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Australia will retain the Davis Cup in the Challenge Round in Sydney on Dec. 27-29 with a winning margin greater than the 3-2 victory of last year. If form holds up, as I expect it will, Australia should win three of the four singles matches and the doubles. Only Tony Trabert stands a chance to win for the Americans.
I make this prediction while allowing for a stronger team than the one that represented the U.S. last year. Trabert has recaptured the great form he held in Australia last summer, and I believe he will play as well as he did during the wonderful match he lost so narrowly to Lew Hoad at the Kooyong courts in Melbourne in 1953. Ham Richardson has matured. Winning the National at Forest Hills seems to have given Vic Seixas confidence and Billy Talbert is a more experienced captain than he was in 1953. With all these advantages, and I believe they are ones to be reckoned with, the Australians are a stronger team than they were last year and with luck could even sweep all five Challenge Round matches.
While I am predicting things, I will stick my head out in another direction. The Australian galleries will behave themselves well, as they always do, and the American players will return to their country in far better spirits than when they left last year with Trabert threatening to tell the world of "the great difficulties under which Americans had to play in Australia."
Nothing that has happened in international tennis competition during the many years I have been associated with it has ever been more unfortunate or more unfair to the people of Australia than that incident. What Trabert said was so far from the facts that I immediately wrote to a number of friends, some of them officials, defending the Australian galleries. But as late as September, many Americans talking with me about their 1954 Cup prospects still remarked that "our players will simply have to accustom themselves to your hostile Australian galleries."
Why not take the word of such U.S. Lawn Tennis Association officials as Alrick H. Man Jr. and Dr. S. Ellsworth Davenport Jr., who after managing teams in 1952 and 1953 returned with nothing but words of praise for Australian fans? In all the years that Americans have played in Australia no such charges have ever before been made.
WORDS THAT CUT
My wife, who had played in the tournament there, attended an official dinner at which Seixas was one of the speakers. After telling his audience he could not say all he would wish about Australian galleries because of the presence of an Australian at the dinner, he launched into a bitter and far from factual account of the "harsh" treatment he and other Americans had suffered at the hands of galleries in Australia. I can tell you such talk hurts deeply. I think our Australian tennis fans are the best in the world because Australians know and love the game.
Most of the trouble, I think, began as the result of a misunderstanding. In the last game of the historic Hoad-Trabert struggle, with the score 5-6 against him, Trabert missed his first service and then sent down a fast second delivery so close to the line that Hoad, playing safe, returned the ball before he heard the linesman's call of "fault." The call came just as the ball sped across the net for a fine backhand placement. A small section of the gallery high up in the towering stands, apparently unaware of the call, applauded Hoad's shot. Tony, in the excitement of the moment, misunderstood the applause and felt the expression of joy was over his double fault.