Vic Seixas' conquest of Rex Hartwig on Labor Day at Forest Hills was a fitting end to a curious tennis year. Most tennis fans, including myself, thought last January at the season's opening that the circuit would be dominated by Australia's Lew Hoad or our own Tony Trabert. But how wrong we all were! Trabert won only the French Championship and Hoad the Eastern Grass Court title at Orange—pretty small diadems for the crowns of the supposed kings of the tennis world!
But it wasn't a season of kings. The world over, every major tournament has been captured by a different player. Rose won the Australian title, Patty the Italian, Trabert the French; Drobny finally realized his life's ambition to take Wimbledon, Hoad took Orange, Richardson won at Newport, and now Seixas at Forest Hills.
Vic's defeat of Rex Hartwig was in the best tradition of a Seixas game—he had hustle plus fine serving and volleying. Hartwig, on the other hand, brilliant shotmaker though he is, cooled off early and lost in four sets. He had defeated a shaky Tony Trabert in the quarter-finals, continued his onslaught against his countryman Ken Rosewall in the semis with a straight-set shellacking, but against Seixas he crumbled after the first set. Hartwig has yet to win a large singles tournament; for Vic it was his first important title since Wimbledon in 1953.
A PRODIGY GROWS UP
Aside from Doris Hart's long-delayed triumph in the women's singles, the most exciting and heartening performance was put on by Ham Richardson. Here was a young man who at 16 had been considered a tennis child prodigy. Experience and international competition was all that Ham needed. He got both on the 1951, 1952 and 1953 Davis Cup teams, but he did not progress as fast as many thought he would.
This was the year that would decide Ham's tennis future. He won an exhausting Newport tournament in August, defeating Straight Clark in a final match that went for more than four hours. In the National Championships he won the most notable victory of his career when he took Hoad in the quarter-finals. All in all, Richardson has registered the greatest improvement of any of our men players, and he must now be seriously considered as a grass court candidate for a singles berth on the Davis Cup Team—provided we get by Mexico.
The only reason he isn't on the team with Trabert, Seixas, Bartzen and Moylan against Mexico, in fact, is a technical one. The 7,000-foot altitude and composition surface at Mexico City guided the selection committee in choosing "retriever" types like Bartzen (a tireless player and our National Clay Court Champion) and Moylan (winner of all but one tournament on "slow" courts this summer).
Richardson's improvement, I believe, is due primarily to a better forehand and development of his overall tactics. He has cut down his mistakes on the right side by sacrificing speed for accuracy. Finally, he has licked his diabetes and his leg cramps which in turn has given him more confidence.
As I sat watching the Hartwig-Seixas finals, I thought again of Australia and the matches between our men and theirs. In the past few years we have made much of the "partisan crowds in Australia upsetting Americans." But here at Forest Hills it was "root, root, root for the home team"; we backed them with everything we had. When the match was over, I wondered if Harry Hopman and his boys had any thoughts on the subject. I know I did!