The way Tony Trabert went about winning the 69th Wimbledon Championships last week, the way he conducted himself in his matches, the kind of record the big-legged youngster is putting together—all of that takes you back a few years to 1946 and 1947 and another man tennis players refer to reverently and simply as "Kramer."
Sitting high in the stands of Wimbledon's ivy-covered center court where everything is green except the caliber of play, some of us who have a few years on our backs could not help but recall an astonishing parallel between Trabert and Kramer.
Kramer came to this lovely old south London tennis ground in 1946—just as Tony did last year—all set to win. He was a heralded youngster, a power hitter, a superb net man.
Blisters on his racket hand stopped Kramer—just as blisters on his racket hand and feet defeated Tony last year.
Kramer came back to Wimbledon the next year—in 1947—just as Tony did this year. Kramer won his title which by any measure is the unofficial world's championship—just as Tony did last Friday against Kurt Nielsen of Denmark.
Trabert's plan for the finals against Nielsen was a simple one, but it indicates the thoroughness with which the new champion enters a match.
In a discussion on the morning of the match it was first decided to attack the Dane's vulnerable forehand which he hits with a Continental grip.
Tony also decided to use a three-quarter serve, sacrificing the additional speed for safety. This means many more first deliveries will go in, making it extremely difficult for Nielsen to get to net. Trabert always followed his serve to net where in making the first volley he would not go for an immediate placement but would hit with safety to a deep position in the court. Invariably he would score on the second volley. Whenever Tony had to make a difficult volley, he always directed his shot to Nielsen's forehand.
When Kurt was serving his first ball Trabert stood just behind the base line, advancing one yard in as the ball was hit. On the second service he received just inside base line, ready to hit the return and advance to net. Occasionally, to create more pressure on vital points, he would stand in a bit further, especially on the second. Trabert attacked Nielsen's comparatively weak second serve constantly, moving to net behind his return. Tony was content to get the ball back on the first serve, but his plan on the second was attack.
When he had to lob, he made a pre-match decision to hit the ball very high in the air. We in tennis call this the shot that "gives your opponent lots of time to think and look at the blue." This worked extremely well as Kurt missed a number of important overheads. Trabert learned further, by watching his opponent's semifinal match, that the Dane moved very close to the net after his first volley. This made it easier to score with the lob.
In Tony's prematch mental preparation he realized that Nielsen would be the favorite of the crowd. He conditioned his thinking superbly, not permitting the enthusiastic outbursts in support of the Dane to bother him. He played to a plan and produced the same calm workmanlike tennis on the center court the final day with 17,000 people watching as he did the first day.
He was the best player in the biggest tournament in the world.