Three dramatic questions were posed by the Diamond Jubilee National Tennis Championships:
1) Could Lew Hoad repeat Don Budge's Grand Slam of 1938?
2) Could Althea Gibson become the first Negro to capture a major U.S. tennis title?
3) Could Dick Savitt, former Wimbledon champion who quit big-time tennis four years ago to go into the oil business, make a comeback?
September 16, 1956
Some may have hoped for a triple affirmative answer. But the reply, borne on the chilly, capricious wind which whistled around Forest Hills last weekend, was no in each case.
Ken Rosewall, who grew up with Hoad on the neighborhood courts of Sydney and who later became Lew's doubles partner and keenest adversary, punctured the Grand Slam balloon with one of the most remarkable tennis exhibitions ever seen on hallowed center court at West Side.
I would have thought that the bone-chilling winds which whipped around the court in 50° temperatures would have worked to the detriment of Rose-wall, the line-splitter, and to the benefit of Hoad, the net-rushing slammer who tries to make every shot a killing one.
But in a beautiful match of classic tennis, marked by shots that often defied belief, Rosewall's needle-threading accuracy and remarkable court acumen engulfed Hoad's awesome power.
The scores of the men's final match were 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-3. A lot of people rubbed their eyes and took another look—even Hoad. Rosewall completely took charge once he got into the driver's seat. Down 0-2 in the third set, he took 12 of the next 16 games. He was the master—a crafty tailor sewing a garment of defeat for his victim.
Rosewall at the finish was so overpowering that in the final set, Muscles, as he's called by his teammates, lost only three points on his own service.
Shirley Fry again snuffed out the major-title hopes of Althea Gibson, a girl with tremendous potential but still with a block somewhere barring her from tennis greatness.
Althea was nervous and pressing too hard in her final against Shirley. Bunting her service and contenting herself with keeping the ball in play, Shirley won her first United States women's championship 6-3, 6-4.
It was a much-deserved triumph for the pleasant Akron, Ohio girl who told newspapermen afterward that two years ago—in 1954—she had become so despondent over her repeated failures and a bad elbow that she intended to quit tennis—and did for 10 months.
Of the three posed possibilities, the nearest that came to fruition was the comeback effort of Dick Savitt. Un-hardened by tough competition for four years, he proved his "big" game still has a lot of its oldtime sting in carrying Rosewall to five sets.
It was Savitt who put up the strongest fight against the gifted new American champion, and it makes a Davis Cup captain's mouth water to think of how valuable he would be to our efforts to regain the cup.
We made efforts to land Dick for the Italian matches at the West Side Tennis Club—in the American-European Inter-Zone final—but Savitt, smiling curiously, stated, "As of the moment, I'm not available." He said he had to attend to his oil business. Davis Cup regulations permit final selection up to 10 days prior to the match.
We hope he may yet change his mind. But in the meantime Chauncey Steele's selection committee has named a four-man team to face the able Italian trio of Nicola Pietrangeli, Giuseppe Merlo and Orlando Sirola on the Forest Hills grass. On our squad are those two Davis Cup stalwarts, Vic Seixas and Hamilton Richardson, and two "rookies," Sam Giammalva and Mike Green, both comers.
Seixas distinguished himself again in the tournament by gaining the semifinals with a great display of fighting heart. There he lost to his old nemesis, Rosewall, but before that he played five hard matches, three of them going five sets. In all, Vic, a spry man at 33, played 308 games—a tournament record. Richardson played excellently until his quarter-final match with Neale Fraser of Australia, in which he lacked his usual touch. Giammalva and Green both gave good accounts of themselves and gave promise of developing along encouraging lines.
We still would like to have Savitt in our lineup.