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In 1947, when Gardnar Mulloy was 33, he told the Miami Daily News that he was "growing too old" for big-time tennis and that henceforth he was going to confine himself "to a couple of tournaments during vacation time so that I can get together again with the boys." He laid his racket aside and opened the Gardnar Mulloy Cleaners, which went out of business before Mulloy had his first vacation. "I am not fanatically disposed to making money," Mulloy said, picking up his racket, and in 1948 he and Billy Talbert won the national doubles championship for the fourth time. In 1949, when Mulloy was 35, he was being called either the Grand Old Man of Tennis or washed up. In 1952, when Mulloy was 38, he won 16 tournaments and was ranked No. 1 by the USLTA. In 1957, when Mulloy was 43, he and Budge Patty became the Wimbledon doubles champions. One evening in the spring of 1964, when Mulloy was 50, he took a sip from his third glass of milk at the close of a dinner in his honor, arose and said: "Tennis has been good to me. I still consider myself as promising, and I hope to improve. I want to thank you all for coming here tonight to see if I was still alive."
It is Mulloy's ambition to live to be 140 and to win a major tournament at 50 or over. Though remote, the latter is not unattainable. In May, Mulloy defeated 22-year-old Frank Froehling III, who is ranked third in the U.S., to win the Atlanta Invitational, and last February he reached the finals in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. before losing in five sets to Eduardo Zuleta, 29, the No. 1 Ecuadorian player. In two other matches this year, Mulloy defeated Ken Fletcher, 23, the third-ranked Australian, in Barranquilla, Colombia and Jorgen Ulrich, 28, the Danish star, in Monte Carlo.
By no means, however, is Mulloy's fame restricted to the accomplishments of his middle age. For instance, from 1939 through 1954 he was ranked among the top 10 in the U.S. every year—not counting 1943 and 1944, when he was in the Navy—a record that only Frank Parker has surpassed in this century. Nor does Mulloy's reputation rest wholly upon his prowess as a player: Mulloy makes waves upon tennis' sometimes stagnant waters.
There are several explanations that seek to account for Mulloy's astonishing vitality, but they are not altogether valid. It is not true, for instance, that he does not drink. Mulloy has been known to drink. In fact, twice. He got drunk in 1946 in Chicago and again in 1952 in Paris. He also admits to having smoked a couple of cigars around 1926.
Mulloy himself attributes his juvenescence to daily exercise, proper diet, plenty of rest and what he calls food supplements. In New York, where he had an office until recently, Mulloy's favorite exercise is running up flights of subway stairs. "Run hard," Mulloy advises. "Bring your knees up high. People will look at you, but you'll get used to it. Carry a briefcase. The more weight the better." In Miami, where he has his home, Mulloy runs around the block—that is, he runs for 10 yards, stops, runs for 10 more yards, stops, etc. He is also an advocate of running backwards.
Mulloy has orange juice and dry cereal for breakfast and eats an ordinary dinner, eschewing fancy pies and cakes. He does not drink coffee and claims he has never taken an aspirin in his life. "I'm against drugs as a rule," Mulloy says, "and I've never had a headache." After breakfast he doses himself with Vita-care, a powdered vitamin preparation, and for lunch he eats a Nu-V Food Bar. "I guess I'm a food nut," Mulloy says. "My mother is an amateur nutritionist. I was more or less raised on the principle of food fads. I had no choice. We were vegetarians for a year or two until my father started screaming."
By no coincidence, Mulloy's latest job is Chairman of the Athletic Advisory Council of the Comidex Corporation, which puts out the Nu-V Food Bar. The bar weighs 1� ounces, contains 200 calories and is composed of 23 natural foods—such as palm-kernel oil, mango and watercress—nine vitamins and four minerals. It was developed by Rene Laurens, a French chef who was once a Greco-Roman wrestling champion. According to the Marion. Ind. News Herald, M. Laurens has cried on at least one occasion, "C'est magnifique! It is the crowning achievement of my career!"
"My wife ate three bars a day for five days and lost seven pounds," Mulloy cries. "One of my daughters told me, 'It don't taste so good.' [ Mulloy has two daughters—Diane, 21, who has been a runner-up Miss Florida, and Janice, 19.] 'Not so loud.' I said. 'I'm in the business.' Really, you'll like it after you've had more than one."
Mulloy feels he is besieged by skeptics, cynics and antifood nuts. "People come up to me at cocktail parties," he says, "and say, 'Hey, Gar, I hear you take a bunch of pills. Makes you feel good, huh? It's all mental.' 'Listen, Buster,' I tell them. "You know more about it than I do, so don't bother me.' They give supplements to pigs, cows, lawns and gasoline, don't they? Is it mental for pigs? Almost all the vitamins in the bar are natural and organic. Bugs will eat the Nu-V Food Bar. They'll gnaw right through the wrapping to get at it. Bugs won't touch your ordinary vitamin pill."
Nu-V or not Nu-V, Mulloy is still the fine figure of a man over whom beautiful women have sighed—and more than sighed—from Forest Hills to Kooyong. "If you cut off Gar's head," says one admirer, "you've got the body of an 18-year-old." And if you cut off his gray crew cut, you have the face of a 35-year-old. Mulloy's tennis does not show many signs of age either. Although his forehand is not what it used to be, in the sense that he cannot get to balls he once was able to reach, his serve is just as good as ever and his backhand has actually improved with the years. "If it's not too hot or too cold," says Mulloy, "and if all the conditions are right, I can beat anybody. It seldom happens, of course, and I can't struggle through a tournament anymore. You know, I'd be much better if I wasn't so good and so old. Everyone keys on old Gar. As Orlando Sirola, who was the third-ranked Italian, told me after he beat me in five sets at Wimbledon last year, 'I couldn't lose that match. I'd never have lived it down.'