Smith plans to say no to a few more tournament directors from now on and no this year to World Team Tennis, which would like to have him playing for its New York franchise. He is not in the Superstars contests against athletes from other sports, even though he did quite well last year.
The lounging was pleasant on the shady patio at one corner of the Novelo tennis court. While Toley drilled the players (Smith did noticeably more huffing and puffing than the others because of his layoff), the spectators sat under an umbrella and chatted. There was speculation as to how van Dillen's switch from a metal racket to wood might affect his game. If a football game was on television, Margie Smith would periodically pop out of the house to give the latest score. But Topic A was: "Can Stan fight back and be once again the top-ranked player in the world?"
"Stan was always a confident tennis player," said Toley during a break. "He was No. 1 in the world, so he had to have something going for him. He's got a lot going for him because of his personality and so forth. He's not easily discouraged. I don't know how deep these scars are, but I'm optimistic that he can do it.
"I think that a break like Stan has had gives a person a different perspective. It's easier, then, to adopt new ideas and new methods. He can really look back and see what he wants to change."
"He has the ability, and he's done it before," said van Dillen. "But every year it gets tougher."
Smith himself, not the sort to reveal whatever grandiose dreams he might have, said only that his first goal was to win the WCT. But his bride, once the No. 1 player on Princeton's women's tennis team and the top woman player in the East, was not so reluctant.
"There's no doubt in my mind that he can do it," she said. "And I don't think there's any doubt in his."
Smith is sometimes described as having been a big awkward donkey as a teenager, the sort of oaf who could not get out of the way of his own sneakers, but Toley, who first watched him swing a racket at age 16, says that "he never looked that clumsy to me," and that he obviously had been coordinated or he would not have been able to play on a very good Pasadena High basketball team.
"He looked like a good prospect for tennis," says Toley, "but there was one peculiarity about him. He was stiff as a board, not limber at all. But a great kid who worked hard. He didn't move that stiff, it was just in his strokes."
In his senior year of high school Smith abandoned basketball so that he could work out regularly at the Los Angeles Tennis Club, where Toley was the pro. The local tennis association paid Toley to iron out the kid's kinks, especially in his forehand volley, and Smith improved steadily. Yet it was not until June that Toley decided to offer him a scholarship to USC. It was a wise decision. Smith went on to be national collegiate champion, and USC won the NCAA title all three of his varsity seasons.