SI Vault
Frank Deford
November 20, 1972
For the touring pros, most of whom are foreign, the U.S. is a tennis El Dorado, making it easier to accept other things about their adopted country
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November 20, 1972

O'er The Land Of The Fee

For the touring pros, most of whom are foreign, the U.S. is a tennis El Dorado, making it easier to accept other things about their adopted country

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The players were livid at this slight, especially after some of them figured out what a coincidence it was that this year was the first time River Oaks had ever instituted these restrictions, while it also just happened to be the first time Ashe had ever played there. "Will they even let Arthur in the door?" Nails Carmichael inquired facetiously.

"Why are you defending this policy, Bill?" El Shafei demanded of Holmes.

"Scandalous," sputtered Drysdale, and there were more representative oaths.

"Well, you tell them. Bill," Pilic said, rapping a pool cue, "that if we can't eat in their clubhouse, we won't be there Tuesday night for their Calcutta either." The others concurred with angry, disgusted murmurs, the kind that sweep through Hollywood lynch mobs.

Five minutes later a member of the club walked into the room and inquired if perhaps two of the players might like to join him and another member in a golfing foursome. There was such an excited bustle to get to the member's side that at last he agreed to take six of the WCT men and make up two foursomes.

The foreign players are tossed by ambivalent feelings about the affluent America they see. As a rule, they endorse the American way of life—hamburgers excepted—more enthusiastically than Americans, although there are sharp geographical biases. The players much prefer the South and smaller cities to the North and larger ones. If there is any player who can even tolerate New York City, he is keeping his counsel.

"You soon find out," says Roy Barth of San Diego, "that the foreign players have an easy tendency to generalize only critically about America. Not long ago I stayed at a house along with a couple of foreign players. Our hosts were the most wonderful people you would ever want to meet. We all loved them. When we left, we stopped for gas. The attendant was slow and rude. Immediately, the foreigners started complaining about how this gas-station guy was a typical American, about how all Americans were rude. In the week we stayed with those wonderful hosts, nobody once suggested that they were typical Americans."

Unquestionably, the foreign players are put off by American pushiness, but the longer they stay in this country the more they seem able to accept it as merely an inconvenience—in the same way that a surfeit of planes, hotels, meat, money. Interstate highways and appliances are everyday American conveniences. "Nikki never stops talking about Europe until he gets there and he can't get eggs for breakfast," Drysdale says.

In Philadelphia this past February, Drysdale, Pilic and Frank Froehling of Fort Lauderdale suffered perhaps the classic example of typical American check. When Froehling left the practice court, where he had been hitting with the other two, he was immediately set upon by a brassy country-club shrew. "Which one are you?" she demanded to know, jabbing a finger. When Froehling revealed his identity, the termagant let him know that he was one lucky guy, and could join himself and two of her friends for their regular Sunday-morning doubles game that week.

Froehling replied, with a straight face, that whereas he would be delighted to drop everything and play with these strange women Sunday morning, he had, alas, a prior engagement. "I'll tell you what, though," he said. "I'm sure Rod Laver would love to fill in for me." And he even carefully explained how she could reach Laver.

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