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A case for uniform courts

April 11, 1960
April 11, 1960

Table of Contents
April 11, 1960

Toothpick
Cards
1960 Olympic Basketball Team U.S.
Bally Ache
Scouting Reports
  • Two full major league teams could be fielded from the Los Angeles roster, and there'd still be fine players on the bench. Yet this club will have to be lucky to win the pennant again

  • Red Schoendienst was out last year but even so the Braves were heavily favored to win the pennant. They failed. Now Red is back, there's a fiery new manager and Milwaukee is favored

  • The San Francisco Giants are hungry. Last year they were just about to eat the cake when it was stolen away. Now they are smarter and tougher, as the National League will soon discover

  • Friend, Mazeroski and Skinner are back inform, and the Pirates are dangerous once more. But without real power, they must play near-perfect baseball to rise above fourth this year

  • Slipping steadily since their third-place finish in 1956, the Reds have frantically plugged first one deficiency and then another. Now, at last, they seem to have a sound, solid team

  • Tied for seventh in 1957, tied for fifth in 1958, tied for fifth again last year, the Cubs have been improving. It would seem that this year...but no. The higher you go the tougher it gets

  • The Cardinals have gained in power and the pitching should be improved. But in 154 games an awful lot of baseballs are destined to find their way safely through that leaky defense

  • The Phillies have junked an old, losing club to give their youngsters a chance. This will be no miracle of 1950, but at least the Phils will lose in a younger, more interesting way

  • The Sox won in a weakened league and no one knows it better than Bill Veeck. He has strengthened the attack and made them the team to beat for the first time since 1920

  • A group of pawns on Frank Lane's chessboard came surprisingly close to capturing last year's pennant. Now, having exchanged a few key men, Lane feels he has a winner

  • The old Yankees are dead, and their replacements are not in the same class. This is a sound team but it is far from being a great one and it will need lots of luck to rise above third place

  • Tactical troubles—at shortstop and first base—still plague the Tigers. But the main problem is strategic: how to stir contented also-rans and give the faithful something really to shout about

  • The Red Sox finished in the second division last season for the first time since 1952. Now Jensen is gone and Williams is going, going. It may be a while before the Sox climb back up

  • After several halfway seasons, the Orioles are now fully committed to their youth program. Youngsters have taken over as the old names fade. It will all pay off...someday

  • There's a new optimism in Kansas City. The outfield is solid, the infield and pitching are better, and Hank Bauer has pepped up the whole ball club. Fifth place could be the result

  • A few years ago Washington was a one-man ball club and a last-place team. Things are brighter now. The Senators are still a cellar team but now they have some players people have heard of

Track
Tennis
Motor Sports
19th Hole: The Readers Take Over
Pat On The Back

A case for uniform courts

Recent victories by foreign stars emphasize an old need: surfaces that favor nobody

By William F. Talbert

Neale Fraser loses to Ulf Schmidt of Sweden at San Juan and to Mike Davies of England at Caracas. A graceful Spaniard named Andres Gimeno wins the championship in Venezuela. Big Barry MacKay, whose booming service makes him king on the slick hardwood of the Seventh Regiment Armory National Indoor Championships, is a pushover in the Caribbean—beaten in the middle rounds from San Juan to Barranquila.

This is an article from the April 11, 1960 issue Original Layout

This is the face of amateur tennis in the winter and early spring of 1960. More specifically, it is the face of tennis on composition courts, where the ball bounces evenly and where players from countries that have no grass or indoor courts of their own are at their best.

JUST ANOTHER CONTENDER

Put Fraser, the Australian Davis Cup ace, on a turf court with his slashing, high-kicking delivery and there's probably no amateur in the world who can take him. But put him on a clay or composition court—a surface familiar to his opponent—and he is just another of the top-line contenders. Maybe he wins today, tomorrow he loses.

The same is true of his teammate Roy Emerson and of Barry MacKay and others of the grass-court school. Giants at Wimbledon and Forest Hills, they are men of lesser stature when their big weapons—the lightning speed and unpredictable bounce of grass—are denied them.

If nothing else this year, the Caribbean circuit—with virtually all the top stars of the diminishing amateur ranks in attendance—has brought an old sore spot of the game forcibly to the front again. When are the tennis fathers going to get wise and standardize the surface of the tennis court?

Suppose the world's top soccer teams came up to the Olympic Games at Rome this summer and Avery Brundage handed them a square ball, telling them, "Boys, I know you have been playing with a round ball. But this is the Olympics. So you have to play with a square ball."

FEATS OF CLAY

This may sound ridiculous but it is no more so than holding the preliminary rounds of the Davis Cup tennis competition on clay surface, and once a team reaches the final rounds forcing it to shift to grass. On clay, tennis is a ground game. Because of slow bounces, it is difficult to put the ball away. There are more rallies and better retrieves. On grass, which is extremely fast, tennis is a game in the air, with serve and volley dominating the play.

About 30 countries compete annually for the silver bowl which symbolizes world tennis supremacy. Of these, only the U.S., Australia, Canada and England are accustomed to grass. Turf is foreign to the others. It isn't surprising, therefore, that the last 16 Challenge Rounds have been between the U.S. and Australia, and that Britain was in the four finals before those (1934-37).

Teams from Italy, Spain, Sweden, Denmark and even Mexico give up tremendous odds in shifting to grass courts. I recall the Italians, after absorbing a beating in an interzone match on grass, complaining bitterly: "Oh, if we could only have played you in Italy. It would be very different."

It might have been, too. Nicola Pietrangeli, Orlando Sirola & Co. can be awfully tough in their own lair.

What team did Harry Hopman of Australia fear most in challenging this past year in the American Zone? It was Mexico—on Mexico's unique composition surface. Hopman, as it turned out, had reason to worry. In the most exciting of the year's series, the Mexicans came close to winning all four singles matches.

Of course, should one of the grass-poor countries wrest the title away, it would be equally hard for the Australians or Americans to get it back. Many of us remember well how the French with their celebrated "Four Horsemen," Rene Lacoste, Jean Borotra, Henri Cochet and Jacques Brugnon, held the Davis Cup for six years from 1927 through 1932 on Paris clay, keeping even the great Bill Tilden at bay.

The grass tennis court is a holdover from the hoopskirt-and-bustle days. There are few remaining in the world, and those that do exist are deteriorating because of the expense of upkeep. Grass continues to represent the epitome of topflight tennis only because hard-core traditionalists refuse to change.

Tradition is wonderful. I am for it—in its place. There is no reason why smaller tournaments cannot be held on the grass at Wimbledon, at Forest Hills and at Kooyong and White City in Australia. But for the common people and the big championships, let us turn to something else.

We can't adopt clay. Like grass, it is expensive to keep up, and its slowness would take some of the speed and zing out of a game which has become jet-powered.

The ideal surface is one of those new combination asphalt jobs. With our tremendous strides in engineering and plastics, it is possible to devise a perfect court—one with the bounce of a grass court but with the sureness of clay. You would always get a true bounce—not a tricky one, as on grass, which destroys the confidence and stroking rhythm of the players accustomed to clay.

If a uniform surface were adopted, the nationals could be moved to Los Angeles, where it is prohibitively expensive to build a grass court, to Denver and Houston and Chicago. A big part of America now is playing on the combination-asphalt surfaces. Europe is swinging in that direction. Acceptance of the surface by the United States Lawn Tennis Association could be a terrific boost to the game.