I have one very happy recollection of how a player can go wrong, and then go right so splendidly that his original error is almost affectionately remembered. Tony Trabert, a superb young champion, was defeated in a crucial match at Melbourne in 1953; defeated by a stroke or two in a match he had looked like winning. In his bitter disappointment he made publicly rude remarks about the behavior of the crowd. (The crowd had, in fact, blended patriotism with judgment very fairly!) There were adverse comments on Trabert all over Australia.
A GRACIOUS SPEECH
Last year, at Sydney, Trabert and Seixas took the Davis Cup from us by the most concentrated exhibition of skill, fitness and determination I have seen for a long time. Speeches were made when the Cup was handed over. Trabert's turn came. There were 25,000 in the stands, and probably a couple of million listening in. Trabert had a magnificent ovation. He smiled, looked around the stands, and said: "Thank you for that. I was wondering what you would do. A year ago I said some foolish, things. But I think I can tell you that I have learned from experience!" The applause was deafening. The Stars and Stripes flew high!
I wish (if you can print such a heresy) that I could be as sure of the contribution to international good will of the sporting critics and writers. The best are, of course, superb. But to paraphrase the old nursery rhyme—
But when they're bad they're horrid.
All of the great international games are deprived of some of the good they otherwise do by the type of writer who looks for mischief—ferrets out and exaggerates personal incidents; writes about tennis as if it were a civil (and not very civil) war; and ends up by producing all the news not fit to print.
Still, great games and great nations can survive such blemishes. When I come toward the sunset of my own life and find myself thinking of tennis, it will not be the sensation-merchants I will recall. It will be the eager figures of Rosewall and Trabert and Seixas and, further back into what will be a misty past, the fierce power of Patterson's service and the calm, white-clad mastery of Norman Brookes. These are the figures that live.