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Tiny Bob tiptoes through the amateurs
Peter Carry
September 02, 1968
Much of the excitement at an otherwise dreary tournament was furnished by Bob Lutz, whose nickname derives from his singing—not his tennis. In the clutch, though, he had to yield to imperturbable Arthur Ashe
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September 02, 1968

Tiny Bob Tiptoes Through The Amateurs

Much of the excitement at an otherwise dreary tournament was furnished by Bob Lutz, whose nickname derives from his singing—not his tennis. In the clutch, though, he had to yield to imperturbable Arthur Ashe

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The Longwood Cricket Club in Chestnut Hill, Mass., which has given U.S. tennis so many of its grand traditions and has been the site for the national doubles championship for the last 50 years, may end up—sadly if inevitably—being remembered best as the place where big-time amateur tennis died in August 1968.

The trouble for Longwood started this spring when the United States Lawn Tennis Association sanctioned open tennis. Forest Hills, the traditional site of the national singles championships, was designated as host of the U.S. Open tournament, and the amateur singles were awarded to Longwood. This seemed a fine idea—10 days of top competition leading to national titles in both singles and doubles and played at the country's oldest club. Instead, Longwood found itself with a white elephant tournament, which, during the course of play last week, showed symptoms of drifting swiftly into the limbo of a routine stop on the Eastern summer tour. Two groups, the best of the amateur players and the USLTA, are capable of providing the resuscitation the tournament needs, but neither seems likely to give it. During the first weekend at Long-wood there were five competing events—four regular USLTA tournaments, including one which was approved after the decision for open tennis, and the Davis Cup tie with Spain. This left Long-wood short of players, many of them good attractions, for that weekend. More important, the tight schedule robbed Longwood of much of the prestige it could have inherited from the old Forest Hills tournament, the dates for which were always assiduously protected by the USLTA.

Ironing out the details of the new open system has made it a hectic year for the USLTA. Its president, Robert Kelleher, excused the undermining of the Nationals by saying, "We've been fouled up all summer." By the time the 1969 calendar is drawn up, the association should not be in that condition anymore, but Kelleher did not offer any definite help for Longwood in the future.

Even if the USLTA does help with better scheduling, the tournament will still be in trouble, because many of the best amateur players are already disenchanted with the idea of playing in closed tournaments. Manolo Santana of Spain and Tom Okker of Holland, two of the top foreign non-professionals, and Nancy Richey and Peaches Bartkowicz, two of the best American women amateurs, did not even appear at Longwood. Neither did the four best Australian players, who were competing in Europe but will be on hand for the Open next week.

Among those who did show up, there was a widespread feeling that the tournament was a comedown from the Forest Hills of years past. Clark Graebner, U.S. Davis Cupper and second seed at Longwood, said, "I didn't really want to come here and play this tournament. Sure, I'd like to win the Nationals, but I want to win the Davis Cup and the Open more. Now it's just another tournament on the circuit, with a little bigger prize."

That attitude showed in Graebner's play. After being knocked out in the semifinals in straight sets, he said, "I was lethargic out there. I have a don't-care attitude this week, and I think a lot of other players have it, too."

Even Bob Lutz and Ceci Martinez, the two surprise players at Longwood who should have been immensely pleased by their performances, felt a little cheated. Miss Martinez, a psychology major at San Francisco State College who did not take up tennis seriously until she was all of 17, hustled her way into the semifinals before losing to the eventual women's titlist, Margaret Smith Court. The pretty, dark-haired 21-year-old, who has been playing much better since she started reading a book on Gestalt therapy a few weeks ago, explained, "This is by far the best I've ever done in a big tournament and I'm very happy, but somehow it just doesn't seem like the Nationals. Maybe if I finish reading that book I'll figure out how to do even better at Forest Hills, which would really seem like something."

Lutz came to Longwood unseeded but dominated the tournament (some other players wryly charged that the LCC on the ball boys' jerseys stood for the Lutz Cricket Club). Just before he and Stan Smith won the doubles championship, Lutz said: "This has been a great week for me but it just hasn't hit me like it would have at Forest Hills." Even if this was not the Nationals of the pre-Open days, Lutz still had plenty to be proud of. He and Smith came to Long-wood unhappy that Davis Cup Captain Donald Dell had not used them as the U.S. team in the tie with Spain. Seeded first, the Californians did not lose a set in their five matches on the way to the championship, which made them the first pair ever to win national titles on all four surfaces.

Lutz was hardly less efficient in his startling singles performance, only going more than three sets twice. He upset the No. 4 domestic seed, Cliff Richey; the No. 1 foreign seed, Bob Hewitt of South Africa; and Graebner, on successive days, before losing to Ashe in the finals. He did it all with a scrambling style, lunging frantically back and forth along the baseline and spending a few moments of each match soiling his whites as he slid across the grass. Lutz's exciting play almost disguised a fast-maturing, solid game based on deep, accurate returns, exceptionally fast reflexes at the net and a reliable serve which does not look spectacular but went unbroken in the semis of both the singles and doubles and the doubles finals.

He credited much of his success at Longwood to a rigorous conditioning program set up by Davis Cup Coach Dennis Ralston and to his aluminum racket, which he feels gives him extra power. "There's less surface on my racket and that lets me swing it harder with less effort because there isn't as much resistance," he said. "That's true even though it's actually a little heavier than my old wood racket."

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