Two things particularly impressed me about Tony Trabert as he won his first title on the boards, the 52nd National Indoor Championships—and I think both augur well for Tony and the United States Davis Cup future. One was his improved volleying technique. The other was his attitude.
In the past Trabert has had a costly volleying weakness—he was inclined to catch the ball too low, particularly on his backhand. This meant he was forced to volley up and make a defensive shot of it. In the indoor Tony was moving quickly to the forecourt and catching his volleys shoulder high.
It was a crisp, sharp volley such as Wilmer Allison used to make. Tony used the volley as an offensive weapon, which it should be, and when he hit it, the shot usually was a winner or put the other guy in trouble.
Tony is a husky boy (6 foot 1, 185 pounds) with more the build of a football halfback than of a tennis champion. Because of this, he gives the impression of being slow afoot. Agility has never been one of his strong points.
Yet in the indoor tournament he surprised everyone with his speed, quick reflexes and anticipative powers. Personally, I thought he played the best tennis he's shown since he captured the national grass courts championship at Forest Hills in 1953.
This was particularly noticeable in the semifinal match against Art Larsen, the onetime "Peck's Bad Boy" of tennis. Larsen is a wily little left-hander who is always tough, particularly on boards where his sensitive touch and fantastic reactions pay dividends. Art was a big favorite among most sideline observers to win the indoor crown which he took in 1953.
But Trabert, quick as a jungle cat, got the best of Larsen in their many exciting rallies and repeated his performance in the final against Richardson—always a rugged man to beat.
HE LEARNED THE HARD WAY
As for Trabert's attitude, I liked the businesslike way he plowed through the field. Here is a boy who has had his problems. After his big year in 1953, he may have felt he had everything made and everybody would lay over and play dead for him. He learned differently—the hard way—but he learned.