about how Arias might have felt as he watched this, Seguso said: "I'm sure he enjoyed that. He and Aaron are still part of our Davis Cup family." And Flach said: "I'm sure he liked it for us to go out and rub them out." Seguso: "Yeah, like a couple of bugs." Flach: "Pretty big bugs. Yeah, 6-foot-4 bugs."

One of the 6-4 bugs, Gonzalez, may have outdone Flach and Seguso without even trying in his portion of the news conference. In answer to a question about when he realized that it was over for Paraguay, Gonzalez went through a long explanation of how you never know until the end and how Paraguay had once come back from 2 matches down and 2 match points against it in the doubles to win.

"You know what they say," he said in somewhat broken English. "It's never over until the fat lady sings."

The American expression coming out of the mouth of a Paraguayan, although a somewhat Americanized Paraguayan, struck a funny chord with many. Well, perhaps you had to be there.

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