Tennis got a terrific jolt recently when Jack Kramer, one of its favorite sons, came out with an unblushing "kiss and tell" confession. Or shall we call it "kickback and tell?" Writing in a newspaper weekly magazine, This Week, Kramer acknowledged as an amateur he didn't adhere to the rules. He said he took money on the sly from tournament sponsors—"on the barrelhead," he added. He said he was as much a pro in his amateur days as today when he can walk up to the pay window in broad daylight.
Jack went further to say he wasn't alone in these questionable practices. They were and are commonplace among topflight players, he charged. He revived the old clarion call of "tennis bums."
Personally I was astounded by the article. Not that I didn't know that abuses exist in tennis, to an extent, as they do in other amateur sports. It was just that I was amazed to see these words come from Jack Kramer, who has been such a prominent figure in the game.
Kramer beams a spotlight on what he calls "hypocrisy" in tennis and suggests that the proper way to eliminate it is to permit an open tournament, such as is sanctioned in golf. This, he says, would mean prize money and nothing can be cleaner than prize money, openly given.
June 5, 1955
I disagree. Tennis is not ready for an open tournament. When the open tournament is accepted—and it probably will come to pass sometime in the distant future—it certainly will not follow the format Kramer outlines.
Jack's open tournament would be no more than a glorified touring road show. It would kill amateur tennis, the lifeblood of the sport.
NO QUICK MIRACLE DRUG
Tennis has its flaws, certainly. But I don't feel Kramer has hit upon the remedy. There is no quick miracle drug to bring tennis absolute purity, just as college football hasn't found an answer for abuses in football scholar ships and the Olympic Games bodies, the pinnacle of amateurism, haven't been able to wipe off the professional tinge in their own ranks.
And I do feel the abuses in tennis are exaggerated. For every single fault, the game has 99 fine, laudable traits. Thousands of kids still play it for the love of the game, and nothing more.
We have faced the problem realistically in permitting our amateur players to have sporting goods connections, as in Australia and other countries. Also they can write for magazines and newspapers. We can minimize it further by tightening our amateur code and enforcing it. And this problem, too, may be tackled from another direction:
I always have felt that the players were unjustly given too much blame for these rules infractions, and the tournament sponsor too little. It takes two to make a deal. For every player who is given extra cash under the table remember there has to be an ambitious tournament promoter at the other end.
The players usually are young, impressionable and not overly rich. The tournament directors are older men. They are supposed to be influential setters of example. If we're going to crack down, let's crack down on the knuckles holding the cash.
Batten down the hatches. To the storm cellars, men. The Australians are moving in this summer like Hurricane Helen, hell-bent on winning back the Davis Cup.
The latest communiques from down under are bristling with vengeance. The report is that Captain Harry Hop-man, his pride stung by last December's setback, is determined to recover the big silver bowl and then retire. Hopman says flatly that the team's main emphasis will be placed on winning the Cup and not on building up the players' experience through a world tour.
ALL OUT FOR THE CUP
The Australians have gathered their Davis Cup squad in Sydney. In spring training are Lewis Hoad, Ken Rosewall, Rex Hartwig, Neale Fraser and Ashley Cooper. Departing soon in two separate groups, they will arrive in England in time to play in Queens and Wimbledon.
Hopman announced that his protégés would forego all of the European campaign so they could come to the United States and concentrate on the Davis Cup campaign. They have skipped the French and Italian championships and will play only in the two tournaments in England.
This means that Captain Hopman will have his problems. It will be difficult for the Australians to hone their games to the razor-edge sharpness they need. From Wimbledon (June 20-July 2) until the Davis Cup Challenge Round against the United States they will have virtually no competition whatever.
Nor are these Harry's only headaches. The official touring team does not include Mervyn Rose, the veteran left-hander who won the Australian national championship in 1954. Rose asked and received permission to make the tour on his own with his wife Carol. Under Australian regulations this means he cannot play with the team.
However, I am certain that if Rose suddenly blossoms as the big winner during the belated European honeymoon, the rules would be adjusted to meet the situation. If Rose fails, it means that instead of having what he called "the two best doubles teams in the world," Hopman would have only one team—that of Hoad and Rosewall. That combination, which has lost repeatedly to our own Vic Seixas and Tony Trabert, certainly can't be labeled the best.
A PARTNER FOR HARTWIG
Meantime the Aussie captain must find a partner for Hartwig to replace Rose. He has hinted he may pair young Fraser with Hartwig, or he may break up his combinations and put Hoad with Hartwig. My spies down under tell me this combination is being given a thorough going over. I think it would be the wiser move, although I still cannot see any combination at this time whipping Seixas and Trabert. Great doubles teams rarely are built in a day.
Of the two Australian youngsters, Fraser and Cooper, I am inclined to believe the greatest hopes for Davis Cup play lie with Cooper. He has a wonderful physique, a big game which is sound, and a good temperament. With experience and further development, he may be Australia's best.
Fraser must strengthen his net game. Our boys always found the best way to beat him was to get the ball back. He inevitably would fall into errors.
It's a real jigsaw puzzle and, personally, I'm glad it's Harry's baby and not our own.