Kim Chapin's piece on powerboat racing (A Rewarding Race in Detroit, July 10) ended with the point that there is no real solution in sight for the deaths of unlimited hydroplane drivers. Simply stated, no one has yet discovered how to build a boat strong enough to be safe at 150-plus mph—and no one can stop an aggressive driver from pushing his boat beyond its limits in a hot race.
Each of the more than 5,000 registered A.P.B.A. racing drivers—who push the 4,469 registered A.P.B.A. boats—realize that their chances go something like this: barring a collision a driver seldom suffers more than having the wind knocked out of him in spills up to 60 mph; from 60 mph to 100 mph he is due some cuts, abrasions and breaks; from 100 mph to 140 mph he is sure to have serious breaks, such as ribs or legs (unless his body or the boat stays in the air long enough to slow down and break the fall); beyond 140 mph the driver can be practically certain that nothing short of a miracle can save him.
Racing limited boats—even very fast ones—is a remarkably safe sport. More lives have been lost driving autos to and from regattas than in competition. Unlimited racing is obviously a dangerous sport, and our best minds have not been able to make it safe—short of outlawing racing, which is not likely to come about.
EDWARD H. NABB
Vice-President, Union International Boating
The stunning upset of the U.S. Davis Cup team by Ecuador in the North American Zone final (The Best Losers in the World, July 3) has left the tennis world and the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association gasping. For the sixth time in eight years the U.S. has failed to survive the preliminary rounds.
As a tennis professional, I am convinced that the tactics and attitude of the American players are two major factors in this seemingly endless series of defeats.
For years the USLTA has advocated to junior players the strategy of ATTACK-ATTACK-ATTACK. This is sound strategy when the opening to attack presents itself. However, to be a complete player one must also be able to defend when one is attacked. This is where the Americans come a cropper.
I am certain that U.S. players do not fully realize the value of the lob—the most underestimated shot in tennis. The lob is your only reply when you are forced off the court or your opponent has come to the net on a forcing approach shot. A perfect example of this inability to lob was demonstrated in the 1967 U.S. National Indoor Men's Singles Championships between Arthur Ashe and Charles Pasarell. When Pasarell came to the net, Ashe could not lob the ball any deeper than the service line. Because of the short lobs, Pasarell smashed away winner after winner. Our players could well emulate Bobby Riggs, rated by many experts the smartest player of all time. Often Riggs would go on the court with probably 100 balls and practice hitting lobs from his backhand side (the side usually attacked by the volleyer) to the opposite backhand side of the court. Out of 100 practice shots, about 95 of the balls would land within a foot of the corner. Such lobs are demoralizing, as many of Riggs's opponents will recall to their discomfiture. The overemphasis on attack as advocated by the USLTA has been largely reponsible for the American ineptitude in Davis Cup competition.
As for attitude, let's take an example from golf. After Jack Nicklaus finished his third round of play in the 1967 National Open Golf Championship, he went out and practiced for an hour. It certainly paid off—the next day in the final round he sank a 22-foot putt on the 18th hole to clinch the championship. If only our tennis players had this determination.
Unless the American players forget about their press clippings and knuckle down to playing percentage tennis on key points using the orthodox shots and foregoing the crowd-pleasing, spectacular shots, the U.S. Davis Cup team will continue to be an also-ran. The answer is to play the game the way it was designed to be played—with brains, and not just brawn.
It seems to me that the article referring to our U.S. Davis Cup team as "a bunch of goodwill ambassadors who would rather quit than fight" serves no constructive purpose whatsoever. Will ridiculing our players for lack of fight help them do better next year? Perhaps they were trying too hard because of the tremendous pressures on them to win, with each additional year of failure only increasing the pressure buildup.