There was one especially memorable moment at Forest Hills last week. Playing in the quarter-finals of the U.S. national singles championships, Australia's Roy Emerson, the top-ranked amateur in the world and a heavy favorite to win the tournament, slammed a ball beyond the baseline and in doing so went down to defeat, beaten by young Arthur Ashe of Richmond, Va., U.S.A. As the large, cheering crowd rose to its feet, Ashe raised his arms in the air and stared at the ground, as if stunned by his achievement. Then he dropped his racket, broke into a quick, friendly grin and shook hands with Emerson. Arthur Ashe had beaten the defending champion. Cut. Print it.
Trouble is, this was the quarter-finals, not the finals, and the next day Ashe was himself put out of the tournament by Manuel Santana of Spain, who, on the day after that, beat South Africa's Cliff Drysdale in what has become the annual non-American U.S. final. Alien lands provide the finalists and the U.S. provides the ball boys. Since Tony Trabert won in 1955, Australians have won the title eight times, a Mexican once and this year a Spaniard. Moreover, in the last decade only one American—Frank Froehling in 1963—has managed to reach the finals.
In the second round of the tournament it appeared that this year might be different. Charles Pasarell of Puerto Rico and UCLA faced Australia's No. 2 man, Fred Stolle, the second-seeded player. Earlier this summer, on grass at the Merion Cricket Club in Pennsylvania, Pasarell had beaten Stolle and Emerson back to back, but Merion and Forest Hills are a thousand tennis courts apart and no one thought the 21-year-old Puerto Rican could do it again. As it turned out, Stolle never won a set. Pasarell is a husky kid who slams the ball on almost every shot. Stolle, who is also a big hitter, found himself overpowered. Time and again his serve would come whistling back across the net, sending up a shower of white chalk as it caught the line. Barely an hour after the match began, Stolle was free to concentrate on the mixed doubles.
Pasarell moved easily through his third and fourth matches before meeting that old crowd-pleaser, Rafael Osuna, in the quarter-finals. In the first set Pasarell continued his sensational hard hitting, yielding only five points as he won five straight games and the set 6-1. But then Osuna's soft, delicate shots began to fall in, and Pasarell found himself bedeviled into playing the Mexican's cat-and-mouse game. Osuna ran off with the next three sets, although Pasarell made one last gallant stand near the end, showing that he is about ready to move up among the world's top amateurs.
Five days after Pasarell beat one half of the Australian Davis Cup team, Arthur Ashe beat the other. Ashe had a tough first-round match—or so it promised to be—against Gene Scott, this country's fifth-ranked player. But Ashe's powerful serve, probably the hardest of any player in the world, amateur or pro, was going in consistently, and Ashe won in straight sets. He breezed through his next three opponents with no trouble—which brought him to Emerson, from whom he had not won a set in two previous meetings.
"I feel more confident than I have at any time in the past," Ashe said in the men's locker room at Forest Hills before the match. "It's hard to explain.... All of a sudden you just start playing well. I know I'll have to play very well to beat him, but I know for sure I can do it. Still, you have to go out there with the idea in the back of your mind—you can't help it—that this guy is better than me."
In the early afternoon before the match Ashe lounged in the locker room playing bridge. He is not yet a good player so he kept at his side a bridge instruction book filled with underlined passages. He was so blas� on the surface that one might have thought he had no plans for the rest of the day except a little motoring in his stereo-equipped Mustang, which was parked outside. He paid no attention to the gallery on the wall behind him, photographs of all the national champions going back to the long-pants and handlebar-mustache days. Emerson's picture was there to immortalize his victories in 1961 and 1964. The live Emerson was already dressed for tennis and thumbing absent-mindedly through a three-month-old magazine, his stocking feet propped up on the back of a chair. Finally Ashe reluctantly left his bridge game, changed clothes and walked in silence with Roy to the stadium.
Arthur had a plan. Former star Dick Savitt had told him his splendid serve would keep him in the match but that he must smash back Emerson's service to win. He resolved to put everything in his 150-pound body into his return of service, and it paid off in the very first game. Emerson served first and soon found his deliveries were being lashed right back past him. Perhaps trying to put too much extra on his serve, he lost the last point on a double fault, the first of 17 he was to commit in the match. Even so, it was not until 70 minutes later that Ashe won the first set, 13-11, with an ace.
Ashe broke through his opponent's service in the third game of the second set and went on to win 6-4. It was a convincing start, but the feeling lingered that the champion might yet regain his touch. That feeling grew in the long third set, when Emerson hung on grimly through a series of crises and won 12-10 as Ashe double-faulted at set point. Now Emerson had a 10-minute rest period, a chance to regroup and perhaps alter his strategy.
But in the fourth set Emerson fell apart completely and Ashe ran through him, returning service nicely, volleying beautifully and mixing up the speed of his serves like a pitcher throwing change-ups. He won 6-2. The crowd gave him a standing ovation and his aunt from Montclair, N.J. gave him a kiss. Members of the press scurried along with him to the clubhouse jabbering questions.