encouraged, Norty challenged Etchebaster's successor as world champion,
Professional Albert (Jack) Johnson, 42, a Britisher now at the Racquet and
Tennis Club. According to protocol, Norty put up a �500 sterling bond of good
faith, a contract was drawn, the match to be decided at the best of 13 sets.
The sets, scored numerically as in lawn tennis, would be six-game sets, the
first man to take six games winning the set. The match would be played on
Monday, Wednesday and Friday. There was little pro-Knox money in evidence. Even
Pierre believed Norty had overmatched himself.
At 1 o'clock on
Monday, February 9, in front of a gallery jammed with court tennis aficionados,
among whom were Papa, Seymour and by special club dispensation, Mrs. Knox and
Lucetta, Norty and Jack Johnson spun a racquet for serve and the world
championship series was on. The tall, rangy professional, a magnificent
stylist, hit severely and won the first set 6-3. Then form reversed itself.
Norty bothered Johnson with a soft service ("bloody, bobbly little
thing," Jack later called it), returned everything Johnson hit and won the
second set 6-5, the third set 6-0 and the fourth 6-5. On Wednesday, Norty took
the first set 6-2, lost the second 4-6, won the third and fourth 6-4, 6-5. Now
Norty led six sets to two and needed only one to clinch the championship. He
won it 6-2 on Friday the 13th, and it turned out that Tim, the doorman at the
Racquet and Tennis Club, who knows 2,000 names and faces of members, was the
only person who had bet on Norty from the start.
Knoxes, after all
these years, are accustomed to nigglers who insist that because there are only
800 polo players in America and only 350 court tennis players on seven private
courts (they cost $250,000 each), anyone who can afford to play the games any
length of time is bound to be good at them. This is a half truth.
Polo, which dates
from the fifth century B.C., makes multiple demands on its players. They must
be finished horsemen and able to hit a ball with a stick as well. It is,
furthermore, a true contact game and one in which men are sometimes killed.
To play a game as
complex as court tennis as well as Norty plays it, a man must be an exceptional
athlete to begin with. Some who have watched Norty perform on the court and
field think that if he were six inches taller and 20 pounds heavier he could be
another Ted Williams. Norty is content as is. "Sey and I," he says,
"get a lot of pleasure out of playing the two oldest stick and ball games,
and all the others, too. They are really skill games and mostly they are ones
where a man is not penalized if he is small."
Those are some of
the reasons that Seymour and Norty, Lewis Smith and Horacio Castilla, the
Argentinian, are playing in the U.S. Open Championship at Hinsdale. But there
are others, and one is Papa. He was quite a polo player in his day—still is,
for that matter—and is quite a coach, too. When Seymour and Norty went with
Aurora to their first open in 1956 Papa handed them a memorandum, which said in
"To Sey and
on the Aurora Team in U.S. Open Championship at Oak Brook Polo Club, Hinsdale,
Illinois, week beginning September 2, 1956:
want to say that you both have proved your competence to play in the Open by
the handicaps given you by the U.S. Polo Association, but this is just a
nominal opinion based mostly on practice games and not on tournaments, although
you did win the national 20-goal tournament (1953) against some strong teams
and Nort played in the U.S. Open last year. However, let's face it, you have
not had much tournament experience.
"So, what I
want to point out to you is this: