America's tennis incubator is a quiet, sylvan plot of good Michigan earth which 51 weeks a year serves as the campus of Kalamazoo College. The 52nd week it is devoted to hatching the court greats of tomorrow.
It is the scene of the National Junior and Boys' Tennis Championships. For this one week the campus crawls with bright-eyed tykes in white pants, all toting tennis rackets and all imbued with one burning aim: to become a champion and some day represent the U.S. in Davis Cup competition.
With Don Budge, coach of the Junior Davis Cup squad in the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association's development program, I attended the recent championships in Kalamazoo, Mich.
Both of us returned home with the comfortable assurance that, cries of the alarmists to the contrary, we are not about to yield our international tennis supremacy to any nation.
"I think these boys are much better generally than when I was playing in the juniors," commented the red-haired Budge, one of our all-time great champions. Although mine was a slightly later era, I had to agree.
All of our top players down through the years have cut their competitive teeth in this tournament. Budge did. So did Vines, Kramer and Tony Trabert, who, incidentally, never got past the semifinals. The present crop of teen-agers can stand up to any.
More than by any individual player or group of players I was struck, I think, by the magnitude of the operation, the professional efficiency of it and the pleasant, homey atmosphere generated throughout the week. It's a grand show.
There were 236 players in the junior and boys' divisions. The little city of Kalamazoo threw its entire civic weight behind the project. Dr. Weimer K. Hicks, president of the college, was honorary referee. The tournament itself, however, was conducted by Dr. Allen B. Stowe, head of Kalamazoo's chemistry department, who served as referee and had everything functioning clockwork fashion. Dr. Stowe, an official of the USLTA, was responsible for establishing the event at the college some 13 years ago. Since then his untiring efforts have accomplished a Herculean task.
On the first day there were 105 matches. Play started at 8 o'clock in the morning, with scores of sleepy-eyed youngsters on the courts, and lasted until around 8:30 p.m. It was an amazing sight—and an impressive one—to see all the embryo Budges and Kramers in action.
It was curious to watch the parents. For most lads on the scene there was a parent or guardian, an uncle or aunt or home-town well-wisher. Budge and I several times caught ourselves watching the anxious parents during the matches. They bit their nails. They squirmed. They fidgeted. The boys didn't need salt tablets for spent energy; the parents did.