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Forest Hills, bastion of traditional grass-court tennis in the U.S., has decided to dig up its time-honored turf and install an artificial surface. Charles Rider, president of the West Side Tennis Club, which is Forest Hills' formal name, says, "I regret it in some ways. Esthetically, grass is pleasing, and it is a faster surface, which I think is more fun. But we had 128 players in the men's division last year and 90 or so women, and they play singles, doubles and mixed doubles. It's like a gang war out there, and grass is very perishable. Too, most tournaments today are not played on grass.
"The change is something the players want," Rider says, "and I think we have to conform to what they want. But there was no ultimatum, as some stories implied. The players hoped we would change, but they weren't going to come after us with a racket if we didn't."
The switch to the new surface will benefit Chris Evert and Ken Rosewall and others who play a defensive, back-court game. Some deplore this, but Bill Talbert, who directs the Forest Hills tournament, disagrees. "The new surface," he says, "will help the player with beautiful ground strokes. We're going to have a much better game to watch."
When the Oakland Raiders selected Southern Mississippi's Ray Guy in the first round of the NFL draft, they not only picked up an outstanding triple-threat kicking specialist but a player so skilled in other aspects of the game that he could eventually take over the duties of two or three men currently on the squad. At first Oakland will use him only to kick off and punt ( George Blanda still has the field-goal franchise) in the hope that he will displace Jerry DePoyster, who averaged only 37 yards a punt in 1972 and finished last in the league. As a senior in college, Guy led the nation with a 46.2-yard average, including one 93-yarder, and his 44.7-yard career average was second highest in NCAA history.
He also kicked a 61-yard field goal, which means in time he may nudge the ageless Blanda into retirement. Currently only two men in the NFL—Cleveland's Don Cockroft and San Diego's Dennis Partee—regularly handle both punting and field-goal attempts. Having a player like Guy around who can do both means Oakland can afford to carry another quarterback or an extra defensive back, although Guy has talents in those areas, too. At Southern Mississippi he intercepted 18 passes in his career and last spring was even considered the team's No. 2 quarterback. He is 6'3" and 192 pounds and a baseball pitcher good enough to have been drafted by the Cincinnati Reds. Some athlete. In any case, he is certainly a surer tackling safetyman and a better emergency passer than, say, Miami's Garo Yepremian.
The pole vault is either the most exciting boring event in sport or the most boring exciting event. Pole vaulters, often the best athletes at a track meet, are also prima donnas, showboats, hams. The long minutes while they stand at the top of the runway psyching themselves for a superhuman try or possibly thinking about what they had for breakfast stretches the event to interminable lengths. At the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, for memorable instance, the pole vault lasted from 10 o'clock one morning until 10:30 that night.
Now Payton Jordan, the Stanford track coach and former coach of the U.S. Olympic team, has come up with a pole vault traffic light. The device sits on a golf cart near the runway. An amber light alerts the next vaulter that it is his turn. When the light turns green, he has three minutes to vault. If he fails to make his attempt before the light turns red, that's it. He has had his turn and the next man moves in.