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There is a World Cup in golf (Arnie and Jack have busted par for it in exotic places). There is a World Cup in soccer (the most coveted team-sport trophy of all). There is a World Cup in rugby (the University of California plays the University of British Columbia for it). There are World Cups for every way man can think of skiing down a snowy slope. So why in the world shouldn't there be a World Cup in tennis?
Rest easy, friends. Hartford, Conn., that insurance mecca where even infants know how to spell beneficiary, and kindergartners can lucidly explain the difference between term and straight life, staged the fifth annual World Cup tennis tournament last week at Trinity College. Aetna Life & Casualty was the sponsor. A team of Australians was the life and the U.S. squad was the casualty.
By the luck of the draw the deciding match for the cup was on national television—the third-straight Sunday that NBC has run the Stan and John Show: Stan Smith and John Newcombe bashing and dashing for the money. Smith had won two weeks before at Nassau, N.Y., Newcombe the week before in La Costa, Calif. This time there was a bit more than dollars, points and pride at stake. The U.S. was knocked out of the 1974 Davis Cup by Colombia in a stunning upset in January while Smith was taking a well-deserved rest, so the World Cup was America's one chance to take a little pizzazz out of what is apparently going to be an up year Down Under.
But it was a chance hardly worth noting, mainly because Newcombe is probably playing the best tennis on earth right now. He was serving so powerfully and accurately (he got in 48 of 61 first serves, leaving mini-craters on Smith's side of the floor) that Smith could not break him. Newcombe won 6-3, 6-4, his third win of the matches and Smith's third loss. Laver and Ken Rosewall beat Dennis Ralston and Marty Riessen in the doubles 6-2, 1-6, 6-2, making the final score Australia 5, U.S. 2.
At least one thing good for America did come out of the competition. That is, something good for a particular American named Arthur Ashe. For the first time in 15 years and 16 matches, Ashe managed to defeat Rod Laver. Ashe was just a scared kid when he first met the Rocket at Forest Hills in 1959. So scared that before the match he threw up at courtside. Ever since, though Ashe has had some brilliant moments and even brilliant sets, Laver has pounded him like a nail, the most recent debacle occurring last January in Philadelphia, where Arthur incorrectly totaled his losing streak at 18.
But on Saturday in Hartford, helped by the master's serving problems, Ashe beat Laver 6-3, 6-3 and kept the U.S. in the thick of the fight. After he put away match point with an accurate overhead smash, Ashe mentally pinched himself as he walked slowly to the net. "Yeah," he thought, "I really won!" and raised both arms in triumph, or relief, or both.
It should be interjected here that World Cup is a misnomer. Only about 15% of the global land mass has anything to do with it. It is strictly Australia and the U.S. battling each other Davis Cup style, except that there are seven matches instead of five, two doubles instead of one and no need to go through the sometimes embarrassing preliminaries against the Ruritanias of the sport. The two strongest tennis nations gather their big guns in Connecticut about this time each year and fire point blank at each other just as they have in 14 of the last 23 Davis Cup finals. When the smoke clears there is some nice prize money for the players and a good chunk left over for charities in Hartford and Boston. The event has packed Trinity's little 2,200-seat gym for three straight years and in 1975 will move to the larger Hartford Civic Center Coliseum now being built.
Apart from being an entertaining sporting event, the World Cup tournament is a pleasant respite from the World Championship Tennis tour, which this year has been divided into three parts, Red, Blue and Green, and scheduled for such local subway stops as Tokyo, Barcelona, Johannesburg, Sao Paulo and Monte Carlo. World Cup week is the perfect time for Reds, Blues and Greens to exchange morsels of gossip—like Bob Hewitt breaking his own world record in the racket throw or Harald Elschenbroich winning an exhibition sprint around a dog track in Florida.
Or the time the Greens, as a publicity gimmick, challenged the London public to a mile-and-a-quarter run in Kensington Gardens one morning, which was a foolish thing to do because it is easier to get Ralph Nader behind the wheel of a Corvair than it is to get a tennis player out of bed before 11 a.m. Only Laver and four other pros showed up to race 80 citizens. The best WCT finisher was Japan's Jun Kamiwazumi, No. 16.
The Reds, known as the screwball squad, have found a man to steal the top banana's job from Ilie Nastase. He is a Frenchman, Jean Baptiste Chanfreau, who specializes, whatever the consequences, in imitating the style of some all time tennis great, perhaps Ken Rosewall in one match, Pancho Gonzales in another. Playing the role of the famed touch artist, Manuel Santana, he hit more than 40 drop shots in one match while losing to Elschenbroich.