Out in the stadium a bright sun shone down on the center court at Forest Hills, but inside the blue-and-yellow-striped marquee where I was sitting it was cool and dark. Nearby sat John Newcombe of Australia. I am Gene Scott, a 29-year-old lawyer who works in Wall Street five days a week and who plays tennis only on weekends—if my wife doesn't have other plans. Newcombe, as you may have heard, is the recent Wimbledon champion, the best amateur player in the world. At 23 he, too, is married, but nothing interferes with John's playing tennis 12 months a year. Newcombe and I were about to leave the shade of the marquee and go out into that bright sun, into the huge stadium where 13,000 people and three television cameras awaited us.
We rose and walked down three little steps to the court so that we were visible to the crowd.
"Ladies and gentlemen," came the announcement over the public-address system. "This is a semifinal-round match between Mr. John Newcombe of Sydney, Australia and Mr. Eugene Scott of New York. Mr. Newcombe is the Wimbledon champion, the top-seeded player in this tournament...." The list of Newcombe's credits droned on for a full minute. Then it was my turn.
" Mr. Scott is a former member of the U.S. Davis Cup team and was formerly ranked fourth in this country." I recalled the joke in which two players are introduced as the "former champion of—and a former member of—"and someone in the stands shouts: "Formerly this would have been a great match."
Newcombe and I walked out on the court and began to hit. As he checked his racket for a moment, I glanced at the packed stands above me, at the television camera pointing down and at the bright flags flapping in the breeze at the top of the stadium. "What in the world am I doing here?" I wondered. "How did I get here?"
I've always liked tennis. When I began fooling around with the game some 15 years ago, I had no desire to be the best in the world, only to have fun. I was on the tennis team at Yale, but hockey was my sport for six months of the year. It was only in my senior year that I began to play more seriously, and that was only because I realized that as soon as I graduated it was going to be very hard to round up a dozen friends or so for a friendly game of shinny. There was one other reason, too. A classmate of mine, Donald Dell, was about to be named to the Davis Cup squad, which meant he would travel around the world. It sounded like a good life.
So after entering the University of Virginia Law School, I spent what little time there was between studies playing tennis. Ironically, Dell had also entered Virginia, and our daily practice sessions were almost as brutal as our studies. My game improved. That winter I beat Chuck McKinley and Roy Emerson (he was hurt) and was ranked in the Top Ten for the first time. In the summer of 1963 Dell and I, along with Allen Fox of Los Angeles, were selected to play the Davis Cup tie against Iran in Teheran. I also won two American grass-court tournaments that summer—at Orange and Nassau—and because of them was ranked fourth.
But that was it, the peak, the best I could do. I knew that my game would never reach the level of, say, Roy Emerson's and that I could never really expect to win at Wimbledon or Forest Hills. In fact, the best I ever did at either of those tournaments was reach the third round. I knew that reality loomed on the horizon: getting a job in a law firm and going to work, five days a week, 9-5. My days as a serious tennis player were over.
I went to work for a Wall Street law firm in the winter of 1965 and six months later got married. My assignments during those first few months were basic: drafting wills and trust agreements and occasionally getting involved with the early stages of a corporate organization. The most trouble I had was squashing the occasional desire to junk it all and go back on the circuit. Fortunately I had a neighbor who kept stealing the sports section of the Times every morning so I couldn't see what splendid watering spots my friends were visiting from week to week. I became a weekend player in the true sense (in Texas, a weekend player is someone who practices every day and plays in tournaments on the weekend). With some exceptions, my tennis was played only on Saturdays and Sundays, though the competition was pretty good—McKinley, Frank Froehling, Ron Holmberg, Dick Savitt and Bill Talbert, all of whom live in or near New York.
Being limited in this way, I entered this year's Nationals at Forest Hills with a distinctly light-hearted spirit. My wife Merrill had said to me almost a month before: "Please remember that September 8th and 9th are reserved for Andrea's bridal dinner and wedding."