A couple of boys from Sydney were banging the ball around at Forest Hills last Sunday. It was a friendly game between nonseeds—"hackers" they call each other—and during the match the wife of one of them left to call the babysitter back at the hotel. She returned just in time to see her husband, Fred Stolle, crowned champion of Sydney, of non-seeds and of the United States.
Stolle has made a successful career of finishing second, but it was only natural that when he finally won a big one it would be the U.S. nationals. Lock up enough monkeys with typewriters and one of them will write Hamlet: unleash enough Australians with rackets at Forest Hills and one will win the tournament. Stolle's win over his Sydney neighbor, John Newcombe, was not, however, a particularly inspiring one. Both their powerful services were too dominant. During one stretch, service was held for 30 straight games and for 30 of 31 points. Newcombe weakened slightly, though, and Stolle's mastery of lob and overhead was enough for him to win 4-6, 12-10, 6-3, 6-4.
In women's play, Maria Bueno of Brazil won her fourth U.S. title, this time over Nancy Richey of San Angelo, Texas. Nancy's grudge match with the other top U.S. woman, Billie Jean King, never transpired, because Mrs. King was beaten by a young Australian, Kerry Melville. Nancy beat Miss Melville in the semis to give her a TKO over Mrs. King, but in any case neither of them was the best U.S. girl. That honor went to 17-year-old Rosemary Casals, who lost in the semis to Miss Bueno after taking her to three sets. Miss Casals, who is only 5 feet 2, looks like the best young prospect since Maureen Connolly.
In the men's division there were no bright new U.S. faces like Miss Casals, and no bright old ones either. It was the same old result, except that to break up the tedium the Australians every now and then get someone new to sing September Song. This year their domination—and the U.S. inadequacy—in the U.S. Nationals was more pronounced than usual. By the quarter-finals five Australians and only one American—Clark Graebner—were left, and Graebner was staggering with the flu. Stolle expeditiously eliminated him in straight sets, thus completing a neat rout of the U.S. Davis Cup team by its Australian counterpart. Previously Owen Davison had beaten Cliff Richey, Roy Emerson had beaten Marty Riessen, Newcombe had trounced Arthur Ashe and Stolle had dispensed with Dennis Ralston.
September 18, 1966
Yet another Aussie, Bill Bowrey, reached the quarters. He defeated last year's runner-up, Cliff Drysdale, and went out only after five sets against the defending champion and the world's top-ranked player, Manuel Santana. The only Australian disappointment was left-handed Tony Roche. He lost to Mark Cox, a blond, curly-haired Briton who recently graduated from Cambridge and is just beginning to fully concentrate on tennis.
But Newcombe rallied to take care of Cox in the quarters. Indeed, once he had dispatched Ashe, Newcombe became the Aussie in charge of conquering the world. Besides Cox, he also eliminated Wilhelm Bungert of Germany and then, in the semifinals, Santana of Spain.
Stolle's victory continued an impressive tradition of Australian clutch wins. In the millennium that the USLTA swearshas been only 11 years—since Tony Trabert won the nationals by beating Lew Hoad in the semis and Ken Rosewall in the finals—20 Aussies have reached the semifinals at Forest Hills, and not one of them has lost either his semifinal or final match except to another Australian. During the same period, 11 Americans have reached the semis, and only one of them—Frank Froehling in 1963—gained the finals, where he lost, of course.
The cold figures of U.S. frustration and Australian glory are overwhelming. Consider these simple statistics: 12.5% of all players who participate in the round of 16 (the fourth round) will qualify for the finals. But in this Dark Age of U.S. tennis hardly 1% of U.S. players who have made the "16s" have lasted to the finals. In short, we are 1 for 83. On the other hand, of the 38 Aussies who have made this round, 17 of them, 44.7%, have won their way to the finals.
The statistics of head-on combat are even more embarrassing. Counting all matches since 1956 in the fourth, quarter-final, semifinal and final rounds, U.S. and Australian players have met each other 49 times. The Australians have won 38 of these, for a devastating .775 win percentage, which is good enough in most years to win the American League, the National League, the Run for the Roses and Cook County, Illinois. Moreover, the later the round, the better the Australians. They are 12-3 over us in the quarters, 7-0 in the semis.
Despite these devastating statistics, the USLTA persists in overlooking most Australians, while seeding Americans on a first-star-I-see-tonight basis. This year Ashe, Graebner and Richey were seeded fifth, seventh and eighth, while Stolle, Newcombe and Davidson were all ignored. (In 1957, the last time a nonseed—Australian Mal Anderson—won, U.S. players were seeded 2, 4, 6, 7, 8.) But in proving once again that they cannot evaluate players any better than they can produce them, the USLTA succeeded in getting the Aussies hopped up for the event.
Both Stolle and Newcombe politely stopped gloating once they made the point that they should have been seeded. They are mature and personable athletes, who speak as well as they play. "Most Americans have the idea that all Australian players left school at about 14," Newcombe says. "But that's less and less the case. Right now seven of our top 10 players have graduated from high school. And our high school is different from yours. Our last year of high school is the equivalent of your first year in college." There is less emphasis on liberal arts in Australia than in the U.S. For instance, until he was selected for the Australian team after graduating from Sydney Church of England Grammar School, Newcombe had intended to go on to a "technical" college for a degree in accounting.
Newcombe is employed by Slazenger Sports Goods. He was married in February to Angelique Pfannenberg, a pretty German player who already speaks English with a down under accent. A six-foot 22-year-old, Newcombe seldom exhibits much emotion, and indeed, since his shirt almost invariably pulls out of his shorts after a few hard serves, he presents a sort of disheveled boy-next-door appearance. His serve can carry him, as it did against Santana in the semis. He hit 20 aces in that match and kept his opponent on the defensive, so that Manolo was never able to relax and confidently explore Newcombe with his cuts and chops. When he serves, Newcombe emits a quick, shrill whistle (unintended, he says), but it gradually deepens as a match progresses and eventually becomes a grunt.
Stolle's serve is better than Newcombe's—if with fewer sound effects. He uncoils to bomb it, for he carries his 6 feet 2 and 162 pounds on muscular but gimpy legs that are precariously balanced on dainty little size-9½ "sand shoes" ("sneakers" in the U.S.). "My little daughter Monique, poor thing, is 21 months now and already walks just like me," he says. "That bloody awful walk of mine. Luckily for her, though, she also looks like me." Actually, Pat Stolle, who has traveled all over the world with her husband and child, is a very striking brunette. Stolle, who will be 28 in three weeks, turned down a $60,000 pro offer last January mostly because it would have meant much more traveling and time away from his family. And not that much more money, either. Stolle works for Rothman's Cigarettes, and is glib with a plug. Financial aid from Rothman's aside, he attributes the Aussies' collective success at Forest Hills to: 1) the USLTA seeding committee and 2) The West Side Tennis Club's foresight this year in stocking plenty of Foster's Export Lager Beer, a favored Australian brand.
His victory was a popular one, for Stolle is as well-liked and as well-respected as any tour player. Also, despite the fact that he is ranked third in the world, he has had a history of playing Avis to Emerson's Hertz. His victory over Emerson in the semis—a merciless 6-4, 6-1, 6-1 slaughter—marked the first time Stolle ever defeated his favorite doubles partner in an important match.
Australian Cup Captain Harry Hopman has never had much faith in Stolle. He calls him "Fiery Fred" in derision, and in 1963 he ignored Stolle and picked Newcombe to play second singles and Neale Fraser the doubles with Emerson in the Davis Cup Challenge Round. It was one of the few mistakes Hopman has ever made, and it cost Australia the cup. For six months, anyway.
Even before Stolle and Newcombe were through divvying up the silverware on Sunday, the U.S. Davis Cuppers had fled from Forest Hills, off to the hinterlands to play a series of matches against the Aussie second-stringers. It is a discouraged group that Captain George MacCall must somehow rally and take to Brazil for the next Davis Cup battle this fall.
The situation was not at all helped by MacCall's decision to suspend Clark Graebner from the team for 30 days for using poor court manners in the national doubles in August. It is certainly MacCall's right to suspend a player if he sees fit, but he showed questionable judgment and taste in informing Graebner he was no longer on the team just as he was leaving the court after his crushing defeat by Stolle at Forest Hills on Friday. Monday morning, the day after the tournament, would have been kinder. Unfortunately, the announcement was made at a time when it received maximum attention.
With Graebner temporarily out, the cup team is down to five. The picture is not bright. Charlie Pasarell, who spent the summer going to school, has just returned and will need work. So does Ashe, who has not regained the form he had before he went to Army camp for six weeks. At Forest Hills, Richey again looked inadequate on grass (and the Challenge Round is played on grass), while Ralston again showed he cannot beat Stolle. Riessen had Emerson on the ropes in the fourth round hut let him get away—an old story. "I don't know what it is, but I know they're different," Riessen says. "What is it that's different about the Australians?"
No one has yet answered the question satisfactorily. Aside from the fact that they drink Foster's Export Lager Beer and win all the time, they seem like a pretty normal lot.