The soft light of an Australian summer evening had fallen over center court at Memorial Drive Stadium in Adelaide as Chuck McKinley of St. Louis prepared to serve. "I have always wanted to represent my country in the final match of a Davis Cup and win the deciding point," McKinley once said. In Adelaide last week he got his chance. With the score between Australia and the U.S. tied at 2-2, McKinley faced 19-year-old John Newcombe of Sydney in the final match. For more than an hour McKinley was in trouble. He lost the first set, won the second but fell behind in the third 4-2. Newcombe faltered, and McKinley regained control of his game. He won the set and ran up a comfortable lead in the fourth. Now in the half-light of Memorial Drive Stadium he served to Newcombe and then volleyed sharply to his opponent's feet. Newcombe could not return it, and the match was over. For the first time since 1958 the U.S. had won the Davis Cup.
With the final point McKinley let out a wild whoop and leaped over the net in classic style. The first man to reach him was Dennis Ralston, his doubles partner and himself a winner over Newcombe. Ralston, along with the other members of the U.S. team—Frank Froehling, Marty Riessen and Gene Scott—hoisted McKinley high on their shoulders and marched triumphantly to the locker room, followed by a jubilant Bob Kelleher, the Davis Cup team captain.
Waiting for them were a squad of tennis officials, newsmen and Ambassador William Battle, who had had the foresight to bring along four bottles of German champagne. Somebody lugged in the Davis Cup and dumped it in an old wicker chair. The phone rang—a man in Los Angeles was offering congratulations. The champagne was opened, and nearly everyone made a speech. It was noisy and confusing and delightful. Dennis Ralston enjoyed it. Chuck McKinley enjoyed it. But no one enjoyed it half as much as Bob Kelleher.
Bob Kelleher has been captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team for two years, and for two years he has had the unenviable task of nursing the powder-keg temperaments of this country's two leading players, Ralston and McKinley. When Ralston starts to blow up, Kelleher rushes in to smother the explosion. When someone says McKinley is spoiled, Kelleher argues that he is misunderstood. It is not an easy job.
"I have to be a combination travel agent, ambassador, public relations man, booking agent, coach, locker-room custodian and father confessor," Kelleher says. "I count towels, get ice water, make speeches, conduct interviews and act as a buffer between my players and a sometimes controversial press. But, all in all, it's been fun."
Kelleher is 50, a tall, distinguished-looking man with a shock of curly black hair that is just beginning to turn gray at the temples. He is a lawyer from Los Angeles, but lately he has not been able to devote much time to that job. "My law practice is gathering dust," he says. "You either have to have a potful of money or be a complete idiot to take this job."
Kelleher's first year as captain, 1962, was a disaster. The team lost to Mexico in the American Zone final. It was the third straight time the U.S. had failed to reach the Challenge Round. "I was heartsick," says Kelleher.
This year the team beat Mexico easily, then England and India. In November, Kelleher took his boys to Australia and after letting them tune up their games in a few tournaments he brought them to Adelaide to begin serious training for the Challenge Round. And almost immediately Bob Kelleher found himself hard at work.
First there was the Gonzalez-Ralston incident. Because he is by his own admission an administrator, not a tennis pro, Kelleher hired Pancho Gonzalez to help get the team ready. "Pancho isn't there to give them lessons," Kelleher declared. "If they needed lessons they wouldn't be in Australia." What Gonzalez did do was discuss tactics with the team and play matches against them—tough, competitive matches.
It was on such an occasion that the incident occurred. Gonzalez had beaten Ralston in one set, but Ralston had taken a 5-1 lead in the second. Suddenly Gonzalez stalked off the court growling, "Get someone else to play with you." Later he said, "I get tired of these guys whining when they lose." The Australian press, hungry for action, pressed forward, but they were met by a smiling Bob Kelleher. "Dennis and Pancho are the best of friends," Kelleher explained. "They have had these flare-ups before and probably will again." No one is certain whether Kelleher spoke to the two men that night but, sure enough, the next day Gonzalez and Ralston were back on the same court, laughing and joking just like the good friends Kelleher insisted they were.