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"I look at it this way: 25 years ago, before open tennis came in and even in the days when we were running pro tours, the champions were people who played 13 to maybe 17 events a year. So all of us guys who achieved our records in those years, we really were .900 hitters. I mean, you won nine out of 10 tournaments if you were the best player because you were always rested and keen.
"Since open tennis has come in, Rod Laver has the best record overall, with Stan and John Newcombe close, but they win roughly one out of four tournaments, so they're .250 batters. Now, if a Smith wants to be an .800 hitter, it's possible, but he's got to go back to our philosophy. Play 15 tournaments and play 'em all damned good, or play 25 or 30 and play 10 or 12 of 'em bad. That's all."
Smith will play a lot, and no doubt he'll be bad at times, but at least he is starting out in the right frame of mind. He was relaxed and happy when he reported to Toley the day after Christmas.
Not in evidence was the tired pessimism of 1974 that gave rise to statements such as these: "It's been an exasperating year...I haven't put anything together like I did last year...I don't feel I've been playing up to my potential and I feel bad about it...You get a few breaks, you lose a few close matches and some confidence disappears."
At the breakfast table one morning, Smith recalled a conversation he had had with a critic:
" 'Gee, what's the matter with you this year, you haven't won Wimbledon?'
" 'Yes, but Wimbledon hasn't been played yet.'
" 'And you haven't won Forest Hills even!'
" 'Well, Forest Hills hasn't been played either.' "
Yet, even for a fellow who was expected to win big tournaments before the draws were made and didn't, Smith's off year was good enough to have satisfied a lot of players. He was in the final eight of both the WCT doubles and singles for the second straight time, although on this occasion he won neither. He was a semi-finalist at Wimbledon, blowing a match to Ken Rosewall on Centre Court after having what seemed like an insurmountable lead. If he could have held on there, the whole season might have been given a restringing, since most critics believe he would have been a more formidable opponent for Connors in the final. He was a quarter-finalist at Forest Hills, knocked out by hard-serving Roscoe Tanner.