As the leadingamateurs know it, the game of tennis is a game of good fun and fortune, a wayto dashing headlines and an easy passage to a world tour with all expensespaid. With the professionals it is slightly different. One—and only one ofthem—hits the world-tour jackpot. The winner is asked if he'd like to try hisluck again, the loser is usually told to look for other employment.
The professionaltour promoted by former Champ Jack Kramer, which opens in New York this week,is only for the hardy. It will last 15 months. It will play before a quarter ofa million spectators on six continents. It may, somewhere along the line,establish a world tennis champion. And it may even make money.
Kramer, a coupleof months back, had what he thought was a natural promotion. He had as his starattraction two-time U.S. Champion Tony Trabert. And to test the ability of theyoung crew-cut Cincinnatian he was counting heavily on Australian Davis CupStars Lew Hoad and Ken Rosewall, both of whom, says Kramer, gave him signedagreements that they would turn professional. Neither, however, did. Althoughhe was obviously concerned over the loss of Hoad and Rosewall, Kramer still hadapian: he himself would play Trabert, who—despite his Davis Cup loss toHoad—was heralded as the world's No. 1 amateur on the basis of victories inboth the Wimbledon and U.S. championships without the loss of a single set.When Kramer gave out the word, he got it right back—from one Pancho Gonzaleswho, with full backing from the press, claimed that he and not Jack Kramer wasentitled to a shot at this upstart named Trabert. Among his qualificationsGonzales boldly pointed out that he had proved in the last two seasons therewasn't a pro in the world—not Sedgman, McGregor, Segura, Budge or anyoneelse—who had been able to get the better of him. With an appropriate sense ofpromotion and a hungry eye on advance sales, Kramer hurriedly reneged andagreed that Gonzales was indeed just the man to inject a show-stopping act intothe tennis circus.
As his openingact Kramer is offering a bandy-legged little Ecuadorian, Pancho Segura, whomanages to rank just behind Gonzales as the second-best professional in theworld, against Rex Hartwig, the Australian also-ran, a temperamental man who isas apt to serve up a sulk as he is an ace. In fairness to Hartwig it may besaid that he is regarded as one of the game's all-time outstanding right-courtdoubles players. As Trabert is probably the game's most proficient left-courtdoubles man alive today, it is conceivable that the match, in which Hartwig andTrabert will pair against the two Panchos, could be the highlight of the wholeshow.
December 12, 1955
For all thatKramer is putting into his promotion, the old pro is taking a big gamble tomake a profit. Trabert has a guarantee of $75,000; Hartwig a $30,000 guarantee,Gonzales a $15,000 guarantee and Segura a $12,500 guarantee. When the tourmoves abroad (where Frank Sedgman is expected to replace Segura) pay scaleswill come in for a revision. Kramer's own rewards will be speculatory: theprestige of promoting and 45% of every dollar the tour grosses over $140,000(most successful tour to date: 1953, with Kramer, Sedgman, McGregor and Segura,which grossed $304,000). "This last tour," says Kramer, "did only$126,000. If it does as poorly this year I won't have enough left to string myown racket."
Uncertainty addsexcitement, and the Trabert-Gonzales match could emerge as the greatest of anyseries. There is no love lost between the two stars. Gonzales has had to fightfor position all the way up the line. He hasn't forgotten the days when as afun-loving Mexican-American of 15 he skipped school so often that southernCalifornia tennis authorities refused him invitations to the top tournamentsand, in effect, drove him to work out his own game on the public park courtswhile his better-disciplined contemporaries were enjoying the coaching andrecreational facilities of the Los Angeles Tennis Club. Today Gonzales insistshe's the best in the world. Pancho also recently revealed bluntly: "I'm notsatisfied with the financial arrangements, but I had to agree to Kramer's termsto establish myself as No. 1."
Gonzales must befavored on two counts: his tremendous service and his valuable experience onindoor courts where the physical setup and lighting vary nightly. In Trabert'sfavor one can point out an ever-present competitive spirit and abetter-than-average ability to deal with strong serves. "The indoorgame," says Bill Talbert, Trabert's former Davis Cup captain and personalcoach, "requires that a player constantly move in to meet the ball insteadof waiting until the ball reaches the player. Tony has had enough experienceindoors not to be fooled by the change in bounce or speed. I think he'll do allright." Although Gonzales is considered by most veteran observers capableof sweeping Trabert clean off the courts, Promoter Kramer thinks that isn'tlikely. "I have a great amount of confidence in Trabert as acompetitor," he says. "I think Gonzales has proven himself, and nowit's up to Trabert to prove himself. He's working hard at it and I'm sure hewill."
Last week, beforethe tour started its 100-match, 100,000-mile U.S. leg, Trabert and Gonzaleswere putting the finishing touches on their "big" games. After theMadison Square Garden premi√®re the circus moves on to the road: first by air toa few major cities, then via a modern caravan of station wagons carrying aportable canvas duck court, block-and-tackle net posts, 36 dozen tennisballs—and even 4,000 auxiliary programs for the towns where promoters cannotafford to print their own. At the end of the run Kramer hopes he'll be able toafford to print an even better program for 1957—a program, for instance, thatwould feature the Gonzales-Trabert winner against Lew Hoad or Ken Rosewall.
TOUR FACTS & FIGURES
EVENT: Jack Kramer's third professional tour, coveringthe United States, South America, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa in 15months.
PLAYERS: Tony Trabert, 25, U.S. amateur champion,1953, '55; Wimbledon champion, 1955; just turned pro.
Richard Gonzales, 27, U.S. amateur champion, 1948-49;turned pro 1949.
Francisco Segura, 34, three-time intercollegiatechampion; turned pro 1947.
Rex Hartwig, 26, member of Australian Davis Cup team;just turned pro.
PAIRINGS: Trabert vs. Gonzales, best of five sets;Segura vs. Hartwig, one set; Segura and Gonzales vs. Hartwig and Trabert, bestof three sets.
OPENING NIGHT: December 9, Madison Square Garden, NewYork City, 8:30 p.m.
(See COMING EVENTS for subsequent schedules)