I don't know
whether my poor showing or the pants publicity upset Riggs more. The
sportswriters were so preoccupied with my underwear that they hardly mentioned
the lively match between Jack Kramer and Pancho Segura. As for me, I suddenly
realized something I had only dimly sensed before: As an amateur you've only
yourself to answer to if you lose (barring Davis and Wightman Cup competition),
but as a pro you are not only part of a group whose livelihood depends on you,
but accountable to a public which expects to see the best tennis you can
play...and it better be good!
After the second
match, which was played in Washington, D.C., I found a grim, uncomfortable
group assembled in the dressing room. Pauline had beaten me 6-1, 6-3. Riggs
explained that it would be very bad for everyone if the matches were so
one-sided?that the gate would suffer. Nobody disagreed with that and everyone
looked hopefully at Miss Moran. I said in a very small voice that I would try
to do better and would hope that Pauline would have an off night once in a
while. Pauline was sympathetic, but she is a great competitor and I knew she
wouldn't have any off nights just for my benefit. Bobby knew it too. All he
could do was hope that as the tour progressed my game would pick up.
of players, whether in sports or other fields of entertainment, all have
certain things in common: the common cold, catching up with the laundry,
transportation troubles, minor feuds, travel fatigue and whether or not the
show is drawing. The morale of the group varies with each performance and the
box-office attendance seems to be the barometer. You can't always manage to
look well, feel well and play well, but if you draw well, all's well.
bromide on a failing junket is always that the next town will be better. The
manager or promoter, in our case Bobby Riggs, has to try to keep the group
morale high, book the matches and attend to the finances, see that everybody is
present and accounted for, arrange the transportation and accommodations, and
various other tasks and details. It's a hard job and as I look back I think
Riggs did very well considering the difficulties we ran into.
WISER BUT NOT
Let it suffice to
say that if all tennis tours were as popular as ours there wouldn't be any
more. Even though my game picked up in spots I was no match for Pauline. The
crowds were small for the most part, the publicity poor, and my confidence
remained at sub-zero for almost a hundred nervous-shaky matches. When the tour
finally drew to a halting end in Birmingham, Ala. I flew home to California a
sadder, wiser and not much richer girl.
I rested up a bit
and then I was ready to play tennis again. And here's where the sad truth about
professional lady tennis players unfolds. There wasn't anyone or any place to
play?competitively, that is. Actually, professional tennis has no
accommodations for women. There aren't any women's professional championships
or tournaments. Great women champions like Sarah Palfrey, Alice Marble, Mary
Hardwick and Pauline Betz, who turned professional to go on tours, never had
the opportunity to compete in national or international competition. In fact,
the theme song of all girl pros could be, "Just One More Tour.... "
After the initial venture, when they make their professional debuts, they
automatically become "great women tennis players of the past."
If someone managed
to convince a girl that money isn't everything she would find a great many
things in favor of remaining an amateur and very little in favor of turning
pro. I gave this some brooding thought after the tour had been over some time
and nothing materialized in the way of furthering my tennis career. Still, I
thought: "I can always get my amateur standing back."
So I wrote a
letter to Mr. Harold Lebair, chairman of the U.S.L.T.A. Amateur Rules
Committee, asking him what my chances of reinstatement were. He wrote right
back to tell me that the way things stood it didn't seem likely that the
U.S.L.T.A. would be in favor of reinstating any more touring professionals.
However, enclosed in his reply was an application blank for reinstatement.
cautioned me in closing that it would, under the most favorable circumstances,
be some time before my application could be considered. This gave me visions of
clicking my heels in merriment over becoming an amateur again while my
grandchildren held my cane. But even these visions faded when the U.S.L.T.A.
shortly thereafter passed a unanimous decision barring reinstatement to any
professional who had competed on a professional tour.