Of the 32 nations challenging Australia for the Davis Cup this year, only five are still "alive." They are Italy (which just last week won the European Zone title from Sweden), India, Canada, Mexico and the U.S. We now are entering the showdown phase of these international eliminations, and it's been 20 years since the pressure was so heavy on our boys.
This is an article from the July 30, 1956 issue
We have a patchwork squad of veterans and untried youngsters. During the next few weeks we face an arduous period of experimentation, hard work and hope while priming for four tests, any one of which could be disastrous, leading up to the Challenge Round (see opposite page).
In the past the United States, which hasn't missed a Challenge Round since 1936, has swept through its earlier Davis Cup assignments like a ring champion bowling over setups. At times we have played our secondary men against zone rivals, preserving our big punch for the climactic matches.
This time we aren't in a position to take any of our rivals lightly. We can't jeopardize our chances of entering the Challenge Round, which means about $50,000 in added revenue to finance our tennis program. But we must experiment with our best combinations in an effort to find a winning formula for the big joust with the Aussies.
With no standout player, as Tony Trabert was a year ago, and no set doubles team to replace the Trabert-Seixas combination, we have problems.
The present Davis Cup squad can be divided into veterans and youngsters. Vic Seixas, 32, a Davis Cupper since 1951, heads the former, with Art Larsen, 31; Herbie Flam, 27; Gilbert Shea, 27; and Ham Richardson, 22. The rookies include: Allen Morris, 24; Whitney Reed, 22; Sam Giammalva, 21; Barry McKay, 20; Earl Baumgardner, 19; and two 18-year-olds—Ron Holmberg and Arthur Andrews.
There is strong pressure from some quarters to ditch the Old Guard completely and start building with the youngsters immediately. But this would endanger our chances of getting into the Challenge Round.
Against Canada this weekend, we go with a combination of oldsters and "kids": Richardson, Flam, Holmberg and McKay. This benches Seixas, our top dog, and Larsen, another steady veteran, but gives us a good chance to experiment without too much risk.
Canada almost certainly will use Bob Bedard, the Dominion's No. 1 player, and Don Fontana, both experienced Cup players. But I am confident we can win this test. Also we should be able to take Mexico, although Gustavo Palafox, the stormy petrel of Mexican tennis, could be troublesome if he calls off his sit-down strike against the country's tennis brass.
Palafox, who upset Seixas in an American Zone match two years ago, is at odds with the officials over expense monies.
Italy, with Nicola Pietrangeli and Giuseppe Merlo, will then be a tough nut for us to crack. If we make it, there will still be India. There's no room for complacency here, either.
Ramanathan Krishnan, India's 19-year-old phenom, has improved immeasurably during the past year. This was shown at Wimbledon where he upset Jaroslav Drobny, the old pro who won at Wimbledon in 1954. The other Indian team member, Veteran Naresh Kumar, is 28 and a sound player.
Any way you look at it, there's a hard summer ahead for the Yank Davis Cuppers—two summers, counting the one in Australia—and this is one time the U.S. Captain could use some of Casey Stengel's "hunch" powers.
They'd come in handy when we start shuffling our men around.
1956 DAVIS CUP: THE SIX SURVIVORS
First Round May 1st
Second Round May 15th
Third Round June 5th
Semi Final June 19th
Final July 22nd
Great Britain (5-0)
Great Britain (3-2)
British West Indies