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Of the 32 players now on tour, Nikki Pilic of Yugoslavia is the most conservative, and Jeff Borowiak of California the most radical. Borowiak wears his hair shoulder length and carries a stereo system with him, the world over. He joined the tour only last fall, but soon had some of the others into Zen. "All players in any sport are so conservative," he says. "I didn't have the same background. I've messed around with drugs and everything." Borowiak proved a welcome replacement for Torben Ulrich, the enigmatic, bearded Dane who has taken his music and his health foods and his mysteries to other parts of this vale of tears.
By contrast, Pilic plays it straight, dressed for the part, complete with an outdated polo coat, as if he were auditioning for a pre-World War II Chesterfield cigarette ad. In Yugoslavia he plays billiards. Confronted with pool tables in America, he still plays billiards. "Oh, the holes, the holes are killing me." He is painfully honest. He gave up soccer, he says, because he couldn't stand it when he played well and his team still lost. And as he once explained to Borowiak as they rode together to the courts (prefacing all important declarations with a pointed finger and a solemn, "I tell you, Jeff..."), the dope problem in America could be resolved forthwith by standing all addicts up before a firing squad. Overlooking the possibility that the supply of ammunition in U.S. arsenals might also become a factor, Pilic seemed pretty much inclined to offer the same definitive solution for obstreperous feminists and long-haired males (presumably including Jeff himself).
Oh yes, one of the reasons Pilic and Borowiak were riding to the courts together was that they were a regular WCT doubles combination. For several months they played together every tournament. It is rather as if William Kunstler and Richard Kleindienst were a mountain-climbing team, working the same rope up Annapurna.
Fortunately everyone on the tour speaks English. Since the Spaniard, Andres Gimeno, left WCT, no one remains even to speak labored English. Gimeno's influence lives on only in the case of Bob Lutz (rhymes with cuts), which Gimeno pronounced Bobby Loose. Since that was so appropriate, Lutz remains Bobby Loose. Last spring there were only two Continental Europeans in the group—Pilic and Tom Okker, a Dutchman who is part Jewish. There were also an Egyptian, three Englishmen, two South Africans and one New Zealander. Then the bloc votes: nine Americans and 14 Australians. Fourteen Australians together is far too many for the tour; for that matter, it may be too many for Perth. But before tennis peace was reached this summer, whenever any European federation would wave the flag and buy back one of its players there was always another Aussie ready to step in.
They range down from Ken Rosewall, 38 now and bearing greater resemblance all the time to Mr. Chips, to Rod Laver, Fred Stolle, Roy Emerson—the most popular player on tour—through John Newcombe and his gang, and all the way to the kids, John Alexander and Phil Dent. The Australians are individuals in many ways, yet have most things in common. No one is really sure whether they appear so temperamentally alike because they share the same nationality, or because so many of them were influenced by the same man, Harry Hopman. What Pilic says about the Aussies doesn't really seem meaningful, but somehow it may define them best: "If they all want to drink the beers, well, they drink the beers."
To the other players the Australians much resembled the vintage New York Yankees, because until just the last few months their domination was inevitable. The world balance of tennis power is now suddenly shifting—and with it new attitudes are emerging among the players. Through the years, however, everyone always expected Rod Rosewall and Ken Laver to reach the finals, and everyone was bored when they did—or felt cheated on the rare occasions when they did not. In a tournament late last year at Cologne, Lutz and Borowiak were the surprise finalists. The German fans appeared ready to sue the tour for fraud.
Poor Rosewall and Laver have gotten it from all sides. They are both, in their ways, loners, and mildly idiosyncratic. Rosewall, homesick eternally, always keeps one sneaker in the nearest Qantas Airways terminal. Laver is a fussbudget who, alone of all the players, sends his tennis shorts out to be dry-cleaned. "What some people won't do for a tax write-off," Ashe chuckles. They are older and have won for so long that one comes to expect that Laver and Rosewall will soon be popping round the locker room in long sleeves and white ducks, getting ready to play Cochet and Lacoste.
On the other hand, there are occasions when the players are loath to give Laver and Rosewall their due. "If it has to be an Aussie," one says, "at least couldn't it be Newcombe?" And then, particularly late at night after a few beers have been drawn, someone will invoke the memory of Lew Hoad, and Laver and Rosewall will all but be left as impostors. Hoad was Rosewall's contemporary, a back-to-back Wimbledon champion before injuries did him in. More important, he was a rough blond strongman, raucous and full of fun—all the things that Rosewall and Laver (and most people) are not. Hoad lives in Spain now, popping up at Wimbledon just regularly enough to stoke the folklore, repeated after a few more beers have been drawn, that God put Lew Hoad on earth to be the Arnold Palmer of tennis.
Ironically, although many of the Aussies come off blanched and uniformly dull in public, they are, personally, among the most engaging characters in sports. No two more delightful personalities ever existed than Emerson and Stolle in the years they controlled the Davis Cup, but they never came across any better than Rosewall and Laver. Part of this, surely, has been the suppressive, disagreeable Hop-man influence. Another problem is that the Aussies stick pretty much to themselves when they are drinking the beers.
"The Americans stick together, too, especially when they're not in their country," Stolle says. "You know, they have the same bloody habits. But the difference is, Australians look after each other. It's not the same with the Americans. With us, you lost a tight one, another one of us will be there to say, don't worry, if you want I'll drink a few beers with you tonight and help you relax."