Fourteen of the 32 men in the singles draw were on leave and had had little or no tournament experience that season. Ens. Ted Schroeder was denied permission by the Navy to defend his title, and top-seeded Frank Parker, who was a sergeant in the Army Air Corps and was upset in the quarterfinals by Hunt, had flown all the way from Guam.
After the war, in 1946, when the bright young men with rackets had shed their uniforms and returned in force to Forest Hills, Hunt, perhaps the brightest of them all, wasn't among them. Supremely confident—one acquaintance remembers him as "an egomaniac"—Hunt seemed destined for a champion's scepter from the moment he played in his first tournament, in San Francisco, his hometown. He was only five, but he was clearly a fine athlete. In fact, he lettered in football as a junior at the Naval Academy in 1940. The next spring he won the NCAA singles title for Navy.
" Joe was my friend and rival from our childhood days," says Riggs. "He came from a rich family that moved to L.A. when he was a teenager. He was smooth, well-dressed, and all the broads went for him.
"We chased each other around the court, then chased the same girls when we weren't playing. I had the edge on the court. But the son of a gun—when we were Davis Cup teammates in Philadelphia in '39, the final against Australia, he talked my fianc�e into going dancing the night before it started.
"I wasn't much on training, but I didn't want to mess up, and I told her I had to be in bed by 10:30. Darned if she didn't dance the night away with Joe. I won my match, but I was sore for a while. You couldn't stay mad at Joe, though. He was a beautiful person. And he didn't stay out the night before his doubles match."
Reuben Hunt, Joe's father, was a high-powered lawyer who'd been a top player in California. Joe's older sister and brother both ranked No. 20 in the U.S., Marianne in 1934, Charlie in '45. Says Don Budge, "Charlie Hunt was my nemesis for a while."
But it was Joe who wrote one of the more interesting chapters in the annals of American tennis. He remains the only player to have won the national boys' (then 15-and-under), juniors' (18-and-under), collegiate and U.S. men's singles titles. "He was good and knew it," says Pat Henry Yeomans, a onetime neighbor of the Hunts'. " Joe knew what he wanted, and he got it."
One of the objects of his desire was another neighbor, noted for her knockout looks and punch on the tennis court. In 1935 Jacque Virgil was the No. 1 junior girl in Southern California. When Virgil became Mrs. Joe Hunt in 1943, she was still playing well enough to be accepted into the singles at Forest Hills and to play the mixed doubles with her new husband.
The world of tennis is small. The widowed Jacque Virgil Hunt married Winsor Rowley, a former Navy pilot, in 1949. She died in 1975, he in 1991, but her tennis bloodline continues. Two of her grandchildren, Brett and Carrie Rowley, 17 and 12, respectively, are ranked in Florida. Their father, Pike, played for Clemson. Their mother, the former Laurie Fleming, was Chris Evert's biggest girlhood rival in Fort Lauderdale and nationally.
"One of mother's best friends," says Pike, "was Elizabeth Froehling. You may remember her son [Frank Froehling III, who reached the final at Forest Hills in 1963]. But she went away, and nobody seemed to want to talk about it."