SI Vault
Arthur Ashe
March 10, 1975
Emmo, Rocket, Newk, Muscles—after countless rounds of beer and games of tennis, the author toasts a close-knit and jut-jawed crew
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March 10, 1975

A Shout For Those Aussies

Emmo, Rocket, Newk, Muscles—after countless rounds of beer and games of tennis, the author toasts a close-knit and jut-jawed crew

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So much attention is paid Rosewall's backhand that almost nobody ever gets around to mentioning his volley, which is positively the best in the world. One of the great misconceptions about modern tennis is that it is the big game—serve and volley—but the truth is, it is more a big-volley game than a big-serve game. I'd say there are only about seven legitimate cannonballers around: Newcombe, John Alexander and Paul Kronk of Australia; Vladimir Zednik of Czechoslovakia; and Stan Smith, Roscoe Tanner and myself of the U.S. Colin Dibley, another Aussie, may have the fastest serve of us all, but he doesn't get a high enough percentage in to rate. The best volleyers are seldom the tall, rangy types who serve best. The volley is a controlled punch shot, and so the best volleyers are usually the small guys with short arms.

Rosewall came up with Lew Hoad more than two decades ago, the teen-age whiz kids, but they were, and are, temperamentally opposite. Also, as great as Rosewall is, it is important to remember that Hoad was considered the better, and even, for a brief spell, possibly the best player ever. Gonzales told me that if there was a Universe Davis Cup, if Earth had to pick one man for all time to play one match for the planet, he would pick Lew Hoad in his prime. But Hoad was done in by back trouble.

A lot of people think that if Lew had stayed healthy, he could have been tennis' equivalent of Arnold Palmer and hastened the tennis boom by a decade. Hoad was surely the strongest player who ever lived; he completely contradicted the lingering effete tennis image. He was colorful and charismatic. He would stay out drinking beer till five in the morning and then beat your brains out on the court by noon. Emerson is another one who could carry on all night and play at top speed the next day.

There are two absolutes I think you can lay on Emmo. One, he is the fittest player who ever lived. Two, he is the most popular. Every tennis player loves Roy Emerson. He is a "great bloke" as they say, completely selfless and genuine. In the locker room, after you have played a match, he is sure to come by, whether you won or lost. If you won, he says, "Well done." If you lost, "Bad luck." A smile in either case.

Emmo has bad teeth. So does Muscles. So do a lot of the Aussies. The men are purposely plain, with no artificiality at all. There are a lot of long faces and jut jaws—a very determined-looking, down-to-earth type. The Aussies don't care about the esthetics of teeth as long as they work when it comes to eating. They even rather pride themselves on their ordinariness; showing off is the gravest Australian sin. The worst they can call someone is a "high-noter," meaning a person who flaunts money.

I don't believe that any of the players have ever invested in anything more exotic than an apartment house back home. The whole continent must be sinking under apartment houses owned by tennis players. Given a choice, they'll stay in the cheapest hotels. At Wimbledon, they all go way out to Cromwell Road and find cut-rate deals at small hotels. Their dress is neo-Good Will. The only good Australian dresser I've ever seen is Newcombe's wife Angie, but then she's from Germany, so she really doesn't count.

Native Australian women know their place. "Sheilahs," they're called. "Come on, you bloody Sheilah," Emmo will scream, pulling some player's wife up by her arm. That is an invitation to dance. Stolle, who likes "to get through you" (pull a fast one on you), has raised hell with me because he says the American soldiers who go to Australia for R & R are spoiling all the Sheilahs by talking to them and listening to them and spending money on them—making them think they're bloody queens. The Australian idea of a great date is to take a Sheilah to a pub, park her in the corner and then go over and drink all evening with the boys.

Of course, in self-defense, the Aussie girls learn pretty quickly to be beer drinkers, too. Owen Davidson, Newcombe's buddy, also married an Angie, this one from Houston, and she's already more Aussie than American. Dave-O is the most direct of the Aussies. We call him "Mr. Warmth," after Don Rickles. But he always makes himself understood; he is fair and forthright, so everybody likes him.

Hoad has the reputation as the most indomitable drinker, but Newcombe and Roche are leading contenders. Newk is not invincible, though. In 1967, the first time he won Wimbledon, he celebrated by filling a bathtub full of ice and bottles of beer—Foster's, direct from Australia—but the evening concluded when he threw up all over Angie. The year before, on New Year's night, Jan. 1, 1966, I was playing down in Australia, and we went to a place in Sydney named Herman's Haystack. We started drinking beer, and pretty soon we were all smashed. Newcombe tilted back in his chair and fell right out of it and injured his back. I think he'd like to forget that.

I've never seen an Australian order anything like a martini. They call you a "lardy" (snob) if you ask for wine. If you do join a group of them drinking beer, there is only one rule—the newcomer must be prepared to "shout." That means order a round. Economic status has no bearing when it comes to shouting. The poorest man at the table is expected to match shouts with the richest. And as tight as the Aussies can be, they are not necessarily clannish. If you want to join them on their terms and give a shout, fine. They love having Cliff Richey sit in. He's such an intense, humorless creature on the court, but after a few beers with the Aussies he gets all bug-eyed and turns into a regular comic.

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