We got fantastic publicity—in every city Gussie would be all over the papers—but nobody would pay to see her play. If ever I had doubts, I learned it for sure then: tennis fans come to see tennis. You can't con them. The lace-panty publicity was worthless. All that counted was that I was clobbering Segoo and Pauline was beating Gussie. Bobby came to me in Washington and said, "Kid, we got a problem."
Well, dammit, we were honest. Our solution was not to fix the matches, but to get rid of Pauline. We needed a weaker opponent for Gussie. We went to see Betz, and Bobby said, "Kid, isn't there something we can do to get you to sprain an ankle?" She looked bewildered. Riggs figured she must be negotiating. "All right, kid," he says, "we'll give you a car if you'll sprain an ankle." Now Pauline understood, and she broke down and cried.
At this point Bobby caught on that his direct approach was not working, and so he apologized and told Pauline to forget everything he had said. Unfortunately, as we left, he also said, "But look, kid, at least make it close." Which Pauline was nice enough to try and do. But in playing a simpler game, all she succeeded in doing was steadying her game and making it even surer. Before, Gussie had at least had a shot at Pauline on one of her bad nights. Now Pauline was damn near unbeatable. Moreover, she was furious at Bobby and me. When Gussie finally did manage to beat her one night in Milwaukee, Pauline left the court in tears, screaming at Bobby, "Well, I guess you're satisfied now."
I should have learned, after Bobby asked Pauline to keep it close, that a good competitor can't do that. You can't turn it on and off. But I didn't learn my lesson until I tried to pull the same kind of thing a few years later. This is what is on my conscience. This is the one thing I regret in all my years of tennis.
I have to set it up for you. In 1955 I signed Rosewall and Hoad to tour against Trabert and me. We were going to play a Davis Cup format: U.S. vs. Australia. The kids were signed when they were here in America, playing Forest Hills and the Davis Cup. Harry Hopman, their captain, who disliked and distrusted the pros, handled everything for them. He went over all my figures, all my books, before approving things for his kids.
But Rosewall and Hoad went back to Australia before the tour was to begin, and there Slazengers, the racket company Kenny represented, went to work on him and gave him a bonus. And Jennie Hoad went to work on her husband. They had just been married, and Jennie liked the idea of making one grand world tour—an amateur tour—as the wife of the champion. So they told me the tour was off. I had already signed contracts with lots of arenas, so I got the next flight to Australia and tried to patch things up. But what could I do? I didn't have any leverage. Our contract had not been made public, and I wasn't going to reveal that they weren't amateurs anymore. And I wasn't going to sue them, because I would need them later on.
I went back home. In 1956 Hoad won the first three legs of the Grand Slam, but Rosewall beat him at Forest Hills. I tried to get them both again. Kenny was ready to sign, but Hoad was still reluctant. I had retired by now, so I guaranteed Rosewall $65,000 against 25%, then 30% after the first $150,000, to play Gonzales.
Kenny probably still has every nickel of it. The Aussies were all tight kids then—"short arms and deep pockets" was their expression. One time on tour we came to the Pakistani border, and they were in the midst of some border dispute. There, at customs, is a guy—a smuggler, I guess—on the ground, bound and gagged. The local guy we're with says, "Don't worry, this doesn't concern you, just make sure you declare everything. Everything." In those days we all carried lots of money with us. We'd get paid in cash in various currencies and try to trade up in dollars. But let me tell you, when I saw that poor guy bound and gagged at the Pakistani border, I declared every nickel. We'd picked up some diamonds in South Africa, and I laid them all out. Little Kenny Rosewall came through customs right after me, this angelic little baby face, carrying a Qantas flight bag like it was his school books. He declared a few dollars. The bound-and-gagged guy is looking up at us—these guys are playing hardball. You know, that little Rosewall had $35,000 in cash in that Qantas bag. Nobody was going to mess with his money. Almost all the Aussies were like that. One time, on a radio program Down Under, the announcer asked Segura to name the greatest thrill of his life. "The night Frank Sedgman bought me dinner," Segoo replied.
Anyway, I signed up Rosewall and we opened in Australia as soon as he and Hoad had shut out the U.S. in the '56 Davis Cup Challenge Round. Now Rosewall was a popular little kid, but Hoad was the one I really wanted. He was big and strong, with a mean serve. Rosewall had a dink serve and played mostly at the baseline. I was afraid Gonzales would eat Rosewall alive. Tactics aside, you had to play a net game on tour or you'd wear yourself out. So, just before we opened I went to Gonzales and I offered him a deal. He was on a seven-year contract with me at 20%. I said, "Look, Gorgo, if you find some way to carry the kid, it's worth another 5% of the gross to you." Gonzales agreed.
So, the deed was done. But after the first four matches, which went 3-1 Gonzales, Gorgo came to me and said, "You got to let me out of this. I can't play when I'm thinking about trying to carry the kid. It just bothers me too much." It was obvious that it did, and it was also obvious that Rosewall wasn't the pushover I had feared, so I told Gonzales to forget the whole thing and play it straight—I'd keep him on the 25%.