The plonk of tennis balls was hard to hear amid the cheers of football crowds, the screech of hockey skates on ice and the chant of slave traders peddling flesh in the smoke-filled marts of baseball. But any scanner of the news could tell at a glance that the old and respectable game of lawn tennis was still a lively sport as full of unpredictable leaps and bounds as any.
Out in Australia the Aussies' eminent doubles player Mervyn Rose failed to get his suspension lifted in time to play on the Davis Cup team (he was set down because he could not give satisfactory breakdowns of some foreign-tournament expense accounts). Thereupon, the angry Mervyn began to quiver like the ghost of Hamlet's father, threatening that he could a tale unfold whose lightest word would harrow up the souls, if any, of the Australian Lawn Tennis Association—and result in the suspension of more Australian players—because "if I'm guilty, some others are too." But the threatened exposé never came, the moment of ghostly chill passed and Mervyn Rose jumped into the arms of Promoter Jack Kramer. Rose will start playing for Kramer's cash in January.
Meanwhile, nobody was more on the jump than Kramer himself. He arrived in Australia wearing two sets of sneakers: 1) to run the tour of his own pros and 2) to help the U.S. Davis Cup captain, Perry Jones, drill the American amateurs for the cup rounds. On the amateur side of the net Kramer had the American squad leaping up and down in a physical fitness program to match the kangaroo training tactics of Australia's Harry Hopman (see photos above). On the professional side Kramer got into a crackling backhand exchange with the powers that rule Australian amateur tennis and wound up with his troupe banned from the grandstand clubs of the Australian Association.
Would this whole episode embarrass Perry Jones in his cup dealings with the Australians? Kramer feared it might and offered to resign. Jones would have none of it. "Kramer," he said, clarifying his own role considerably, "is an essential part of my plan to win back the cup. After all, I'm an administrator, not a coach."
December 1, 1958
Kramer's question, which involves the propriety of his combining a professional role with an amateur one, is still a good one. But what really fascinates us is the historical complexity of Jack's present role as Davis Cup coach. After all, if he hadn't turned pro himself and later seduced Pancho Gonzales into the pro ranks the U.S. would have held the Davis Cup without a break for the last 12 years—though the conclusion is ever so slightly clouded by the fact that Lew Hoad and Ken Rosewall might have given our Gonzales & Co. a real run for it last year if Kramer hadn't signed up those fellows too.
Maybe Jack Kramer is such a central figure in the cup picture that he just has to be there, pro or not. Wonder what he'll do next.