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50 YEARS of LOVE and TENNIS
Hans von Kaltenborn
September 01, 1958
The father of radio news commentary, Hans von Kaltenborn, and his vivacious wife Olga collaborate on an unusual reminiscence of
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September 01, 1958

50 Years Of Love And Tennis

The father of radio news commentary, Hans von Kaltenborn, and his vivacious wife Olga collaborate on an unusual reminiscence of

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When we asked for tennis in Hong Kong the young newspaperman who had met us phoned to say that he had arranged it and that we would have a surprise. It turned out that one of the players was the charming wife of an English correspondent with whom we had had most pleasant tennis the previous year in Johannesburg, South Africa.

On one flight around the world we had some good doubles at the American Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia. Here one of our opponents was an Indian woman who played remarkably well, draped in her long sari.

After playing on some courts in the Prater in Vienna a few years ago, O. K. was in the ladies' locker room. There was only one other woman there, and, as is usual, an impersonal friendly conversation resulted. After a few sentences this Viennese woman suddenly asked: "Are you by any chance Mrs. Kaltenborn?" When asked where she had heard the name she replied: "I have just come back from Yugoslavia, where in Bled I played tennis with a young doctor. He told me that you had been there the year before for an interview with Marshal Tito, that you had played together and that you had been good enough to give him three precious razor blades (it was not long after the war) and had sent him a set of strings for his racket since they were unprocurable in Yugoslavia. He said: 'You may meet Mr. and Mrs. Kaltenborn somewhere, since they always travel with their tennis rackets.' "

In Tokyo, in 1947, air bombardment had left few courts available. We had the good fortune to be allowed to play on the court at the bombed-out French embassy, which was still in excellent condition while the house itself was in ruins. The little garden pool was refreshing after the game, even though we had to use one corner of the half-destroyed Louis XV drawing room as an improvised locker room.

In Paris we have often played at the Racing Club, that wonderful place in the Bois de Boulogne where the modern French girls in bikinis around the swimming pool are a pleasant sight as you wait for your turn to play on one of the 60-odd courts. And on the courts, too, the current tennis dresses and shorts are the shortest to be seen anywhere in the world.

Speaking of tennis costumes around the world, we have certainly seen them all, from the ruffled long skirts of the Gay Nineties to the shorts of today. O. K. remembers writing a piece for the Brooklyn Eagle many years ago in defense of Florence Ballin, a fine courageous tournament player who startled New York in the '20s by appearing on the courts in knickerbockers. At that time this was considered revolutionary. We remember lovely Suzanne Lenglen as about the first to introduce the most becoming pleated circular skirt. Suzanne Lenglen was wonderful to watch. On the court she was a dancer, always on her toes. She really never had to start running, because she was always in motion.

O.K. speaking

My earliest tennis days go back to Berlin where I played with my brothers and their friends. At that time, at the turn of the century, young girls in Europe still led a very sheltered life. Until I was 16 I was never allowed to walk on the streets except when chaperoned by our English governess. However, for tennis my brothers were usually with me and one of my earliest admirers was an excellent tennis player. We often went to his parents' villa in Wannsee, just outside of Berlin, where they had a private court.

My father was in the diplomatic service, and some 50 years ago we were sent to New Orleans, where I found the most delightful friends at the New Orleans tennis club. I was 16 years old when the Atlanta tennis club asked players from our club to come to an invitation tournament. It was a wonderful experience in many ways, not the least of which was my first experience with the inquisitive American press.

In Europe we considered publicity not only unnecessary but improper. When a group of reporters came to take our pictures I refused to have mine taken for fear that my family might frown on the publicity. Of course that made the reporters more eager, and they kept asking me questions. To get rid of them I said jestingly: "If you don't go away, I'll tell my father and he'll send the Kaiser's army after you."

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