over and then stared down intently at the play—a big man with slumped
shoulders, a strong Roman profile, dark hair and a somewhat solemn mien. He has
two strong peeves. Being one of the staunch proponents and practitioners of the
serve-and-volley attack, he does not fancy the moonballing loopers who are
dominating the tournament. In addition, he is a strong nationalist and cannot
understand the generous support the Forest Hills spectators traditionally
accord players from foreign countries.
Ashe was making
short shrift of Franulovic despite the latter's reputation for excellence on
slow surfaces. Savitt nodded approvingly. "Of course, his game can't
compare with those true moonballers—Harold Solomon, Eddie Dibbs and that Swede,
Borg," he said. "Those guys dominate the game with topspin and defense.
In fact, with slow courts like these at Forest Hills, it may have to be
legislated that sooner or later someone must hit an aggressive shot...just as
the rule, when Ping-Pong was dominated by defense, was that the server had 13
shots in which he had to win the point."
He popped a grape
into his mouth. He had a bunch in his lap that he had rinsed off under a shower
head in the little dressing room under the stadium where in years back the
players took their rest periods after the third set—which was the procedure
before the tie-breaker systems were initiated to bring an end to marathon
matches. Savitt had often gone in there to offer advice when his friends were
playing, especially if their opponents were from foreign countries. The place
had not been in use for years. Savitt had come back to his seat with the grapes
and said, "Real rundown. The whole place is dilapidated in there."
Ashe was playing
superbly, his confidence increasing as he neutralized Franulovic's defense game
with deep placements behind which he came to the net. Franulovic looked
confused. Retrieving one of Ashe's overheads, he broke the entire top half of
his strings away from the rim of his racket. The crowd broke into laughter at
his dilemma, his racket so obviously useless in his hand as he stumbled after
Ashe's return, and they applauded when he walked over to the umpire's stand to
they clapping for?" Savitt wanted to know. "These crowds, I swear."
He ate a couple of grapes. "You'd think he pulled off a great comic routine
back to the baseline and double-faulted. Ashe won the next point, breaking his
opponent's serve, and Savitt said, " Ashe is really rolling, feeling the
ball. He could hold onto the strings and hit the ball with the handle now. But
Ashe won't fool around with him. He'll put him away. I remember Art Larsen, who
won the national championship here in 1950, was playing a Swede named Johansen
at Wimbledon one year, leading him two sets to love and just about to finish it
off when the Queen appeared in the Royal Box. Two hours later Larsen decided to
close out the match. He couldn't resist the limelight and her watching, and he
just kept everything going."
it seemed, Ashe produced his victory quickly, and Savitt stood up and
stretched. A woman's match was announced to follow, and Savitt winced. He left
the stadium to look for more interesting matches on the field courts. He
carried his grapes with him.
On the court
immediately behind the marquee, Harold Solomon, the diminutive moonballer, was
playing Wotjek Fibak, a mustachioed Pole wearing a tennis shirt so soaked with
sweat that it slapped audibly against his body when he ran. The scores were
odd. The Pole had won the first set 6-4, then lost the next 6-0. "That's
what happens against these loopers like Solomon," Savitt said. "You
lose your patience and you try to knock him off the court, which is just what
The crowd was
packed in tight around the court. The two players were tied in the final games
of the last set. Savitt went up on his toes to watch. Where would his support
lie—a moonballer against a Pole! The rallies were long and exciting, Fibak
trying to get to the net and Solomon retrieving with such tenacity that Savitt
shook his head and commented, "I don't believe it. Fibak would have beaten
most guys four times with that point."
Fibak won a point
to tie the set at 6-6 and send the match into the tie breaker. The crowd
cheered. Savitt came down off his toes. "Listen to them," he said
scornfully. "Can you imagine if this match were being played in Warsaw?
Every time the Pole would win a point the place would go crazy and you couldn't
hear yourself think. Then, for the greatest shot ever made, the American
wouldn't get a handclap. Why don't these crowds cheer for the hometown kid? I