It was Neale Fraser's national just as it had been Neale Fraser's Davis Cup. In beating Peruvian Alex Olmedo, the Wimbledon champion, in the finals of the U.S. championships at Forest Hills by a score of 6-3, 5-7, 6-2, 6-4, the handsome lefty laid firm claim to the role of No. 1 amateur.
But let no one think that the Fraser who smashed Olmedo into submission at Forest Hills was the same Fraser who lost in five sets to Barry MacKay at Wimbledon or in four sets to Olmedo a few months before at Adelaide. After Wimbledon in June, Australian Davis Cup Captain Harry Hopman set to work to mold Fraser into the kind of finished player who could help recapture the Davis Cup. Two things had to be done: 1) improve Fraser's dangerously weak backhand and 2) put real bite into his already good but not overpowering service.
Work on this began about the time that the Australians opened their American Zone Davis Cup campaign in Mexico City. Hopman had Bob Mark, Roy Emerson and others shooting hundreds of shots at Neale's backhand until the Aussie left-hander was able to develop a strong, steady shot.
A new second service was also created. Previously, Neale's spin service sliced only one way. With a deceptive motion, Fraser learned to give the ball a contrasting bounce with almost the same swing. Once it would spin to the backhand, the next time kick to the forehand. And the difference in the swing was about the difference between one and 2 o'clock.
It was the Fraser with the solid backhand and the east-and-west service whom the fans saw in the Davis Cup and the finals of the nationals. Once a perennial best man—runner-up twice in the Australian championship and once at Wimbledon—Neale suddenly became the bridegroom.
Fraser might well have won anyway (as he did in the Davis Cup), but Olmedo obviously was not at his best in the Sunday finals. Few spectators realized that he actually was in pain from a shoulder injury incurred in hitting a smash while playing a mixed doubles match in the cool evening air on Saturday. Against Fraser he was able to serve at only half pace, and he winced every time he raised his right arm above his head.
Fraser's victory was no more impressive than that of Maria Bueno, the 19-year-old S√£o Paulo girl, who added the U.S. women's crown to her Wimbledon championship. Maria is the new Helen Wills—poker-faced, emotionless and at times almost grim. This dark-haired, tight-lipped girl has a beautiful variety of strokes and wonderful imagination. She serves with the pace of a man. She hits strongly off both forehand and backhand. She hits slices, lobs, drop shots and has no fear of the forecourt.
Maria advances to the net without trepidation and, once she gets there, she hits volleys and overheads with authority. Britain's giant (six-foot) Christine Truman, who has been marked for possible greatness, was no match for her. Her deep forehand was not enough to discourage Miss Bueno's net forays, and the Brazilian won easily, 6-1, 6-4.
In a year or two, Miss Bueno will have to beware of an attractive California girl named Karen Hantze. Now 16 and a high school senior at San Diego, Karen showed more promise for her age than any player since Maureen (Little Mo) Connolly, who, incidentally, is Karen's present coach. Already Karen has the game to match Maria—a wonderful service and volley plus good ground strokes—but needs more seasoning. She could be the Wimbledon champion of 1960.
One of the great matches of the tournament was the semifinal battle between Olmedo and Brooklyn's Ron Holmberg, in which the first set lasted 28 games (15-13) and 71 minutes. Holmberg, who was a member of the Davis Cup team I captained in Australia in 1957, showed the natural talent which his boosters have been raving about for years. But he tired after the first set, and his game lost its edge. Holmberg has tremendous potential, but he is unpredictable. If he can stabilize his temperament and his habits, which at times can be very naughty—a love of rich malted milks and late hours—he may prove a big asset to American tennis.