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I put my racket in the way and felt an enormous wrench, and the ball went flying back, to Fraser's surprise—and mine. He was coming into the net, but he hadn't gotten in quite far enough and so he hit the ball back at me again, and I remember thinking—a kind of emergency semaphore—if it's possible once, it's possible again. Once more I felt an enormous wrench and the ball flew back again.
This time it really surprised him—he was up at the net—and he sent a rather soft ball—that is, soft by his standards—to my backhand. I was embarrassed by it, because my backhand is notoriously weak, and all I could do was pat it back. In the air the aspirin became a beach ball, and though he was right at the net, he was so surprised he put it into the net.
I looked around in triumph. A friend who was standing there but not watching asked if I were winning. Ah, 15-love on Fraser's service. But I didn't reply, which was wise, for thereafter I was like a war correspondent, just watching the bullets pass.
Tennis at its best is a game of endless surprises. If Goliath wins, you think, yes of course that is logical, but if David wins, you think only how marvelous. It is also, of course, a thing of stamina. Any big tournament, like Wimbledon, is a marathon. You must win seven matches just to get into the final and it is a tremendous physical and mental drain. That's why I think the Davis Cup—which I love—is not quite fair. I don't see why the champion nation can sit it out. It should be in the thing from the beginning. It would also be more interesting for defenders to have to take risks, to try out their good people.
Tennis seems to me a game of tremendous subtlety—which is perhaps why it has never become enormously popular. Certainly, it must be subtle when you think that the United States can be defeated by Ecuador, when you think that at just some moment a country can produce two great players who can take the Davis Cup. And yet it seems to be very difficult to produce a player of world rank. There are many efficient players but it is so rare that you find one subtle enough to be the champion.
I remember at the Pacific Southwests the first time I saw a young Spanish player—very young and unknown at the time—Santana. He was not supposed to beat anybody, but he was playing marvelously well and we happened to meet. He suddenly asked me for my autograph. I said, I'll give you my autograph if you'll give me yours, and so we exchanged. He was playing Alex Olmedo next, and Olmedo was near the height of his career, but I said to Santana that he was going to win.
He protested that that was impossible, but he won the first set against Olmedo. Santana lost the second, but as he changed sides to begin the deciding set I did a thumbs-up sign, because he said he had liked Nero in Quo Vadis. And Manolo won the last set 6-0.
I lost sight of him completely then, but a little bit later he was in the French championships in 1961 and I read that he had reached the quarterfinals. I was crossing France by car when I learned of this, so I stopped and sent Manolo a telegram just saying "Ol�!" The next day I opened the paper and saw he had won his way to the semifinals, so I sent him a cable saying, "Ol�, Ol�!" And he won that and went into the finals for a chance at his first major title against Pietrangeli. So now I sent him a cable saying, "Ol�, Ol�, Ol�!"
I could not find the results of the finals till late the next evening in the south of France, when I got an evening paper that described Santana's victory and said he had jumped the net shouting, "Ol�, Ol�, Ol�!" Long afterward I saw him and he thanked me for my encouragement, so whenever he is in a big match, Australia or anywhere, I always send him a cable. Of course, it doesn't always work.
Though I most enjoy watching a player like Santana, I never look for one thing when I go to any match because I don't think that any tennis player ever lives by himself. The most marvelous thing is when you find two players of contrasting techniques. In that sense I think it must be like chess—although I don't play chess myself—for when I see a great tennis match I think this must be like that scene in Moscow, where you have the great crowds watching the chess scoreboards and gasping whenever somebody makes an odd move. It's this to me, but of course at a very, very high speed.