Is Forest Hills about to lose its place as the tennis capital of America?
There are some indications that it may—and if the thought seems revolutionary, that is only a measure of the powerful tradition which this suburban section of New York City exercises on the game. And it might be a good thing for tennis, too.
During the annual meeting of the United States Lawn Tennis Association in January, for example, a delegate from the Pacific Coast rose during the controversy over Davis Cup dates and said that, if necessary, the Challenge Round could be played in California. "We would put a court in the middle of the Coliseum at Los Angeles," he said, "and play before 100,000 people."
The gentleman from California may or may not have intended to be facetious, but there was nothing facetious about the suggestion made by a New Orleans paper after we won the cup, that the defense this year might be made in New Orleans in connection with the Sugar Bowl. The argument was advanced that this was a festive occasion, that a good crowd would be assured and, besides, Hamilton Richardson, a member of the team, is a Louisiana boy. He lives in Baton Rouge and goes to college at Tulane.
These suggestions may seem a bit far-fetched at the moment, but they indicate a healthy trend. Perhaps they point to a national reawakening of tennis interest. Everybody, it seems, wants in on the act.
A COUP BY THE WEST
Certainly the Californians have projected themselves into a powerful position within the association. With the help of the South and Southwest, they blocked the proposed schedule for the 1955 nationals at Forest Hills and forced a revision of dates. They also, in a swift coup, were able to land the next convention meeting for San Francisco—a blow to Eastern delegates, who in recent years have almost taken a New York convention for granted.
At the moment, the dates for the Davis Cup Challenge Round are still up in the air. But the Australians are crying for a quick decision so that they can arrange a summer itinerary, which may exclude Wimbledon. The original dates set by the USLTA Committee were August 26-28 for the Challenge Round, September 2-11 for the nationals. The West Coast forced through dates of August 29-September 5 for the nationals, which means the Davis Cup and the tournament would run consecutively without a day's break. Perry Jones, President of the Southern California Tennis Association, has been in town conferring with USLTA officials on possible compromise dates.
The question of moving the tennis nationals, as the U.S. Golf Association for example rotates its National Open and Amateur events around the country, offers interesting speculation. Forest Hills is the seat of U.S. tennis because it has the only adequate grass-court plant in the country. If the Davis Cup competition or nationals moved elsewhere, they would have to be played on another surface.
The East has a grass-courts monopoly. Yet in recent years we have seen a decline of the old turf fixtures. Sea-bright is no more. Southampton dropped out a year and now is back. Baltimore tried to put on a grass-court tournament but quit after two years.
There is agitation, particularly in Europe where the British Isles have the only grass courts, to put Davis Cup play on a uniform surface, such as clay or en-tout-cas. If Sweden, for instance, ever won the cup the Challenge Round would not be on grass. There are no grass-court tournament facilities in Sweden.
In our own country, more than 90% of the players don't have access to grass courts. Our emphasis on turf for championship events is a throwback to the old days when tennis was a fashionable lawn sport played at Cricket Clubs. Maybe we need to go modern.