This week the finest amateur tennis players from all over the world will arrive in Forest Hills, N.Y. to play in the national championships. Their number will include not only the most talented performers from nearly two dozen countries but also some of the most charming. One example is Germany's dark-haired, 22-year-old Helga Schultze (see cover) who, despite her No. 3 national ranking, insists she plays tennis just for the fun of it. Helga's piquant compatriot, first-ranked Edda Buding (opposite), finds even more fun in tennis than Helga. Like both of these German beauties, many other attractive and skillful representatives of tennis have spent the summer traveling from nation to nation and from tournament to tournament. New Zealanders have gone to southeast Asia, Australians to Soviet Russia, a Dane has gone to India and a Mexican to France. On the following pages, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED presents the credentials of some of these lovely ambassadors to the world's courts.
'I TOOK TENNIS...'
Karen Hantze Susman and her husband Rod sat side by side at the luncheon table, eating macaroni salad to keep up their strength. The eastern grass court championships were under way at South Orange, New Jersey; Karen had just defeated Carol Southmayd, and Rod was about to play Clark Graebner. "I like sandwiches real well," said Karen, accommodatingly, starting on a sandwich. No sandwich purveyor was within earshot, but it was like Karen to make the statement in case one might be. The 19-year-old Wimbledon champion is a gentle creature off the tennis court, given to allowing her new husband to finish her sentences and not given to talking with her mouth full. "What kind of court do you like best?" she was asked. Karen waved a hand for time to swallow, and Rod said, "Cement."
"Cement," Karen affirmed, emerging. "And grass, of course, but you prefer what you grew up playing on. If you come from the Midwest, maybe you like clay. And it depends on the kind of game you play, of course."
Karen Hantze was born in San Diego in 1942, an only child whose parents have now been divorced for two years. Like many California children, she was early wrapped up in swimming and tennis. She took up both at the same time—tennis with Eleanor (Teach) Tennant, Maureen Connolly's coach, and swimming with Bill Lucas. "My father was in the Navy with Bill and discovered he was in San Diego when I was 9 or 10," Karen said. "Father thought he'd like him to teach me, so he took me over." In California many 8-year-old swimmers have reputations and records. Lucas told prospect Hantze to swim the length of the pool, and "we were both shocked," Karen recalls, "when I told him, 'I'm sorry I can't quite do that for you now. I can't swim.' "
A year or so later, however, Karen was swimming well enough and playing tennis well enough to have to be told to rest for a year from all competition. And then to choose—tennis or swimming.
"I took tennis," Karen says, "I really don't know why. I must have had a reason. I wish I could remember. I think maybe if I just thought about it I could recall—but I just can't remember."
Whatever the elusive reason, the decision shaped up as a sound one. In 1957, at 14, Karen Hantze won the U.S. girls' (18 and under) singles championship. In 1958 (with Helene Weill) she became girls' doubles champion. In 1959 and 1960 she was both singles and doubles champ. As a senior at Mission Bay High School in San Diego, she achieved No. 2 position on the 1960 Wightman Cup team. Making the cup team was apparently for Karen a point of no return—the point no young champion recognizes but which the observer can put a finger on later and say, "There's where she was hooked." Of tennis before the cup team Karen says, "It was just something to do after school." And afterwards: "Making the Wightman Cup team, that was a big thrill for me. I began working out at night." In 1960 and 1961 she came and saw Wimbledon, and in 1962 she conquered, bringing the English championship back to the United States for the first time since 1958 and becoming the second youngest woman ever to win it (the youngest: Coach Tennant's other pupil, Maureen Connolly).
By 1959 many experts were predicting a spectacular tennis career for Karen Hantze—most, in fact, except old Mercer Beasley, who went sourly on record as sure Karen would never really make it. She was too pretty. She would become "a cover gal, a clothes model, queen of this and that and the belle of the ball"—but never a champ. Karen resisted this particular batch of a pretty girl's temptations, but succumbed to something else. She took to holding hands. In 1959 she met young Rod Susman at Merion. They became inseparable, and certain elements within amateur tennis promptly had a small convulsion and undertook to separate them.
"She was good," Rod said bluntly, "and I was sort of an independent, lowly ranking player—they couldn't have cared less that I was even on the tournament circuit."