"You had to push, to educate," Malaga says. "I pointed out, over and over, that a Brown-Giant game may seem big, but how big is it anywhere outside the country? The Davis Cup Challenge Round is news all over the world. This is the world championship, the Olympics of tennis." That reminded him: "Oh yeah, then sometimes I give this pitch. I tell them there are three world sports datelines this year: Tokyo, Innsbruck and Cleveland."
When the USLTA met last February, Malaga was ready. Not only did he have the necessary money, but Cleveland's offer came with no strings attached. Los Angeles, on the other hand, wanted the USLTA to cough up rent money if the city built a stadium. Cleveland profited by the Los Angeles-New York rivalry, winning when most of the votes for New York, which had been eliminated, were switched to Cleveland.
The $75,000 stadium has 7,000 seats, all of them bleacher-type, so it looks relatively unimpressive when empty. But the seats themselves are close to the court—much closer than at Forest Hills—and most of them will afford a good view of the action. Recognizing this, Malaga has not been bashful in setting his price scale. The least expensive seats are $5, and many are as high as $15. All three days of play have long been guaranteed near sellouts.
The surface of the court is a composition material, similar to clay. The brand name is Teniko-Royal, but most tennis players know it simply as "green." It is the slowest of the basic surfaces, and a new court should play a bit slower. Speculation as to what effect this surface will have on the play mostly involves Australian Fred Stolle, whose greatest successes have come on grass. The other three of the four certain combatants—Australian Roy Emerson and Americans Dennis Ralston and Chuck McKinley—all have a history of playing about equally well on all types of surfaces.
But Stolle's performance at Forest Hills—where he reached the finals before losing to Emerson—was hardly due to grass alone. In fact, the Forest Hills courts were very slow for grass and terribly rough. Composition courts are remarkably true, and this will be an advantage for Stolle, with his smooth, precise strokes.
Stolle's only real weakness of late has been an inability to handle balls hit at his feet. But he has been playing so well—on all types of courts and against all types of players—that if he maintains this form he should upset one of the Americans. And this he must do if Australia is to regain the Cup. Emerson is reasonably certain to defeat both Ralston and McKinley, but the Americans, with experience playing together, have a slight edge in the doubles over Emerson and Stolle, a new team. Giving the U.S. a hard-fought doubles win, the Aussies probably will win the cup back 3-2.
The teams are so close, though, that either could get hot and win by as much as 4-1. If Dennis Ralston—returning to the scene of his crime—does not reinjure his ankle and can regain the form he exhibited earlier this summer, the cup will not leave the U.S. Whatever the result, tennis will be the winner—richer in money, healthier of image.
Bob Malaga put down a phone, picked up his cigar and walked out of the little trailer that serves as the Davis Cup stadium office. Over in the school yard some girls were practicing cheerleading. "You know," Malaga said, "I'm going to get a band in here. I like bands. They're colorful. We'll get a big high school band—250 or something. We'll march them in all dressed up in their uniforms and have them play The Star-Spangled Banner. It'd be good. They could play soft things some of the time. They know some symphony music."
Someone suggested that that would be preempting 250 high-priced seats. "Ah," Bob Malaga said, "you can't think about that all the time. I bet they never even had a band before at the Davis Cup." They also probably never had as much fun as they are going to have in this Challenge Round—the "Davis Cup Finals"—at Roxboro Junior High, Cleveland Heights, Ohio.