- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
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Recently Mae West was asked why she had an all-male, muscle-man chorus line. Said Mae:
"It's just a little something for the girls."
This letter is a little something for the girls too...advice (big word), and it's slanted toward all girl tennis players who may be entertaining the thought of turning professional. It's the time of year when such thoughts jump (or are pushed) into a lot of heads, particularly heads attached to bodies that have won major championships like Wimbledon or Forest Hills. But Maureen Connolly and Doris Hart aren't the only girls in danger?it can happen to anyone. It even happened to me, and I never won either Wimbledon or the U.S. National. I slid into professional tennis on the seat of my pants.
So what's wrong with turning pro and making all that wonderful money? After all, you travel with old friends, you see America, you play the game you love, you can sell endorsements, and you can keep it up almost forever. (Tilden did, didn't he?) Or if you want to go back to the pretty green grass of Newport or Wimbledon, you can get reinstated as an amateur. (Berkeley Bell and Noel Brown did, didn't they?) Gather round, girls, and listen to my story...
"But Teddy, where are the pants?"
Teddy said: "Good God, Gussie, pants would ruin the lines of the dress!"
I insisted. Teddy remonstrated. Finally he gave in?but not all the way in. When the pants arrived, they were trimmed with lace. I wore this costume to Hurlingham, the social event just preceding Wimbledon which is attended by both the press and the players, and posed for pictures there. The press thought the lace was a jolly idea, and from that day on I found more attention being focused on my backside than on my backhand.
Usually when sports photographers are snapping tennis players in action, they try to get a shot of an overhead smash, a running forehand or a cross-court backhand...but not with me. After Hurlingham they were all stretched out flat on the grass squealing, "LEAP, Gussie!" And so in accommodating these art lovers I found myself leaping when I shouldn't, and I leaped my way out of the tournament.
In spite of the fact that I didn't win I received a tremendous amount of publicity. Consequently in 1949, after all my "pants press," I was approached by Bobby Riggs, a former tennis champion turned promoter, who made me an offer to turn professional that year and go on a tour before the interest in my form faded. But I was stubborn. I still wanted to win Wimbledon...every player's dream.