I think that through history the British have been extremely ingenious in inventing sports, but when other people would catch up with them in one—which was not long—they would drop it and invent another. They stuck with cricket because there was no competition. Tennis is really very un-British, very specialized in that it is linked so to Wimbledon, which is unquestionably the championship of the world. Why, in the British calendar, I would say that Wimbledon is at least comparable to the ceremony that used to be held for the new viceroy of India.
Wimbledon is just so much more agreeable than Forest Hills, or Roland Garros or the Foro Italico. So very little seems to mar it, though I do recall Jean Borotra once saying that his ideal death would be serving an ace at center court. I reminded him that you must be very careful in this endeavor because the linesmen are so slow that after you fall to the turf there is liable to be a voice calling "Outtt!"
More seriously, I find it truly sad that there are certain aspects of the snobbishness of tennis that still remain at Wimbledon. A great friend of mine, and I think one of the most admirable of men, is Bunny Austin, who was the last Englishman to make the singles finals of Wimbledon and who teamed with Fred Perry to bring the British their greatest triumphs in the Davis Cup in the 1930s. Bunny is a successful businessman but at the same time is one of the pillars of the Moral Re-Armament movement—with which I'm not very much in sympathy, although I am enormously in sympathy with Bunny and his wife. And yet, because he is in the Moral Re-Armament program, he is not a member of the All England Club. This I find absolutely insupportable, that people can be so ungrateful as to deny him entrance to the place where he so rightfully deserves to be. It is as impossible as imagining Olympus without Jupiter.
But then, the people who administer tennis the world over are absolutely surpassed by the events. They treat their players as though they were gladiators, in the most cavalier and stupid fashion. What a shame for the game that the usual lawn tennis association people are of such an extraordinary low level. I think they are even worse than film distributors.
I remember one marvelous exchange which I overheard at the Pacific Southwest tournament in Hollywood, when Mr. Perry Jones approached Ramanathan Krishnan and said he was fed up with his behavior and would have to report him to his federation. "In that case," Krishnan replied, "you had better give the letter to me, because I am the Indian federation."
There is this element in my love for tennis, that it is such an international sport—like soccer, which I enjoy watching, but don't care for playing, since it is sometimes a little difficult to find 21 others to play with you. Tennis does take on national characteristics so very easily. Krishnan, for instance, is capable of beating anyone with his soft, accurate shots, psyching opponents with a game that is obviously related to the Indian character. Manolo Santana and Maria Bueno, and even your Gonzalez and Segura—so marvelously Latin, their strength and their weakness.
My own is a touch game, although too often the touch finds the net or the netting at the back. I roam quite a bit because I have quick reflexes and am better at the net than at the baseline. I see both the theater and tennis as sports of quick reflexes. Because, in fact, the theater is such a sport, I disapprove of the so-called Method—it is so analytical that it slows down everybody's reactions. I believe, obviously, that you must go into depth in your own mind when you're going to attack a character, but I believe also that the whole Method approach to acting is as though you asked everybody to consider every ball in a tennis game and work it out on a plan. You're so hidebound at the end that you miss all the excitement—the quick reactions in the theater or in sport.
There are also psychological things which are, to my mind, especially interesting. For instance, when there is a quick exchange of balls and suddenly at an instant somebody lobs, you somehow know the other lad is going to miss it because all at once he has too much time to think after a passage in which his instinct alone guided him. It is that disruption which is terribly similar to the moment in the theater when you blow your lines. It is invariably the moment on stage when you take time out and say to yourself, "Ah, thank God, I'm over the awkward bit and this bit I know." Aaaaiii! You're stuck. That is it, the sudden variation of pace which is so liable to throw the mind, or the stroke, off its rhythm.
I was doing a film in Rome a few years ago and three players arrived unexpectedly and wanted me to make a fourth. They were Neale Fraser, who was then at the top of the tree, a Californian named Jack Frost and my old friend Abe Segal from South Africa. They were wonderful to ask me. I felt very cosseted by them, lullabyed, because they know I'm a fanatic but don't really play very well. They put up with me because they know that sometimes I will take them out to dinner, though that should not be sufficient reason.
For some reason it was decided—I suppose again to flatter me—that a fair team, a fair one, would be Fraser and Segal vs. Frost and me. Absolutely ludicrous. The first thing I had to face was Fraser's service, which I had never seen from that angle before except in the newsreels. I saw him winding up and aiming, and suddenly I noticed an aspirin flying at me.