This week, when the balls start bouncing off the rackets at Forest Hills, six members of the Australian Davis Cup squad will be entered in what is still the No. 1 tennis tournament in the world: the U.S. National singles.
The Australian contingent, if not quite as strong as it was in Frank Sedgman's heyday, is powerful enough—so much so, in fact, that quite a few tennis experts are conceding our title to the visitors and predicting that the Americans have finally come to the end of a glorious period of Forest Hills domination. Logically, the same skeptics also predict that Australia (which produced in Sedgman the only Down Under star in history to capture our crown) will from this day on rule our courts as well as those on which the Davis Cup Challenge Round is played. I disagree.
Much has been said of Harry Hop-man's well-coached crew of whiz kids. Much was said of them last year, too, but none of last year's six visiting Australians reached the finals of our Nationals. Instead, we saw a "red-hot" Tony Trabert, just a few months out of the Navy, sweep to the title in 18 straight sets, including an unmerciful whipping of Ken Rosewall in the semifinals. He then called on the same relentless power game to trounce Vic Seixas in the finals.
Trabert, if he does the job as I think he will, should win the title again. The play of such Australians as Rosewall and Lew Hoad here this summer follows a pattern almost identical with that which preceded their inglorious exit from our Nationals a year ago. Could it be an omen that for two consecutive summers Hopman's boys have cleaned up at Orange, N.J. and then performed miserably a week later at Newport?
I'm not saying Vic or Tony will have an easy time repeating, but, whiz kids notwithstanding, I think we have nothing to fear if we keep two factors in mind: 1) the Australians are not invincible, and 2) some of the greatest tennis by Americans has traditionally been played when the stakes are highest. For us those stakes are on the table now. Therefore I firmly believe our own tennis skeptics will be in for a surprise—both in the days immediately ahead, and this coming winter when renewed U.S. tennis interest from the youngest teen-agers to the veteran coaches will stimulate our Davis Cup team to a competitive boiling point.
If Trabert comes to Forest Hills in the proper frame of mind, nobody should beat him. Hoad, who edged him in a dramatic five-setter in the decisive Australian 3-2 Challenge Round triumph last December, will be Tony's biggest competitor. Slightly behind both boys I rate Rosewall and Seixas. For those interested in stroke performance, I suggest observation of Hoad's great service and forehand, Trabert's net game and overhead. The backhand belongs to Rosewall; it is one of the most beautiful I've ever seen.
I'm sorry neither Budge Patty nor Dick Savitt has entered this tournament, for both are capable of making the Cup squad this fall. A "hot" Patty can trim anybody. I wish Savitt would attempt a comeback, because all he needs is plenty of practice and some strengthening of confidence in his own natural ability.
Spectators at Forest Hills will have no need to be ashamed of what they may see. I think I know what I'll see: the top American players will rise to the occasion.
DECADE OF CHAMPIONS: 8 U.S. WINNERS TO 2
1953 Tony Trabert, U.S. over Vic Seixas, U.S., in three sets.
1952 Frank Sedgman, Aus. over Gardnar Mulloy, U.S., in three sets.
1951 Frank Sedgman, Aus. over Vic Seixas, U.S., in three sets.
1950 Art Larsen, U.S. over Herb Flam, U.S., in five sets.
1949 Pancho Gonzales, U.S. over Ted Schroeder, U.S., in five sets.
1948 Pancho Gonzales, U.S. over Eric Sturgess, S. Afr., in three sets.
1947 Jack Kramer, U.S. over Frank Parker, U.S., in five sets.
1946 Jack Kramer, U.S. over Tom Brown, U.S., in three sets.
1945 Frank Parker, U.S. over Bill Talbert, U.S., in three sets.
1944 Frank Parker, U.S. over Bill Talbert, U.S., in four sets.