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It is not a secret—but then it hasn't been written in the sky either—that the United States Lawn Tennis Association is now paying the six members of the Davis Cup team annual salaries of between $7,000 and $9,000 each. Pretty good for an amateur tennis player, no? No. Some of the players feel they are being shortchanged, that they could probably make more money hawking their services on the open market. And the truth is, they probably could. Thus a storm is brewing in amateur tennis—those who believe in a set salary for Davis Cup players against those who believe in free enterprise, and right in the middle of that storm is George MacCall, the captain of the team.
It was MacCall, a 47-year-old Los Angeles insurance man, who convinced USLTA officials that his players should be paid on a year-round basis whether they are playing in tournaments or not, and it is MacCall who doles out the money—to Dennis Ralston, Arthur Ashe, Charlie Pasarell, Marty Riessen, Cliff Richey and Clark Graebner. The salaries will continue as long as the cup campaign lasts, hopefully through December and the Challenge Round against Australia.
All this is quite legal. Amateur tennis rules allow a country to support its Davis Cup team while it is in training, but in the past that training period was never longer than several weeks. When the U.S. team was beaten by Spain last August in Barcelona, MacCall was unwilling to disband.
"A player has to live, whether or not he's competing," argues MacCall. "When a boy makes the team we want him to be able to concentrate on tennis and not be pressed financially. If he's in school we still want him to be part of the unit and to train as hard as his studies will permit, playing occasional tournaments. He can do this if he continues to get expenses."
Expenses can mean as much as $196 a week plus transportation. Under present rules an amateur player may receive $28 a day for a tournament in this country, out of which he is supposed to pay all his upkeep. Where living costs are lower, outside the U.S., the amount okayed by the International Lawn Tennis Federation is a maximum of $20 per day. MacCall pays his players on this scale, though he is flexible. Should a tournament offer �"hospitality"—room and board—expense cash goes down commensurately. When school or other obligations prevent a player from being with the team, or there are no tournaments scheduled, he still receives a tidy $20 a day.
MacCall's guaranteed annual wage is a realistic attempt to do away with that table under which monetary blessings flow and to relieve the players from the strain of hustling for their keep. Some of the players, however, would prefer to hustle. On their own, the top amateur names can command as much as $1,000 a tournament. When you read in the paper that a player of the caliber of Roy Emerson is playing tennis in Beirut during August, you know he is getting Park Avenue "expenses."
This sort of thing does not make MacCall happy. "Maybe I'm old-fashioned," he says, "but I don't believe anybody should make money out of amateur tennis. I think we can stay with the rules and still maintain a team that can train properly and win. That's one reason I decided to handle all the finances all the time—to eliminate the abuses. A player trying to get more than the legal expenses should turn pro.
"Another reason," says MacCall, "is to reinforce the team concept. Everybody gets an equal share. And still a third reason is to give our boys opportunities equal to their opposition. The other top nations see to it that their teams have no financial worries. They have an edge because their players are not involved in schooling and are free to play all the tournaments."
MacCall does all the negotiating for his players. He determines how much money a particular tournament can afford to pay, collects the money and writes the checks. He says there are a few exceptions but that most players don't like to haggle with tournament officials. MacCall's system removes the player from bargaining sessions.
Charlie Pasarell, the national indoor champion and a senior at UCLA, agrees. "Some guys can make better deals traveling on their own but, generally speaking, I like it this way. It takes away the pressure of having to be great every week, which is impossible. If you're losing, your value goes down and they offer you less. But with George handling things you always get the same. You can concentrate on your tennis game and forget about money."