It was spring in Australia last week but dispatches from the American Davis Cup team were wintry with despair. Durable Vic Seixas was eliminated in the quarter-final round of a regional tournament, and a doubles team of nobodies upset Seixas and Gardnar Mulloy—America's best available pair. Beset with dark, perhaps insoluble, problems, Captain Bill Talbert, who gazes somberly from the opposite page, can only envision the Challenge Round with the Aussies Dec. 26-28—provided the U.S. gets by the Philippines and Belgium—as a Black Christmas. The Australians, puzzled by the Yanks' dilemma, have been asking pointed questions. Here are Talbert's frank replies
It was reasonably quiet in the men's locker room of the Memorial Drive Courts in Adelaide. Outside, one of the preliminary matches was in progress; inside, players lounged in chairs and on benches amid tired sweat socks, smelly shirts and stacks of tightly strung rackets. The eliminated Americans were dressing for practice.
"Tell me something," called out a voice, addressing the Yanks. "Why is it you couldn't get fellows like Dick Savitt, Ham Richardson and Budge Patty to come over with your team? It's something we can't understand."
The idle question touched off a discussion on an explosive subject sensitive to all of us.
Richardson is the United States' No. 1 player. Savitt, properly conditioned, is one of the three best amateurs in the world, if not the best. Patty, present holder of the Wimbledon doubles championship with Gardnar Mulloy, is the tennis nomad who is one of the most feared competitors on the Continental circuit. Yet here was the U.S. Davis Cup team campaigning again in Australia with three of our best players some 10,000 miles away.
"Why?" the man asked.
I attempted to explain the reasons the players themselves gave when they were picked for the squad and then declined with a "No thanks." Richardson refused to make the trip without his wife, an arrangement forbidden by USLTA policy. Patty wouldn't come unless it could be guaranteed that he would play singles as well as doubles. Savitt's excuse was work.
"That is so much hogwash," blurted Mulloy, the 44-year-old elder statesman of our team. "There is no excuse for any of them not being here.
"These men owe it to their country and to tennis to play on the Davis Cup team. It is a selfish attitude which keeps them from doing it."
Someone else interjected the opinion that all three of these players had reaped many rewards from tennis, yet were unwilling to give in return. It was pointed out that Richardson was sent to Australia for experience when he was 17 years old and made three trips to Australia at great expense without ever having played in a still-to-be-decided Challenge Round. "Now, when Ham could be of value to his country, he refuses to come," said Mulloy.