Since I have been connected with the Davis Cup I have never seen our team come up to a match in better mental and physical state. That we were not able to convert this sharpness into victory is proof of the state into which our tennis has fallen.
We came to Adelaide, the quiet, conservative capital of South Australia, loose and hopeful. We had achieved our goal—the Challenge Round—and felt we might be able to tear down the terrific odds against us in the final matches. Our boys looked anything but cattle ready to be led to the slaughterhouse. At the breakfast table they read dreary headlines predicting a clean Australian sweep and joked about them. They all felt they had a good chance.
We cannot be ashamed of our showing, despite the one-sided score which goes into the record books. Sammy Giammalva, a 22-year-old Texan apparently without an inhibition or a nerve in his rugged body, to some extent stole the show of the 45th Davis Cup Challenge Round. The people loved him, and he was the saving grace of our second straight 5-0 Davis Cup rout at the hands of the factory-made and precision-tooled Australians.
Sammy's court mannerisms are all spontaneous. He plays tennis with a refreshing zest and enthusiasm and with a boldness and intensity not often found in modern players.
Never before in a Challenge Round, the thickset, bowlegged University of Texas junior from Houston teamed with Vic Seixas and came close to pulling off what would have been an unbelievable upset over the world's best amateur doubles team, Lew Hoad and Ken Rosewall.
With the cup already clinched for Australia, Sammy was substituted for Herbie Flam in the final day's singles and put up a stirring fight against Rosewall. To become a true champion, Sammy must learn to move more quickly, and must improve his reflexes at the net. He has a powerful service, a fine forehand and one of the deadliest overheads in tennis. But his big forte is his courage—and his exuberance.
The fact is that in every match we had a chance and in at least three we were as good as even and beaten by a wayward shot or a momentary mistake in judgment. Nevertheless, this Challenge Round certainly must convince us that until we alter our thinking on tennis in America we must content ourselves with being at best the perennial international bridesmaid of the sport. There is danger even of losing that financially valuable position.
Referring to Hoad and Rosewall, an Adelaide editorial said: "For seven precious years they have given their lives to amateur tennis."
In business or sport it is impossible to compete except on the same level. We can't take boys who play tennis four months a year and expect them to beat rivals who are coached and cajoled the year around.
We must take positive measures to build our national tennis interest and with it our talent. We must institute an organized program for the development of our youth. We must have clinics for them and good coaches.
Australia certainly is weakened by the loss of Rosewall (who has signed a lucrative professional contract with Jack Kramer) for Davis Cup play, but it is questionable whether the series between the Aussies and America will be noticeably tightened. To fill the gap left by Rosewall's departure, Hopman has a fine young player in Ashley Cooper and another top-rung man in left-handed Neale Fraser. I wouldn't feel too confident in sending our cup team against this pair.
I am elated at the showing of Giammalva here, but we must take a tip from Australia and not be content to produce our players singly and in eras. If we are to maintain our position as a dominant tennis nation we must set up our own assembly line and turn them out like Fords.
United States and Australian Davis Cup teams have met 21 times in Challenge Round finals. Australia leads 11-10.