There was one especially memorable moment at Forest Hills last week. Playing in the quarter-finals of the U.S. national singles championships, Australia's Roy Emerson, the top-ranked amateur in the world and a heavy favorite to win the tournament, slammed a ball beyond the baseline and in doing so went down to defeat, beaten by young Arthur Ashe of Richmond, Va., U.S.A. As the large, cheering crowd rose to its feet, Ashe raised his arms in the air and stared at the ground, as if stunned by his achievement. Then he dropped his racket, broke into a quick, friendly grin and shook hands with Emerson. Arthur Ashe had beaten the defending champion. Cut. Print it.
Trouble is, this was the quarter-finals, not the finals, and the next day Ashe was himself put out of the tournament by Manuel Santana of Spain, who, on the day after that, beat South Africa's Cliff Drysdale in what has become the annual non-American U.S. final. Alien lands provide the finalists and the U.S. provides the ball boys. Since Tony Trabert won in 1955, Australians have won the title eight times, a Mexican once and this year a Spaniard. Moreover, in the last decade only one American—Frank Froehling in 1963—has managed to reach the finals.
In the second round of the tournament it appeared that this year might be different. Charles Pasarell of Puerto Rico and UCLA faced Australia's No. 2 man, Fred Stolle, the second-seeded player. Earlier this summer, on grass at the Merion Cricket Club in Pennsylvania, Pasarell had beaten Stolle and Emerson back to back, but Merion and Forest Hills are a thousand tennis courts apart and no one thought the 21-year-old Puerto Rican could do it again. As it turned out, Stolle never won a set. Pasarell is a husky kid who slams the ball on almost every shot. Stolle, who is also a big hitter, found himself overpowered. Time and again his serve would come whistling back across the net, sending up a shower of white chalk as it caught the line. Barely an hour after the match began, Stolle was free to concentrate on the mixed doubles.
Pasarell moved easily through his third and fourth matches before meeting that old crowd-pleaser, Rafael Osuna, in the quarter-finals. In the first set Pasarell continued his sensational hard hitting, yielding only five points as he won five straight games and the set 6-1. But then Osuna's soft, delicate shots began to fall in, and Pasarell found himself bedeviled into playing the Mexican's cat-and-mouse game. Osuna ran off with the next three sets, although Pasarell made one last gallant stand near the end, showing that he is about ready to move up among the world's top amateurs.
September 19, 1965
Five days after Pasarell beat one half of the Australian Davis Cup team, Arthur Ashe beat the other. Ashe had a tough first-round match—or so it promised to be—against Gene Scott, this country's fifth-ranked player. But Ashe's powerful serve, probably the hardest of any player in the world, amateur or pro, was going in consistently, and Ashe won in straight sets. He breezed through his next three opponents with no trouble—which brought him to Emerson, from whom he had not won a set in two previous meetings.
"I feel more confident than I have at any time in the past," Ashe said in the men's locker room at Forest Hills before the match. "It's hard to explain.... All of a sudden you just start playing well. I know I'll have to play very well to beat him, but I know for sure I can do it. Still, you have to go out there with the idea in the back of your mind—you can't help it—that this guy is better than me."
In the early afternoon before the match Ashe lounged in the locker room playing bridge. He is not yet a good player so he kept at his side a bridge instruction book filled with underlined passages. He was so blasé on the surface that one might have thought he had no plans for the rest of the day except a little motoring in his stereo-equipped Mustang, which was parked outside. He paid no attention to the gallery on the wall behind him, photographs of all the national champions going back to the long-pants and handlebar-mustache days. Emerson's picture was there to immortalize his victories in 1961 and 1964. The live Emerson was already dressed for tennis and thumbing absent-mindedly through a three-month-old magazine, his stocking feet propped up on the back of a chair. Finally Ashe reluctantly left his bridge game, changed clothes and walked in silence with Roy to the stadium.
Arthur had a plan. Former star Dick Savitt had told him his splendid serve would keep him in the match but that he must smash back Emerson's service to win. He resolved to put everything in his 150-pound body into his return of service, and it paid off in the very first game. Emerson served first and soon found his deliveries were being lashed right back past him. Perhaps trying to put too much extra on his serve, he lost the last point on a double fault, the first of 17 he was to commit in the match. Even so, it was not until 70 minutes later that Ashe won the first set, 13-11, with an ace.
Ashe broke through his opponent's service in the third game of the second set and went on to win 6-4. It was a convincing start, but the feeling lingered that the champion might yet regain his touch. That feeling grew in the long third set, when Emerson hung on grimly through a series of crises and won 12-10 as Ashe double-faulted at set point. Now Emerson had a 10-minute rest period, a chance to regroup and perhaps alter his strategy.
But in the fourth set Emerson fell apart completely and Ashe ran through him, returning service nicely, volleying beautifully and mixing up the speed of his serves like a pitcher throwing change-ups. He won 6-2. The crowd gave him a standing ovation and his aunt from Montclair, N.J. gave him a kiss. Members of the press scurried along with him to the clubhouse jabbering questions.
"You guys are more excited than I am," said Arthur.
"We're tired of writing about Australians," answered one.
"One match doesn't prove anything," he said in the locker room. "You have to establish a trend of winning. That's what Emerson has done."
Arthur Ashe Sr. traveled up from Virginia the next day to see his boy in the semifinals. He brought a Richmond newspaper that ran the upset victory over Emerson on Page One. Young Ashe, a Negro, grew up in Richmond, but segregated tournaments (plus the lack of winter play) forced him to move to St. Louis for his senior year of high school. "Richmond, outside of my family, hasn't done a thing for me," he said.
His father's presence at the semifinal did not help. The match against Spain's Santana was the end of the trail for Arthur. He was outclassed 2-6, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4, but at least his big win, together with Pasarell's, showed that the U.S. has the potential to end this foreign domination at Forest Hills, not to mention in Davis Cup play.
Davis Cup Captain George MacCall plans to cultivate the potential by keeping his best men together—at the western tournaments coming up, in the Australian grass-court circuit this winter and in the U.S. indoor events. Ashe will be the most important part of MacCall's entourage, even though he has some courses to take before he gets his college degree from UCLA. With checks coming in from soft-drink, sportswear and sporting-goods companies he helps promote, and a draft deferment that is good for about a year more, Ashe can afford to be an amateur tennis player for a while.
Dennis Ralston will not go with Mac-Call. He wants to sell insurance and do graduate work, and perhaps this is just as well. Ralston lost to Drysdale in the quarters after leading two sets to none, and it becomes increasingly clear that Dennis may never learn to stop battling himself. Cliff Richey, the promising 18-year-old who was crushed by Emerson, has no school obligations but he, too, will not go, because he refuses to play for MacCall. Pasarell probably will return to UCLA and be the Bruins' No. 1 man this year rather than go touring. He sat out the last college season as probably the first tennis red shirt in history. Ashe and Co. did not need him at West-wood to win the NCAA title.
If some of the players who will tour with Ashe—Froehling, Marty Riessen, and Clark Graebner—do not develop, MacCall hopes to use the current high school and college stars for future tours. "Our Junior Davis Cup team has more depth than it has had in a good many years," he said. Bob Malaga, manager of the junior program, adds, "These guys are all Jack Armstrong players, a crop of about 12 of them. They really want to be great."
Jack Armstrong No. 1 is Stanley Smith, 18, a tall, blond USC sophomore out of Pasadena (Calif.) High School, the alma mater of Ellsworth Vines. He won the national junior title in 1964 and this summer beat Pasarell in the national clay courts. At the national doubles last month Smith teamed with Bob Lutz, 18, a future Stanford student, to beat Osuna and Antonio Palafox, former Wimbledon and U.S. titleholders. Lutz was this year's national junior champ.
Both boys lost early at Forest Hills, but Lutz was impressive even in his first-round defeat. His original opponent was scratched at the last moment and replaced by Ronnie Barnes, a top international player from Brazil. Plagued by an erratic serve, Lutz still forced Barnes to four tough sets.
Jim Osborne, 20, of Honolulu and the University of Utah, has beaten Ashe indoors and in the NCAA tourney was even with Arthur, a set apiece, when a collapsed lung forced him to default. Jim teamed with Jerry Cromwell of Long Beach, Calif. and USC to reach the doubles finals at Newport, R.I. against Emerson and Stolle. They won the first set but could not hold on.
Cromwell, 21, whose serve is almost as fast as his tongue, is the most entertaining to watch of these relative unknowns. In a sport where the spectators tiptoe to their seats and would not dream of cracking their knuckles, he breaks the mortuary silence with loud, sarcastic criticisms of himself. If he learns to let his serve do his talking for him and keeps up his A grades in economics, he may become a Rhodes scholar.
At Forest Hills, Cromwell played three tough matches in three days, winning in five sets in the first round and four sets in the second before losing to Antonio Palafox in the third. Cromwell's biggest victory of the summer was a 9-7, 6-4 upset over Emerson at Southampton.
With all this raw talent simmering on the fire, and with Ashe and Pasarell beginning to play rough with some of the big boys, U.S. tennis fortunes appear to be on the upswing. Who knows—one of these years we may even win our own championship.
The tournament was not a complete washout for the Australians. In the women's division, Margaret Smith, the Wimbledon champion, beat Billie Jean Moffitt in the finals to win the championship for the second time. A simple rundown of scores in her first five matches shows how clearly Miss Smith dominated the field: 6-1, 6-0; 6-0, 6-3; 6-0, 6-0; 6-1, 6-0; and 6-2, 6-2, the last against Nancy Richey, the top-ranked woman in the U.S. Only in the final against Miss Moffitt, who had upset an ailing Maria Bueno in the semifinals, did she meet any real opposition. After winning the first set 8-6, Margaret fell behind in the second 4-5. Billie Jean, serving, led 40-15, giving her a double set point. But that was as far as Margaret permitted her to go. Miss Smith ran off four straight points, held serve and broke Miss Moffitt's again to win.