The impressive American victory at Wimbledon has left a lot of people feeling that right now Uncle Sam is safely up on top in the tennis world. It's easy to overlook the fact that most of the glory won on foreign battlefields is due to the efforts of one man—Tony Trabert. The unpleasant and disquieting truth is that one man doesn't make a tennis team; that we need a tennis team for our next big hurdle, the Davis Cup matches at Forest Hills in August; and that we are in real trouble on that score.
For a Challenge Round there must be another singles player plus a doubles team. Who will be our other singles player and who will play the doubles? We may hope that Vic Seixas gets over his ailments and that Ham Richardson will pull out of his slump, but our bench is still lacking in able reserves for these spots. Never has our need for good players been greater, and seldom in recent years has the prospect of getting them been gloomier.
Wimbledon led me to hope that one man might be available—that American in Paris, Budge Patty. This 32-year-old tennis war horse with a yen for continental living shot into the tennis spotlight with a brilliant showing, highlighted by his straight-set victory over Australia's strong young ace, Lew Hoad. Patty might have been just the ingredient our Davis Cup team needed—a stylist with an effortless, poised game, an excellent repertoire of shots and plenty of savvy picked up in years of playing the European circuit.
But Patty turned me down when I tried to persuade him to come to Forest Hills and make the team. He likes the life in Europe. He has made many friends there. He hasn't wanted to break these ties by coming to America for the Eastern grass court swing which winds up with the national tournament at Forest Hills.
Then there's Dick Savitt, the big bear from Orange, N.J., now at Houston, Texas, whose great ability was demonstrated once again when he gave both Trabert and Seixas a hard run for their money at the River Oaks Invitation in Houston (SI, May 2). Savitt was top news in tennis four years ago—an overpowering player who defeated Australia's best, Frank Sedgman and Ken McGregor, on two successive days and, with the Aussie championship under his belt, went on to win at Wimbledon. But then Dick virtually retired. He went to work in the oil business, played weekend tennis regularly but seldom showed up in the big time.
Yet, as I said last May, if he chose to make a comeback he could certainly make the team. He could make our big three of today uneasy, and might even become the head man of a new big four. I wish he would.
THE SPIRIT OF THE LITTLE NATIONS
Perhaps what we need is more of the spirit that animates all the little nations of the Davis Cup who year after year come out and keep this worldwide competition a living, animated and exciting thing. Each time the Davis Cup play starts rolling again I am amazed—and at the same time heartened—to see players of countries like Norway, where skiing is the major sport, or the Philippines, where tennis is still in its infancy, take up their rackets and try once more. They know they haven't got a chance but they keep on plugging.
The last 11 Challenge Rounds have been the monopoly of the United States and Australia with the U.S. winning six and Australia five of the matches. Of all the other countries in the world, only France, Belgium, Japan and Britain have enjoyed the prestige of a Challenge Round performance.
Yet 24 countries were entered in the European zone eliminations, which began several months ago in scattered cities of the old world. There are seven in the American zone waiting to begin July 15. There were three originally in the Eastern zone, with Burma already eliminated by the Philippines who in turn went down to Japan.