Amateur tennis has lost its king. Tony Trabert, like Bill Tilden, Ellsworth Vines, Donald Budge, Jack Kramer and other champions before him, has caught the scent of quick, easy gold. This week he announced his long-awaited decision to turn pro, with the highest guarantee of any player in history. Though the exact terms of the contract remain secret, Promoter Jack Kramer calls this his biggest deal yet, and Tony's fortune can be guessed at by citing the previously highest deals made: a $75,000 guarantee against 30% of total receipts for Frank Sedgman, and the same terms for Donald Budge.
I know Trabert's decision is a disappointing one for the men who run amateur tennis. Some, I am sure, feel he made a terrible mistake. For American tennis and its Davis Cup hopes, the move leaves a giant void. It is like pulling the plug from the tub. Suddenly everything is stranded high and dry.
There is some consolation. The Yankee dollars which lured Tony into the pro ranks are also beckoning to Lewis Hoad and Kenneth Rosewall, Australia's Davis Cup heroes. Promoter Kramer is hoping to land both of them any day now. If he succeeds, Davis Cup competition not only will be equalized between Australia and the U.S. but will also be thrown open to the rest of the world.
No one can deny that this would be a healthy situation for the game generally. Without U.S. and Australian teams to dominate the Challenge Round as they have been doing for the last 18 years, the other nations—if I may be forgiven a non-nationalistic viewpoint—will have a chance for a change.
October 16, 1955
But, as Captain for the U.S. Davis Cup team, my first interest naturally remains in recovering the Cup from Australia and keeping it on these shores. This now shapes up as a man-size job. We have, I think, a fine crop of players coming up but how soon they can be toughened for international competition is another question.
We can no longer count very heavily on Vic Seixas, who is talking retirement. Ham Richardson must give first consideration to his duties as a Rhodes scholar. It will be a new lineup, with some names which are not yet too familiar to sports-page readers. The best of them, with my comments on their ability today, are pictured on this page. None of them is a Trabert yet—but with a bit of polishing and refining here and there, who knows? Perhaps in a year or two they will be fighting the international tennis wars, winning the championships and, as it seems impossible to avoid, attracting in their turn the eyes of the promoters with the heavy gold.
Next year's champions may include Mike Green—"sound all-round game; serve and ground strokes need added power"; Sammy Giammalva—"needs control off the ground and rugged competition"; Gil Shea—"fine serve, excellent volleying, inadequate ground strokes"; and Gerry Moss—"fine doubles player, but weak in serve and forehand, needs lots of work."
Future hopefuls are Barry MacKay—"strong, eager exponent of the big game; practice and international play will do wonders"; Ron Holmberg—"brilliant, erratic 17-year-old; needs only steadiness"; Earl Baumgardner—"tremendous serve, good volley, fair ground strokes; needs competition"; Crawford Henry—"fine forehand, adequate serve and volley, needs experience."