Two things particularly impressed me about Tony Trabert as he won his first title on the boards, the 52nd National Indoor Championships—and I think both augur well for Tony and the United States Davis Cup future. One was his improved volleying technique. The other was his attitude.
In the past Trabert has had a costly volleying weakness—he was inclined to catch the ball too low, particularly on his backhand. This meant he was forced to volley up and make a defensive shot of it. In the indoor Tony was moving quickly to the forecourt and catching his volleys shoulder high.
It was a crisp, sharp volley such as Wilmer Allison used to make. Tony used the volley as an offensive weapon, which it should be, and when he hit it, the shot usually was a winner or put the other guy in trouble.
Tony is a husky boy (6 foot 1, 185 pounds) with more the build of a football halfback than of a tennis champion. Because of this, he gives the impression of being slow afoot. Agility has never been one of his strong points.
Yet in the indoor tournament he surprised everyone with his speed, quick reflexes and anticipative powers. Personally, I thought he played the best tennis he's shown since he captured the national grass courts championship at Forest Hills in 1953.
This was particularly noticeable in the semifinal match against Art Larsen, the onetime "Peck's Bad Boy" of tennis. Larsen is a wily little left-hander who is always tough, particularly on boards where his sensitive touch and fantastic reactions pay dividends. Art was a big favorite among most sideline observers to win the indoor crown which he took in 1953.
But Trabert, quick as a jungle cat, got the best of Larsen in their many exciting rallies and repeated his performance in the final against Richardson—always a rugged man to beat.
HE LEARNED THE HARD WAY
As for Trabert's attitude, I liked the businesslike way he plowed through the field. Here is a boy who has had his problems. After his big year in 1953, he may have felt he had everything made and everybody would lay over and play dead for him. He learned differently—the hard way—but he learned.
He seems to have steeled himself for the big job ahead. He knows if he is to be a great champion he has to work at it. During this tournament he went out with the attitude: "I'm going to be the best. I dare you to beat me."
He played the finals against Richardson with an extremely bad cold. But he never once mentioned it. He never once "alibied." I think that is another good sign. I hope he takes his "indoor game and attitude" outdoors.
Richardson showed a continuation of the improvement which was so marked in his case last year. He's coming and he's going to be better. He still has one major problem. He can't soften his second service with the result that he makes too many double faults.
Ham serves his second shot with almost the same speed as his first. He has been doing this for so long that he. is afraid to go back to a three-quarter pace for fear he would be more inclined to miss than with his "hard, fast, first one." But this bug can be worked out. A singles berth on the 1955 U.S. team is Ham's immediate goal and I think he'll make it.