SI Vault
Deirdre Budge
September 27, 1954
...advice, that is, from Gussie Moran. Partly because cameramen paid more attention to her backside than her backhand, Gussie became a professional tennis player. She doesn't recommend it
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September 27, 1954

Something For The Girls...

...advice, that is, from Gussie Moran. Partly because cameramen paid more attention to her backside than her backhand, Gussie became a professional tennis player. She doesn't recommend it

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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.

Traveling troupes 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.

The face-saving 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.


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.

Mr. Lebair 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.

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