SI's tennis columnist Bill Talbert, playing captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team, last week found himself pitted against an opponent "I had never even heard of." Talbert was stricken with infectious hepatitis (a liver infection) on the eve of his departure for the winter tennis wars in Australia, and ended up on his back in New York Hospital.
Talbert's illness was a hard blow for the USLTA, already somewhat bruised by a near-mutiny of the U.S. team against an association agreement that requires American players to spend three months in Australia. This not-quite-reciprocal pact specifies that the Aussie stars need compete in the U.S. for only six weeks at tournament time. Talbert, Vic Seixas, Tony Trabert and Ham Richardson all feel that the long Australian stay, involving competition in many tournaments, damages our Davis Cup prospects.
That, of course, is all right with Mr. Harry Hopman, the Australian Davis Cup captain. Hopman promptly wrote in his newspaper column: "...if the U.S. Davis Cup team does not stay here for the Australian championships next January, Australia likely will retaliate by keeping its players out of the American championships."
While Hopman has no authority to order such a reprisal, the USLTA appealed to our stars to help avoid an international schism. They yielded, and Richardson and Trabert leave Nov. 6 for Australia. Seixas will go a little later but will stay longer. Captain Talbert hopes to join them when his liver and Harry Hopman have both subsided.