Neale Fraser loses to Ulf Schmidt of Sweden at San Juan and to Mike Davies of England at Caracas. A graceful Spaniard named Andres Gimeno wins the championship in Venezuela. Big Barry MacKay, whose booming service makes him king on the slick hardwood of the Seventh Regiment Armory National Indoor Championships, is a pushover in the Caribbean—beaten in the middle rounds from San Juan to Barranquila.
This is the face of amateur tennis in the winter and early spring of 1960. More specifically, it is the face of tennis on composition courts, where the ball bounces evenly and where players from countries that have no grass or indoor courts of their own are at their best.
JUST ANOTHER CONTENDER
Put Fraser, the Australian Davis Cup ace, on a turf court with his slashing, high-kicking delivery and there's probably no amateur in the world who can take him. But put him on a clay or composition court—a surface familiar to his opponent—and he is just another of the top-line contenders. Maybe he wins today, tomorrow he loses.
The same is true of his teammate Roy Emerson and of Barry MacKay and others of the grass-court school. Giants at Wimbledon and Forest Hills, they are men of lesser stature when their big weapons—the lightning speed and unpredictable bounce of grass—are denied them.
If nothing else this year, the Caribbean circuit—with virtually all the top stars of the diminishing amateur ranks in attendance—has brought an old sore spot of the game forcibly to the front again. When are the tennis fathers going to get wise and standardize the surface of the tennis court?
Suppose the world's top soccer teams came up to the Olympic Games at Rome this summer and Avery Brundage handed them a square ball, telling them, "Boys, I know you have been playing with a round ball. But this is the Olympics. So you have to play with a square ball."
FEATS OF CLAY
This may sound ridiculous but it is no more so than holding the preliminary rounds of the Davis Cup tennis competition on clay surface, and once a team reaches the final rounds forcing it to shift to grass. On clay, tennis is a ground game. Because of slow bounces, it is difficult to put the ball away. There are more rallies and better retrieves. On grass, which is extremely fast, tennis is a game in the air, with serve and volley dominating the play.
About 30 countries compete annually for the silver bowl which symbolizes world tennis supremacy. Of these, only the U.S., Australia, Canada and England are accustomed to grass. Turf is foreign to the others. It isn't surprising, therefore, that the last 16 Challenge Rounds have been between the U.S. and Australia, and that Britain was in the four finals before those (1934-37).