If the name Notlek
Tennis Courts does not make you quiver all over—as if someone had said
Cooperstown or St. Andrews or the Springfield YMCA—you are in good company. The
Notlek Tennis Courts do not mean anything to Rod Laver or Arthur Ashe or Ken
Rosewall, either, or to any of the others of Lamar Hunt's troupe of gypsy
rug-beaters who were convened at Longwood Cricket Club in Boston last week for
the 44th annual U.S. professional tennis championships. But it should.
looks as if it must be something spelled backwards—and it is) was a birthplace
of sorts. It was there at 119th Street in New York City that the first
professional championships were held in 1927. Tell that to any of the pros
hustling for $50,000 at Longwood last week, however, and their only interest
would be to inquire how Ken Rose-wall made out that year.
old Rosewall missed the first few U.S. pro tourneys, but he has been playing in
them since 1957 in Cleveland, when his first victim was—of all people—Bobby
Riggs, who was dug up from somewhere to help draw crowds. Playing before paying
customers is a relatively new gimmick at the professional championship. It was
not so very long ago, for instance, that a pro named Eddie Alloo was given a
night's pay to wear a hood and play in the tournament as a masked marvel. As
recently as 1963, when Rosewall won the title for the first time, the
tournament busted and Ken did not earn a nickel.
obviously had the most reason to be gratified—and startled—last week when he
won his third U.S. championship and $10,000 (certified) before sellout crowds
of 5,500 who paid each of the last three days to watch him as he ran through
Ashe, Marty Riessen and Cliff Drysdale. He ripped up Drysdale, who ball-boyed
for Rosewall many years ago, 6-4, 6-3, 6-0.
The appearance in
the finals of Drysdale, a tall, thoughtful 30-year-old South African with a
two-handed backhand, added an extra ingredient to the drama. Earlier in the
week the Boston chapter of the NAACP had disturbed matches involving two other
touring South Africans, Frew McMillan and Rob Maud, by keeping up an unceasing
din of booing, whistling, stomping and chanting. "Paint him black and send
him back," the group shouted at McMillan in his loss to top-seeded John
lost about as expected, it was impossible to measure the effect of the
demonstration except as it related to the other 3,000 customers. They were
clearly irked by what they considered a breach of tennis spectating
sportsmanship and an imposition on their own enjoyment. "Throw them
out," rose the cry, but the demonstrators—numbering at most 30, white and
black—were otherwise well-behaved and good-natured, and tennis patrons had to
learn to accept freedom of speech' at their game, too. As Newcombe pointed out,
"They were first-class protesters to pay $5 apiece to get in. They helped
us at the gate."
going to have to learn to live with this," Drysdale said afterward.
"And maybe we can, too. But I don't know how I'll react the first time it
happens to me because it's so different from everything we've been accustomed
to all our lives playing this game."
Drysdale had been
the object of a protest at Wimbledon, but it was a polite incident, even
amusing. "Excuse us, this will only take a minute," the head
demonstrator apologized to Drysdale as about a dozen of his associates walked
onto Cliff's court, held up their signs and then quietly departed.
"I wonder if
it will be as polite in America," Drysdale said at the time. He worried
about that. He also said that he sympathized with the protesters' motives and
he readily assented to appear along with Arthur Ashe at a press conference held
by the Boston NAACP following the second night of noise. Possibly because he
has voiced opposition to his government's policies, and was so forthright in
confirming these anti-apartheid statements at the press conference, Drysdale
was not heckled, and the demonstrators did not reappear, even though Cliff
would have been an inviting (and televised) target in both the semis—where he
upset Newcombe—and the finals.
Despite the moral
and political dilemma facing Drysdale, he is enjoying his finest season and has
already won about $50,000. In Miami in April he won $10,000 and his first
tournament in three years, beating Rod Laver in the finals—a match that really
lifted Drysdale's confidence. On the other hand, that turned out to be exactly
the kind of match that Laver loses along the line in every tournament now.