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One recognized exception to this generality may be Perry Jones, who has labored like a mule driver to provide equipment, facilities and encouragement for two decades of southern California youngsters. As chairman of the USLTA's Open Tennis Committee, Jones says that he would not be for anything that was not "complementary to amateur tennis. If we had no open tennis or no tournament tennis at all," he adds, "we would still be in a good position here."
Backhands for hire
The purity of Jones's position—which boils down to "tournaments, who needs them?"—may be splendidly suited to the development of young players, but it leaves hanging the question of where they're going to go after they're developed. A crunching backhand is not necessarily its own reward, and even Perry Jones's boys need a sun-drenched center court to show off in and something more than a pat on the back to make it all worthwhile. More and more they are making it plain that they want not only kudos but cash for all their years of hard work.
Preferring that the cash change hands under the table, Australia's Strange says, "The trouble with open tournaments is that they would become mainly professional affairs. I hear lots of talk about how the amateur associations should take control of pro tennis but I've never heard anyone explain how we're supposed to do it. The amateurs would simply fade into the background."
What Strange failed to note was the fact that the amateurs have already faded about as far as they can without disappearing altogether. If England's Wimbledon and a few Australian amateur tournaments still draw paying crowds, the reason is probably that the British value tradition more highly than passing shots. In the U.S. the financial jam that prompted the USLTA to cast its one nervous vote in favor of open tennis is acute. As recently as 1950, income from the five major USLTA-sponsored tournaments (the nationals, the national indoors, the national clay courts, etc.) produced profits totaling 50% to 65% of the federation's annual budget of about $135,000. By last year attendance had fallen off so drastically that every single tournament lost money except the national doubles at Brookline, Mass. The national singles tournament at Forest Hills was such a drab affair that it failed to attract a television sponsor even for the finals, and the prospects are chillingly certain that the gate receipts will drop even lower as the quality of play deteriorates.
Jack Kramer is not so hypocritical as to argue that open tennis will restore the prestige of the amateur game or its little-blue-badge holders. "If anyone thinks open tennis will be a thrill to spectators because the amateurs will be playing the pros," he commented recently, "he is mistaken." Kramer does promise that it will restore both interest and profit to the game. "The bonus in open tennis," he says, "is that it will put in the big tennis stadiums at the right time of the year the best tennis players in the world. Obviously, they will not be the amateurs. An amateur player is going to have to be recognized as a lesser player. But if tennis itself is healthy, who cares?"
No place like home
At this point in the history of the game that rhetorical question might just as well be altered to read, "Even if tennis isn't healthy, who cares?" For while the house divided argues against itself, most of the paying guests are packing up and going home—or out bowling. While amateur grandstands gape with empty seats, Kramer's own traveling circus of professionals faces public apathy in one spot, official harassment in another. Under President Strange's leadership, the Australian amateur association has just voted for the second straight year to ban Kramer's troupe from its affiliated tennis clubs for the coming season, a decision that last year cost Kramer $25,000 for other arrangements and cost the clubs in question $56,000 lost in court rentals.
So far, none of the other tennis-playing nations has followed suit, and USLTA President George Barnes, for one, believes that the lockout down under is a "terrible mistake." But Kramer is aware of the danger—and not only to himself. "They talk of a worldwide ban on Jack Kramer," he warns, "and, certainly, if we don't have places to play we are not going to do anything or go anywhere. But neither are they. There has to be coexistence or there won't be any tennis at all."