The image of Arthur Ashe that many tennis fans have is the personable, articulate UCLA graduate and ex-Army officer with the dynamite serve, the cheetah quickness—and the incredible weakness of choking in a big match. Among the traditional sights in sport is Ashe putting an easy volley into the net on a crucial point. By his record in Lamar Hunt's World Championship of Tennis tournaments this year, Ashe should have been the favorite going into last week's WCT finals in Dallas. Instead, in a poll of 79 WCT pros, Ashe was picked to win on only three ballots.
So last Sunday in the final match at Moody Coliseum, there was Ashe up against Bjorn Borg, the 18-year-old Swede whose every top-spin forehand is as big news in Scandinavia as a change in the price of herring. A perfect time for masochistic Ashe rooters to see their hero fail them again. This time, though, it was the other guy who wilted. Ashe followed the same pattern he had established earlier in the week in matches with Mark Cox and John Alexander, losing the first set and fighting back to win. Against Borg the score was 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, 6-0, and Ashe left Texas with the $50,000 first prize.
After the match Ashe said he had been told by a Spanish-Swedish gypsy fortuneteller in Stockholm last month that he would soon come into a lot of money, that something would soon happen to make him cry a lot and that he was soon going to have a child.
Ashe had the money, all right, and he did shed a few tears when he stood at the podium.
"So far things have gone just as she said," said Ashe, "but I don't even have a steady girl friend!"
On top of the $50,000, the winner's jackpot included the use of a new car for a year, a ring featuring a diamond tennis court, a $1,200 Swiss wristwatch as thin as a coin (the seven other contestants received similar watches), a $1,000 wardrobe and for his mother or girl friend a bracelet to match the ring. The runner-up booty was a trifling $20,000.
In addition, early in the week Ashe received a unique trophy. This year Haggar slacks put up $33,333.33 for the WCT player who earned the most points in the tournaments leading to Dallas. Ashe was the winner, with 760, some 60 points more than Rod Laver amassed. However, instead of a routine check, Haggar and WCT commissioned a Dallas jeweler to make a solid-gold tennis ball that was worth precisely $33,333.33 on the day it was completed.
"I like it so much that I'm going to have it bronzed," said Ashe to Lamar Hunt.
Actually, he plans to put it in a vault, where it will remain regardless of how high the price of gold zooms. He may take it out occasionally to fondle, much as Scrooge McDuck joyfully wallows in his money bin. Ashe will have a cheap replica made for display.
All in all it was a fairly classy week, what with the players driving around in official tournament Cadillacs and the pretty Courtmates (almost all of them SMU coeds) ushering for the matches, then dancing the nights away in the hospitality room of the Ramada Inn Central. About the only rough moments were when Lew Hoad almost got in a fight with a British newspaperman at a party and when Harold Solomon had $1,000 worth of equipment stolen while he was practicing. All but his WCT warmup jacket was returned the next day with a note saying, "I am not a thief, just a souvenir hunter."