Once in a decade a young tennis player will come along displaying all the signs of potential greatness. The racket fits in his hand as if it were part of his body. He moves gracefully. He has size and poise and that intangible something called court sense. He is, in the hackneyed vernacular, a "natural." Sometimes such a youth fulfills this potential, as in the case of Jack Kramer. Other times, he fades from sight, his failure a mystery, as in the case of the very talented Frank Kovacs.
Such a player again has thrust himself upon the tennis scene, and all who have seen him are impressed. The boy's name is Earl (Butch) Buchholz Jr. He is a rangy, loose-jointed, crew-cut lad of 17, who sometimes looks as if he is all legs and elbows. But the things he can do with a tennis racket are marvelous. He's the most promising youngster I've seen in years.
Young Buchholz is the son of a professional who teaches at the Triple-A Club in St. Louis. The elder Earl thrust a racket into his son's hand when the latter was old enough to clench his fist, and started him hitting tennis balls over the net. When Earl was 6 he entered his first tournament, and at 13 he was a champion.
The tennis world has been watching this 155-pound, 6-foot 3-inch string bean since he won the Orange bowl championship for 13-and-under boys in 1953. Once edgy and overly intense, inclined to blow up at crucial moments, Earl has now harnessed his nerves. His sound strokes would have warmed the heart of the late Bill Tilden, who always bemoaned the passing of the backcourt masters and the emergence of tennis' new kill-it-or-lose-the-point brigade.
Although the son of a pro who has drilled tennis into him since he was big enough to walk, young Earl has not become bored with the sport as is so often the case under similar circumstances. He loves tennis, and it's difficult to keep him off the court. He could play all day.
I feel I am not going overboard in forecasting a champion's future for Earl Buchholz Jr. of St. Louis. He not only has a wonderful game but he's hungry, and that's important.