The Chinese won 17
of the 146 sets played, but gained only one straight-set victory: the rangy
Ch'en Chuan over Sherry Acker. The pros never had to extend themselves, but the
college kids (Acker is at Florida, Anne Smith, Benson and Gottfried at Trinity
in San Antonio) drove hard. One night in Shanghai's splendid 18,000-seat Indoor
Sports Hall, the best seats—which went for 12�—were sold out, and the crowd of
8,000 was the largest to watch tennis in China. Benson, a slim, curly-headed
journalism major, had never played before so many people, and he was hyped up.
He banged through the first 10 games to lead Tun Yung 6-0, 4-0. "Hey,
Johnny, take it easy," Gould called over. "If this guy doesn't get any
games, they might farm him out to a commune." Obediently, Benson let up and
his opponent got two games.
The two indoor
matches in Shanghai were played on a wooden basketball floor; the other courts
were clay with a hard-packed sand surface. Except for Shanghai, the crowds were
modest and nearly mute. "As long as they don't snore," said Stan Smith
during a characteristically long period of silence during a Shanghai match.
Yet the spectators
were attentive and appreciative—"just not the demonstrative type,"
Smith said. "Very stylish," said Gorman, grinning. "They're like a
Southampton crowd in the old days—except these people are paying attention to
the tennis. They've got a sense of humor. You know that when you see what
breaks them up—somebody missing an easy shot, especially one of their own
"The Chinese may be the most incredible players in the world. By that I
mean it's unbelievable how good they are considering that they're so insulated,
have only themselves to compete with and play only two or three tournaments a
year. We haven't discovered a tennis power here by any means, but they're very
audience may be, but the Chinese have not yet discovered Ted Tinling and exotic
dresses with lace panties. Yu and her female colleagues wore ample shorts and
tennis shirts, identical to those of their male counterparts. Although the
Americans were politely received, the frilly undergarments worn by a couple of
our women on a practice court in Peking drew lusty chirps from Peeping Toms
behind the fence.
Tinling may not
have crashed the People's Republic, but the teachings of the Newport
Bolshevik—scoring radical Jimmy Van Alen—are certainly evident. Tie breakers
flourish, but only pure, revolutionary Van Alen sudden death (best of 9
points). The Chinese have also banished love, 15, 30, 40, sharing Van Alen's
preference for zero, 1,2,3. While it is difficult to picture James Van Alen and
Mao Tse-tung as fellow travelers, when Jimmy learns of the score-keeping
sagacity of the Chinese, he is likely to drive his Rolls-Royce all the way to
Peking to congratulate them.