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John Lovesey
July 15, 1963
In the dead-white world of Wimbledon, the flamboyant play of two young Americans produced all the color and excitement that this ancient queen of tennis tournaments could jolly well stand
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July 15, 1963

Better Than Fancy Pants

In the dead-white world of Wimbledon, the flamboyant play of two young Americans produced all the color and excitement that this ancient queen of tennis tournaments could jolly well stand

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Gold lam� panties were strictly taboo and only virgin white was permitted on the courts at Wimbledon. But the efforts of those in charge to restore an oldtime look of stuffy respectability to this queen of tennis tournaments somehow failed again. The stars of the show this year turned out to be two flamboyant young Americans addicted to sliding across the hallowed courts on the seats of their unadorned pants.

The first of these was blond, chunky Charles (Chuck) McKinley, who looks less like a tennis player than a wirehaired terrier trying to catch a rat. After several disappointments in the past—he lost in the 1961 finals to Australia's Rod Laver in 55 minutes flat—this reformed and penitent onetime "bad boy" of international tennis went straight to the top of the ladder without losing a single set, the first American to win at Wimbledon since Tony Trabert in 1955.

One obvious explanation of McKinley's relatively easy victory was the elimination by others of the two competitors he feared most: Australia's top-seeded Roy Emerson, who was knocked out in the quarter-finals by a virtually unknown German named Wilhelm Bungert, and Spain's nervous and sometimes brilliant Manuel Santana, the No. 2 seed, who bowed to Aussie Fred Stolle in the semifinals. Less obvious was the training strategy that brought McKinley to Wimbledon in peak form—a strategy used successfully by Jack Kramer in 1947. In a series of pre- Wimbledon tournaments, McKinley concentrated less on ultimate victory than on practicing under competitive conditions, sharpening his game and his mental attitude for the big one ahead. As a result, he won none of the minor tournaments but arrived at Wimbledon relaxed, eager, confident and with his often volatile temper under control.

After reaching the top without having to face a single seeded competitor, McKinley found himself matched in the finals against possibly the only tennis player in all Australia with a sense of humor. When not playing tennis—which he considers a game and therefore an activity not to be taken too seriously—Fred Stolle works in a bank and plans to make that his real career. "There's more future in it than in stringing rackets," he says. Stolle's father, who taught him to play, claims he lacks the ability to concentrate, but Fred says he solved that this year by watching his feet. "Fletcher [another Aussie] beat me the last two times before playing at Wimbledon because I used to watch his antics on the court. This time I decided there was only one thing to do, and that was to copy Emerson. Every time you hit a ball and the point is finished, just look at your feet."

While Stolle fixed his eyes on his feet, young McKinley glared at him and peppered the court with a wild assortment of drives and lobs. "Fortunately, I found my touch before Fred did," said McKinley, whose manners as well as his game showed considerable improvement over '61. "My shots were a little astray because I was nervous, but not nearly so far astray as when I played Laver. If Fred had been serving real well I'd have been in trouble." But, said Stolle, "all my good serves were knocked right back down my throat." After a hard-fought first set the result was an easy McKinley win at 9-7, 6-1, 6-4.

McKinley, wrote the austere and faintly disapproving tennis correspondent of The Times, won the match like "some American tycoon, a battery of a dozen telephones on his desk, tidying up an important deal."

If Chuck McKinley resembled (which he really did not) a big wheel concluding a deal in U.S. business, the other top star of the tournament resembled nothing so much as an eager office girl suddenly left alone to mind the store when all the executives are out playing golf. Effervescent, energetic Billie Jean Moffitt had entranced and electrified Wimbledon a year earlier by knocking out top-seeded Margaret Smith in her very first match. The best measure of her impact on British fans during this year's tournament lay in the clipped admission of one stiffly proper English lady that "I do hope she wins, even though she is an American."

Billie Jean, the daughter of a fireman in Long Beach, Calif., stands 5 feet 6 inches tall, has brown hair, light blue eyes, a small impertinent nose and a weight problem. "She's got one real vice," admits a friend at Los Angeles State College. "She loves hot fudge sundaes and she's not supposed to have them." Despite this weakness, Jilly Bean, as her friends call her, rates high with her teammates, both male and female, on the LA State tennis team. "She's a ball," said one of them. "She's real fun. She can twist up a storm, she putters and dinks around a piano at a party and she loves to play basketball."

Alice Marble, a Californian who is no stranger to Wimbledon herself, sometimes tutors Billie Jean. "I remember her from the first time I ever met her," says Alice. "She was about 16, a fine tennis player, a tomboy and a gal who played a great game of touch football. Now all of a sudden she has grown up."

Billie's new maturity showed itself first in England a few weeks ago when she dragged her teammate, Darlene Hard, along to America's first victory in the newly established Federation Cup. Last year at Wimbledon, Billie Jean hammed it up all over the place, yelling encouragement to herself at every stroke. This year she has been somewhat quieter—for two reasons. One is that she is suffering a slight difficulty in breathing that she hopes to remedy later with a sinus operation. The other is that she has discovered she can concentrate better by not talking so much.

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