Empires may crumble, sterling may sag, dark-eyed Latin Americans may triumph over trustworthy Anglo-Saxons, but Wimbledon, a tight little, right little suburb 40 minutes southwest from Piccadilly Circus, remains the regally confident headquarters of world amateur tennis.
For half a century now Wimbledon has been one of a quartet of sporting events that are fixtures of the London season: the others are Royal Ascot, the Eton and Harrow cricket match at Lord's and the Henley Regatta. Of these, Wimbledon is the most stolidly middle class. The hats aren't as smart as they are at Ascot, the girlish laughter isn't as Kensington-shrill as it is at Henley; and while the royal box is still peopled by Princess Margaret, the Duchess of Kent, Viscount Montgomery and such, the stands are packed each day with worthy citizens from a thousand suburban tennis clubs—enthusiastic, knowledgeable, fair.
Nineteen fifty-nine hasn't been a particularly sensational year for them or for anyone except South Americans. Alex Olmedo, seeded No. 1, never looked seriously in trouble. The other seeds played patchily, with the exception of a much improved Barry MacKay, who had a great semifinal with Australian Rod Laver (the best singles in the tournament) which was won by Laver's stamina and dogged retrieving 11-13, 11-9, 10-8, 7-9, 6-3. Gardnar Mulloy, gray-haired and cantankerous, had the most popular win when he spotted the brilliant, brash, young Earl Buchholz 26 years and then gave him a tennis lesson (6-4, 7-5, 6-4), only to lose to the Frenchman, Jean-Claude Molinari, in the fourth round.
In the final the bandy, carrot-topped Laver was no match for the impassive Peruvian. Olmedo, who had dropped sets to Krishnan of India and Ayala of Chile on his way through, lounged elegantly past him in 70 minutes 6-4, 6-3, 6-4. He broke Laver's service twice in the first six games to lead at 5-1; and although Laver broke back to make it 5-4, Olmedo had only to raise his game a notch to hold his service at love with two unforgettable volleys and take the first set in 20 minutes. Thereafter Laver, though plucky, never showed any' signs of shaking the precise Peruvian. Olmedo moves with the litheness of a big cat; he never seems to hurry, and the casual cleanness of his winning shots made him look unbeatable throughout the tournament.
The pity is that there's been no one to extend him. Only with Krishnan (who had beaten him in the pre- Wimbledon warmup at Queen's Club) did he look even momentarily uncomfortable. But after dropping the second set 6-3, Olmedo, with the ease of a real champion, lifted the pace at the vital stage and never looked worried in the next two sets.
Just how good Olmedo is, it's hard to say, because we haven't seen him yet under real pressure. Both Neale Fraser of Australia and Barry MacKay might have given him a better run, but they were seeded in the other half of the draw. Some people are saying that he's the best since Kramer; but Hoad would have taken him close three years ago and would eat him alive today.
With Christine Truman and Angela Mortimer seeded one and two, Britain had great hopes of taking the women's singles for the first time since 1937. But the big 19-year-old Christine, completely out of touch and as nervous as a bulky kitten, was thrashed by an unseeded Mexican, Yola Ramirez, in the fourth round; and Miss Mortimer was worn down by Sandra Reynolds of South Africa in a baseline quarter-final.
Brazil's Maria Bueno, seeded six, a slender, dark girl, met blonde, chunky Darlene Hard of Montebello, Calif., seeded four, in the final on a gruelingly hot day. Bueno's service pace and crisp volleying swept an off-form Miss Hard aside 6-4, 6-3, and she burst into tears as she made the winning shot. She deserved her title. But she's not in the same class as a Gibson or a Connolly or a Marble.
The men's doubles were an all-Australian wrangle, with Emerson and Fraser, seeded one, having to take quite a little thought in a mainly undistinguished marathon final to dispose of the indefatigable Laver and his partner, Bob Mark, in four sets 8-6, 6-4, 14-16, 9-7. It was a dour match of few service breaks, few long rallies—the modern pattern of Australian tennis, scientific but unexciting.
Christine Truman was still below her best in the final of the women's doubles, and although she and neat little Beverly Fleitz took the first set from Darlene Hard and Jeanne Arth at 6-2, they lost their grip in the second and, with Miss Hard more and more in command, went down 2-6, 3-6.