"No problem," I replied. "That's when the quarters and semifinals are held. I'll be out by then, especially if I get my customary draw." In three recent years I had met Arthur Ashe, Bill Bowrey and Clark Graebner in the first or second round. Even if I got a lucky draw I would have to meet some good players in the third or fourth rounds. I would be at Andrea's wedding, no question.
A week before the Nationals began I called up Ed Baker at the USLTA office to find out whom I was to play in the first round.
"One thing I'm certain of, Gene," he said. "It's not Newcombe. Just a minute, I'll check."
There was a moment of silence and then I could make out low laughter in the background. A barely audible but cheery voice said: "That's right, I remember they were worried during the draw that there weren't going to be any interesting first-round matches. Then Gene's name was pulled out of the hat opposite Roche."
Baker returned to the phone. "Gene, I was right," he said. "You don't play Newcombe. You play Tony Roche. He's seeded third."
Do tell, I thought, but I merely thanked Mr. Baker and hung up. Well, that was it, in and out, just like that. At least I would have a chance to play (be humiliated?) in the stadium. I was so convinced that I would be eliminated by Roche that I agreed to give a tennis clinic on Saturday, the day after my match, and also agreed, wonder of wonders, to play in the Husband & Wife tournament.
Friday morning, the day of the match, I got to the office at 9. Terry, my secretary, seemed in a remarkably chipper mood, even after I asked her to type up a bunch of stockholders' and directors' minutes. Then I remembered she was leaving for Dublin on vacation that night. Just as well. Terry is my conscience at work, greeting me with raised eyebrows whenever I take too long at lunch or leave the office early in the afternoon. With the Nationals going on, I would be leaving early a number of afternoons, if only as a spectator, and Terry's absence would make me feel less guilty.
I gave one of our partners some clubhouse passes for the Saturday matches, said goodby to Terry and at 1:30 left by subway for The West Side Tennis Club. Not many people in the office knew I was playing in the tournament, for I have always tried to deemphasize that part of my life. More than once I have cringed after opening the Monday Times to read Allison Danzig saying something about my game. "Everyone will think I'm back on the circuit again," I have thought. Such things do little to convince my colleagues that I am serious about the law.
At Forest Hills, the first women's match had ended quickly so that I was too late to take advantage of a warmup, a privilege that in the early rounds is granted only to those players who are scheduled to play in the stadium or grandstand. Changing clothes quickly, I headed out along the gray-gravel path toward the stadium when I bumped into Ronnie Goldman, a law student and a fine player.
"Congratulations, lucky," he said with a smile.