It was entirely expected that an Australian—Roy Emerson—would win the U.S. national singles title at Forest Hills last week, and this Emerson did, with ease. What was not expected was that a second Australian would join Emerson in the finals. Not that all-Australian finals are new. There have been seven of them at Forest Hills in the last nine years; 15 of the last 18 finalists have come from down under. But as most of those players—Rosewall, Hoad, Laver—turned pro, there was reason to believe that the Aussie stranglehold had been broken. Last year, for instance, there was an all non-Australian final—man bites dog. But this year's tournament restored the too-familiar pattern. To go with Emerson, the No. 1 amateur player in the world, the Australians have another who may well be No. 2.
His name is Fred Stolle. "You pronounce it Stolly. Like hello Dolly, goodby Stolle," says Emerson, laughing. Stolle is a tall, lean, blond-haired man of 25. Seeded fifth at Forest Hills, he moved carelessly through the early rounds, dropping two sets to Giordano Maioli of Italy in the first round and nearly getting beaten by Cliff Drysdale of South Africa in the fourth round. Then Stolle picked up his game. He played magnificently as he beat Dennis Ralston in the quarter-finals in a titanic five-set, two-day match, one of the best in the long history of the tournament. Still hot, Stolle whipped through last year's champion, Rafael Osuna, with no trouble, setting up the all-Australian final. In doing so, Stolle made it quite clear that the Australian Davis Cup team is somewhat more than Roy Emerson and friend and that when the Challenge Round is played in Cleveland next week the U.S. team will be the underdog.
Fred Stolle has hardly burst upon the scene like Athena full-grown from the brow of Zeus. However, he has been regarded primarily as a doubles player, despite a good grass-court record in the U.S. in 1962 and his showing at Wimbledon in 1963, where he lost to Chuck McKinley in the finals.
Last December it seemed he would go waltzing-Matilda right back to obscurity when he was passed over by Davis Cup Captain Harry Hopman for the Challenge Round. Hopman chose young John Newcombe, and the word went around that Stolle could not concentrate sufficiently. Whether it was the Davis Cup snub or not, Stolle's concentration has improved since then, and he has had a great year in a period when being second best to Roy Emerson is a pretty reasonable pursuit. Stolle gained the Wimbledon finals again this year—only the fourth player since the war to repeat there in successive years. Emerson beat him, as he had done in the Australian and Canadian finals.
This might be considered enough to give a man a vice-presidential complex, but Stolle is a witty, relaxed type who seems to have come through with an un-scarred psyche—plus a better forehand and an improved serve. A skinny 6 feet 3, Stolle walks like a) his feet hurt or b) his feet and legs hurt or c) he just plain hurts all over. But in action he is a graceful player with picture strokes. Even when his ground game is not as strong as it was at Forest Hills, his heavy and well-directed services make him a threat. "His second serve was like a maniac." Defending Champion Rafael Osuna said after Stolle knocked him out in the semis. "But then, the way he is getting the first serve in, I don't see much of the second."
Stolle never served better than he did in his match against Dennis Ralston. He hit the ball so hard and so accurately that Ralston and the partisan American crowd were stunned in equal measure. Stolle reeled off a 6-2, 3-0 lead before Ralston braced himself. It was too late to salvage the second set, but as Ralston's game came around and Stolle's fell off to only excellent, the American evened the match at two sets apiece.
Then came the thrilling fifth set. Service was held to 2-3 and 30-love, Ralston serving. Ralston lunged for a forehand down the line, hit the ball, but slipped—and screamed sickeningly as he did so. He got up slowly, limping on his right ankle, which had been injured earlier in the summer. After a minute, play continued, but Ralston, unable to move normally, lost three more points and the game. "I snapped the tendons in the ankle again," Ralston explained afterward. "'I had taken a shower after the third set, and when I came out I put on my shoes and socks and forgot all about wrapping the ankle. It didn't really bother me, but I kept thinking about the ankle instead of concentrating on the game."
The lapse put Stolle ahead 4-2, and then 5-3 after they split service games. In what then certainly appeared to be match game, Stolle won the first two points with ease. Suddenly, though, in the fading light of late afternoon, Ralston came alive with a display of passing shots that brought the crowd to a very untennislike frenzy. Suddenly it was 30-40, Ralston. Stolle settled down, making it deuce and then match point. He served one of his best—hard and deep—but Ralston caught it somehow and came back with a forehand winner inches off the sideline. On the next point he followed with a backhand crosscourt that looked even better, hitting the chalk. When Ralston hit the next serve back at Stolle's feet, the match was even. Both players then held serve to 7-7, when darkness forced a postponement till the next morning.
The rest was anticlimactic. Stolle fell behind 15-40 before he pulled out his serve on Ralston's mistakes. Ralston could not hold his, and the match ended at 9-7. "A quick thing like that. It's just who gets lucky," Stolle admitted.
Ralston the man