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OLMEDO: THE ENIGMA OF TENNIS
James Murray
September 07, 1959
He was everybody's hero last year when he won the Davis Cup for the U.S., but at Forest Hills the brilliant, moody Peruvian frustrated tennis fans with his erratic play
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September 07, 1959

Olmedo: The Enigma Of Tennis

He was everybody's hero last year when he won the Davis Cup for the U.S., but at Forest Hills the brilliant, moody Peruvian frustrated tennis fans with his erratic play

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"I know I did wrong, and I am sorry for it. But they don't understand my side of it. They only know the Davis Cup team is out of the tournament before the semifinals, and it costs them money."

Mentor Jones, who moved quickly to prevent his Davis Cup bellwether from being ruled off the courts for the misbehavior, also had to hold his ears at the renewed attacks on the Peruvian's presence on the U.S. Davis Cup team. "Alex qualifies legally, ethically and competitively," exclaimed Jones, pounding his fist. "Besides, we are the first ones who had a player from another country whom we developed.

"And I'll tell you something else: thanks to the impetus of Alex Olmedo, tennis is on the march in this country." Added the 71-year-old Jones: "I wish I were 10 years younger! Never have we had such a fine group of players. Under my leadership, conceited as it may be, tennis is on the march."

There is a live possibility it will have to march without Olmedo. The boy from Arequipa will almost surely turn professional this fall if he hits one of his peaks and wins the Nationals at Forest Hills. But he has already dumped Pro Promoter Jack Kramer's opening serve neatly back at his feet. Kramer, who has more than a half dozen touring professionals on his payroll, wanted Olmedo to join his troupe under the same terms that Australia's Ashley Cooper did—with $100,000 guaranteed for three years but under constraint to play for it on a prize-money basis. To Alex this sounded suspiciously like doing dishes for his supper again. He would prefer a head-to-head tour with Gonzales and a quick killing financially, an idea which happens to suit Gonzales fine, too.

Kramer argues hoarsely that this would be suicidal not only for Alex but for pro tennis (i.e., Kramer), but a curiously illustrative incident occurred at an impasse in their negotiations when Kramer, exasperated, shouted at Olmedo: "Look, if you don't trust me, O.K. But isn't there someone you can trust to advise you?" Kramer says Alex looked at him sadly. And then he slowly shook his head.

Whether it is that he can't trust anyone, or that he won't, it seems clear that the arts and mysteries of "amateur" tennis have conspired to give young Olmedo a thoroughly confused set of values. A week or so ago he sat in a tennis clubhouse, Italian straw hat pushed back on his quill of hair, and allowed quietly: "The life of a tennis player is very hard. People think it is fun. It isn't."

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