The 1953 Davis Cup Challenge Round: Australia 3, United States 2

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by newmark401, Jun 13, 2014.

  1. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

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    Introduction

    The Challenge Round of the Davis Cup in 1953 pitted the holders, Australia, against the United States for the eighth consecutive year since the competition had resumed in 1946 after the end of World War Two. The tie was held from December 28-31, at the Kooyong Stadium in Melbourne, an extra day being needed due to rainy weather.

    The United States was represented by 23-year-old Tony Trabert, who had recently won the men’s singles event at his native US Championships by defeating his teammate, 30-year-old Vic Seixas, in the final. The American captain was the former player Bill Talbert.

    Australia were represented by 19-year-old Lew Hoad, a promising if unpredictable talent who during the 1953 lawn tennis season had won the men’s doubles title at the Australian, French and Wimbledon Championships with his teammate, Ken Rosewall. The latter was also just 19 years of age and, in addition to his doubles successes, had also won the men’s singles title at the Australian and French Championships in 1953. The other members of the Australian Davis Cup team were Rex Hartwig and Mervyn Rose. The redoubtable, canny Harry Hopman, himself a former player, was the Australian team captain.

    As the following account of the Challenge Round match of 1953 shows, in those days a Davis Cup tie was literally capable of bringing a whole country, indeed a whole continent, to a standstill. The prestige of the competition was such that its status rivalled, if it did not surpass, that of major tournaments such as Wimbledon and the US Championships, all of this in an era when the rewards in the amateur game were almost anything but financial.

    The account below is taken from the book ‘The Lew Hoad Story’, by Lew Hoad (as told to Jack Pollard), first published in 1958. Although slightly biased in favour of the Australians, it is a generally accurate and fair account of the events of one of the great Davis Cup ties.
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  2. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

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    The 1953 Davis Cup Challenge Round

    From “The Lew Hoad Story” (1958)

    Part I of V

    “I was not downhearted by the results of my 1953 tour because I knew my game had improved from my setbacks. I retained my urgent keenness to do well, and I had a wonderful season through the Australian summer of 1953-54, when the work I had put into my ground shots paid off and I at last showed strokes to go with my service and volley and smash.

    “The sequence of wins began at Milton Courts in Brisbane, a layout which I have always liked. Early in November [1953] I beat Rex Hartwig, now established as a top-liner, in the final of the Queensland Championship. Hartwig had his usual brilliant patches when I was fortunate to get a look at the ball, but I kept going, and he collapsed completely toward the end, annoyed because a couple of really good shots landed inches outside. From then on, he acted as if Fate had been so unkind to him that the game wasn’t worth playing.

    “Hartwig is one of the most remarkable players in the history of lawn tennis, and I imagine it’s safe to say that there will never be another like him. He has patches of eight or nine games in which his tennis is so breathtakingly brilliant, nobody in the world, amateur or professional, can hope to cope with him. I have seen him overwhelm such fine players as Ken Rosewall by hitting a perfect shot every time for forty minutes or more and abruptly fold up because one of his devastating strokes had given out. As an amateur he did not win a major national singles title, yet he won the Wimbledon doubles championship partnered with his close friend, Mervyn Rose.

    “The American Davis Cup team arrived a few days before the New South Wales Championships at White City. Tony Trabert, who had won the American singles title from Vic Seixas, was seeded in my half of the draw; Seixas, in Rosewall’s half. This was a lucky break which continued through this season. The outcome of that summer’s Australian tournaments may have been different if the seedings had varied.

    “I defeated Ashley Cooper, then a rising junior; and George Worthington, just back from his sojourn in New Zealand. I played four sets against Trabert in the semi-finals before I won. In the final I beat Rosewall in four sets, and this started a long run of successes against him all around the world so that I won something like fifteen matches in a row.

    “America’s astute captain, Billy Talbert, worked painstakingly on his team as we moved south for the Victorian titles at Kooyong in Melbourne. Trabert had done splendidly to win the American Championship in his first attempt after leaving the Navy, but he lost to Hartwig and another of those typically unpredictable, brilliant displays. Seixas went down to Worthington, and afterward the Americans announced that their Australian mission was to win the Davis Cup and that they did not care about the State championships.

    “This aroused a lot of resentment among Australian tennis fans, who stressed that Australian players had added colour to the leading American domestic events and had always tried notably hard. Each country needs the other’s best players.

    “I had had trouble with my racket arm since I arrived back from America earlier that summer. After I beat Rosewall again to win the Victorian title, Harry Hopman decided it would be wise to rest the arm. Doctors diagnosed the problem as muscle weariness on the inside of my right elbow and recommended ten days away from tennis. I worked out daily in Frank Finlay’s gymnasium to remain fit and ran for miles in the park. Heat treatment cured my arm and enabled me to train unhampered for the next crucial event in my career, the Davis Cup Challenge Round.

    “I had started taking Jenny Staley out regularly from the time the Victorian team arrived to compete in the New South Wales Championships, and she went with me to watch the Davis Cup draw. She was the most attractive of all the women players and the only girl who ever interested me. Once, when she took me to her home, I drank my first beer and became unusually talkative.

    “The public showed its ardent support for Davis Cup tennis by showing up in thousands for the draw, the first in Australia to which they had been admitted. The players’ names went into the bowl of the Cup Dwight Davis had donated so many years before – Rosewall and I for Australia, Seixas and Trabert for America.

    “There was the customary hush as the Governor of Victoria, Sir Dallas Brookes, dipped his hand down and brought out my name. The American ambassador then reached into the bowl. I suppose I was the only person at Kooyong that afternoon who did not feel excited as he read out the name on the other piece of paper. I was completely indifferent to whomever I met because I knew I was playing so well at the time that I would have a great winning chance against either Seixas or Trabert. If I didn’t win – well, that would be that, and I would not worry about it.

    “My opponent – Vic Seixas.

    “I didn’t know it at the time, but apparently Hopman told George Worthington to make sure he did not beat me in our last strenuous Cup rehearsal. Hopman did not want me to go on the court with my confidence affected by a beating from Worthington. He instructed Worthington that, if he struck a brilliant patch, he was to reduce his pressure on me. It wasn’t necessary.

    “We went out on the Kooyong courts in front of 17,000 people, then a record for a tennis match in Australia; and Seixas and I tossed for ends and first service. Rosewall had drawn Trabert, and while I played my match, he watched, looking through the window of the players’ room.

    “I was lucky in having Seixas, whom I had never beaten, serve to me in the first game. I was inclined to be erratic and tentative at the start of my matches, and if I served first and hit a few wild shots, it gave my opponent a service break right at the beginning. This time I hit several really good strokes, a volley, and a forehand passing shot, and generally mixed my play to take the first game. It was this break which gave me the first set, 6-4; games had gone with service from then until the end of the set.

    “I have never been able to serve at my best when I am too tense myself and calling on myself for a good one. I have to relax, to treat it as just another shot as I throw the ball into the air with that well drilled toss-up you achieve after years of tennis. Since I was perfectly relaxed in the second set, my service worked like a charm. Seixas was not at his peak, and I broke his service in the first and fifth game to take the set, 6-2.

    “The hushed, expectant audience came to watch good tennis as well as victory for Australia, and they cheered loudly when Seixas raised his standard in the third set and held on to 3-all. I remembered all my earlier defeats by him, and I wondered if he was now going to suddenly cut loose He fell down trying to reach a passing shot in the seventh game, and, as he got up, he showed by looks and manner that he blamed the court.

    “The Americans did not consider Kooyong a good court and had preferred to practice for the Cup matches at another layout. Now Seixas glared at the grass beneath him and indicated that he could have reached the ball but for this cow paddock. Frankly, I did not think he had a hope of getting to my shot but the fall appeared to unsettle him, and I broke his service by taking the game to lead 4-3.

    “I held my own service by smacking down a few good ones and went to a 5-3 lead. As I went around the corner post in front of referee Cliff Sproule, Harry Hopman whispered to me to go for everything in the next game. ‘Hit for the lines and put the pressure on him to make good shots,’ Hopman said. ‘If you do that you won’t have to run around, and you’ll leave yourself untired for the next game and your own service.’

    “I followed Hopman’s instructions and broke Seixas’ service to win the match in just under an hour, 6-4, 6-2, 6-3. Only one game had gone to deuce, and I had broken Seixas’ serve five times and not lost my own. Seixas had contributed to his defeat with backhand errors and his contention – which the Australian team thought was mistaken – that the court was in bad condition. The court looked bad, but it played splendidly.

    “This was one of my finest performances, and I was particularly pleased that despite all the nerve-testing atmosphere of the Challenge Round in front of such a vast crowd, I had been able to relax and play my normal game. I was nineteen years old, and I am sure my introduction to the Challenge Round set-up the previous year in Adelaide helped me avoid the jitters.

    “I shook hands with Seixas, and, though I was delighted to have won, I was a little sorry for him as we came off the court with the crowd cheering me. He was such a wonderful athlete and fighter it seemed a pity he had not been able to put up a harder fight.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2014
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  3. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

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    Part II of V

    “I lay on the massage table and listened to the radio description of the early part of Rosewall’s match with Tony Trabert, and from the commentary I could tell Rosewall was highly nervous. I dressed and went out to see the end of it, and it was just as I had thought: Rosewall could hardly hit the ball over the net because of a bad bout of nerves. He missed it completely when it seemed to be within his reach and hit shots wide of the lines and high over the baseline into the backdrop. Trabert won, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4, to square the tie at match-all.

    “The players knew little about it at the time, but Rosewall’s unlucky Davis Cup debut persuaded the Australian selectors, Sir Norman Brookes, T.E. Robinson, Don Ferguson, Esca Stephens, and Cliff Sproule, to omit him from the next day’s doubles against Seixas and Trabert. They must have been influenced, too, by a doubles match they had watch Rex Hartwig and me play against Frank Sedgman and Ken McGregor a few days earlier at practice. We had teamed well together, rarely made a mistake, and in a short match had defeated Sedgman and McGregor easily.

    “It gave me special pleasure to read Adrian Quist’s account of my win over Seixas, for the players respect Quist’s experience and judgement. ‘Of all the players I have seen go out on to the court for the first time in a Davis Cup Challenge Round, Lewis Hoad put up the greatest performance,’ Quist wrote, and I thought of the time he had dandled me on his knee.

    “Rosewall and I were separated after playing together since we were twelve-year-olds. We had been winning tournaments all around the world for the past two years. It was one of those hunches which brings selectors praise as geniuses if it works and uninhibited condemnation if it fails. All the players were philosophic because we knew there was nothing we could do about it.

    “I went out with Hartwig, and we knew that if we could just manage to take a set, we would be in the match with a winning chance. But we did not play as a team from the first game. I hit a few good shots and Hartwig a few bad ones; and when I lapsed, he found touch. We couldn’t get going at the same time, and although I considered that Hartwig played fighting, all-round tennis, I did not play consistently. Hartwig’s effort in gaining Cup selection after such a tough battle for recognition was admirable, and he was unfortunate to be pitched into such an ‘explosive’ deal for his first Cup appearance.

    “Seixas and Trabert used the system of baseball signals they had worked out with Bill Talbert and perfected around the world. Talbert told me later that he had evolved this signal system when he partnered Gardnar Mulloy and they were coached by the well-known American tutor, Mercer Beasley. ‘The idea of the system is to unsettle the thinking of your opponents on every service, including the second,’ he said. ‘The man at the net indicates to the server by the signal – which this time was one finger extended along the racket handle – if he intends to cross over to the server’s side of the court. This possibility of the net man poaching on the return of service creates a psychological barrier in your opponents.’

    “Candidly, I have my doubts about the good sportsmanship of a technique in which the player at the net turns and signals with his back to the opposition, although there was no doubt as to the Americans’ superiority on that day. They won, 6-2, 6-4, 6-4, in the third match of the tie to last an hour.

    “Talbert was obviously elated over the dramatic switch in the doubles line-up. ‘We were very pleasantly surprised at the Australian selectors’ decision to split their two established doubles pairs, both of which are among the finest tennis has produced,’ Talbert said. ‘My boys reacted joyously to the change, and their confidence was greatly boosted. My pair would have had much more difficulty with Hoad-Rosewall or Hartwig-Mervyn Rose. It is most unusual for two players to pair together for the first time in an event of such importance, because it is vital to have coordination and understanding in a Challenge Round pair, and this can be born only form experience. Seixas deserves particular credit for the way he came back from his sweeping defeat by Hoad the previous day to dominate the court today. I am certain he will give Rosewall trouble in the second singles.’

    “While Hartwig and I changed to leave Kooyong, Sir Norman Brookes called his selection committee together to explain to the press their reasons for changing the pairings. Acting as spokesman, Sir Norman said, ‘In the past fortnight, the selectors have given the question of doubles pairings the most serious attention, and they decided Hoad and Hartwig were the most likely to win.’

    “Sir Norman said the selectors had considered the doubles the crucial match of the Challenge Round and because of this had tried out several pairs. He was asked if the decision to pair me with Hartwig was unanimous, and he said, ‘I’m not prepared to answer that. It is not a fair question. Hopman was consulted and gave his views, which were carefully considered. I am not prepared to divulge what he said. If we were wrong, that is just too bad. My view is that the United States pair would have beaten anyone.’

    “The post mortems continued for the rest of the day until the following morning, and all we players could do was sit tight and wait for the trouble to pass. I left my hotel that morning for the third singles matches knowing I had to win to keep my country in the reckoning, and come what may, I just had to beat Tony Trabert, the American number one.

    “Everyone was relieved to put behind them the fuss of the doubles selection when Tony and I went out with our favourite rackets and began to warm up. I figured that if I played as well as I had in the past few days, I could keep Trabert at full stretch despite his superior experience.

    “My father and mother were among the crowd of 17,000, and Jenny Staley, who had acted as an usherette with the other Victorian teenage girl players, was sitting on the stairs. It was a miserable, overcast day as we tossed for ends and service. The umpire indicated that the linesmen and the ball boys were ready. He announced our names. I breathed in deeply and flipped the brand new ball up to serve.

    “As we moved around the net at the change of ends, Trabert accused me of serving before he was ready. ‘You’re quick serving me,’ he said. I told Harry Hopman, seated on his chair by the umpire’s stand, and he said not to worry about it. ‘He’s just trying to unsettle you,’ Hopman said.

    “We both played better than we had ever done before, and almost every shot brought fresh excitement for the 17,000 spectators. From the time Trabert questioned my serving manner there was a little ‘needle’ in the match; yet the standard of play remained astonishingly high. We went serve-for-serve until 5-all, and I won my service for 6-5. In the twelfth game I missed a golden chance. With Trabert serving and the score 0-30, I became tentative and started to play safe and chip the ball instead of going for my shots.

    “The electric scoreboard flashed up the games, 6-all, 7-all and on to 11-all. There were few errors on either side of the net, and when a point was won, it was usually with a winner. Though I was not surprised the next day when I read a piece by one-time Wimbledon champion, Jack Crawford, saying the match was the best tennis he had ever seen, I was very satisfied over such a comment.

    “I won my service to lead 12-11, and on Trabert’s service the score went to 15-30. He was about to serve in the next point when I moved at the last moment, sensing which side he was going to serve into and knowing I could club it back for a winner. Trabert, whose first service had been a fault, took his eye off the ball he had tossed up to watch me, and he hit the second service into the top of the net to give me game point.

    “A thin drizzle of rain was falling from the sky, but the gallery did not seem to be aware of it as Trabert served again and I chipped a backhand, forcing him to volley up. He anticipated that I intended to hit it down his backhand wing and started to sway that way, and instinctively I realized he had moved, checked my shot, and knocked the ball down the opposite end to take the set, 13-11, in sixty-five minutes – longer than the previous three matches in the tie.
     
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2014
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  4. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

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    Part III of V

    “I was about to serve at the start of the second set when a street car went by on the road outside the court. A passenger asked the conductor for the score. Looking out across at the scoreboard the conductor said, ‘Hoad won the first set!’ There was a raucous cheer from every person in the bus, and the noise of it floated over to the court. The hushed crowd broke into laughter, and I looked about me, upset by the interruption, the only person in the stadium not laughing. We had to wait until the street car drove off until we resumed.

    “Cliff Sproule, the official referee, turned down Trabert’s request to wear spikes towards the end of the first set. I was not concerned about wearing spikes, because I was much lighter-footed than Trabert, whose heavy, over-muscled legs made him seem ponderous.

    “In the second set I forced Trabert into mistakes and broke his serve in the fourth game to lead 3-1. Apparently acting on Bill Talbert’s instructions, he hustled me from the first shot in this set, charging in to the net on every ball, trying to upset my timing and rhythm. I played so well I was able to stand back and slam the ball past him as he moved in, and after a few games in which he hardly won a point, he stopped the hustling tactics.

    “At 4-1, Sproule recognized Trabert’s third request to wear spikes, and his mobility improved once he had them on. There was a continuous sprinkle of rain as we went to 5-3 on my service. I made two bad shots and found myself down 15-40, but then I aced him twice, semi-aced him and aced him again to win the game for the set, 6-3. Later, Tony told me that this was a vital point of the match and that he believed the outcome might have been different if I had not pulled out these big serves. During the match I served thirteen aces, nine of them with game points against me.

    “Hopman had hardly said a word to me until this stage; I played such errorless, hard-hitting stuff that there was no need for advice. He just sat and listened to the applause that echoed round the court for my serving in the ninth game of the second set.

    “Trabert served first in the third set, and, at 2-1 in my serve, I twice fell heavily going for wide shots. I got up fast enough, but I lost the game, the first in the entire Challenge Round in which I had not held my service. The court was sodden and the balls were swelling a little through the rain, and at 4-1 to Trabert I changed to spikes. I felt very uneasy. I had done a lot of sprinting in spikes to sharpen my speed in training, but I had not played a single set in them, either at practice or in a match.

    “Trabert, much more at home in spikes, broke my service for the second time to take the set, 6-2. We went into the dressing room to change our drenched clothes. Over a cup of tea I told Hopman I was unhappy about the spikes. As I tried to slide into my shots, the spikes dug in and either pulled me up short of the ball or tipped me off balance. Hopman told me not to worry about it, and said, ‘It’ll come to you; just keep going.’ I hoped he was right.

    “Trabert raised his play to a wonderful standard in the fourth set. There was only one service break, and this cost me the set. Trabert adopted a policy of moving into the net behind low, sliced returns without any pace on them; and, seeking to pass him, I fell into error on the slippery surface. The wet court also slowed down my service and enabled Trabert to make good returns. He broke my service in the fourth game to lead 3-1. Games went with service, but Trabert played errorless tennis, and I failed to get the break back I needed. Trabert won the set, 6-3, to level the score at two sets-all.

    “We were not aware of it down there on the rain-soaked Kooyong Centre Court, but Australia had stopped work to listen to broadcast descriptions of the match. You could have fired guns down the main streets of any town in the nation without hitting anybody.

    “Before we started the fifth set, Hopman said, ‘Now you must go for your shots and win these first few games and force him to make really outstanding shots to get points.’ Cliff Sproule inspected the condition of the court, which by this time was badly cut from our spikes. Each time we changed ends our captains had to clean the mud from our shoes.

    “I served first and won the game. In the second game I forgot I was wearing spikes and tried to slide into a shot. The spikes dug in, tipped me over and I went down into the turf. I was worried and puzzled because the match had swung away from me since I had donned the spikes, and I lay there on the grass for a moment like a football player who had been heavily tackled. Hopman came over, threw a towel in my face and said something like this, ‘You big clumsy-footed oaf.’ It was such a ridiculous thing for him to have done at such a tense moment in the match, I burst out laughing and the crowd laughed too, along with Trabert and Talbert and referee Cliff Sproule.

    “Hopman must have thought I looked too tense and calculated this would relax me. He was right. It may have looked like a joke to the crowd, but it was a thoughtful piece of work. I got up feeling a little more sure of myself after having had a good laugh, although Trabert won that game.

    “Trabert played some fantastic shots, and through the early games of this set always held his service with greater ease than I did. After one change of ends, Hopman said, ‘Try and make him lunge at it; that way it will take a lot out of him to get the ball back.’ I started to chip the ball down at this toes or a little to one side of him.

    “Yet he kept hitting amazing shots. One I will always remember came during the ninth game with the score at 4-all. I hit a smash with tremendous power, and Tony took it on the full and played it back for a winner. I looked at my racket and saw I had broken a string making the smash. I had played with this racket all through practice and the other Challenge Round matches, and it was my favourite. I felt as if the world had ended for me now that I was compelled to change it. I went over to where my spare rackets were and felt the balance of a few. But none of them seemed as good to me as my special bat. However, breaking that string decided the match.

    “I resumed, and immediately after I had hit a shot with my new racket, I felt how much more zing I got on the ball. The strings on the racket I had discarded must have been sodden for many games, and with the balls wet and swollen, I had not been able to get any power into my shots. Now I suddenly felt as if I was at the beginning of a match on a fine and sunny day. I tried not to show my discovery. Out there at the end of my racket arm, the ball, making contact, sped away like magic.

    “At about this stage my father, who had sat nervous and overwrought among the wildly applauding, tense, emotional crowd, had to leave because of urgent business that could no longer be postponed. Somehow my mother lasted through the match, although I had not been aware of her from the moment I came out on the court at the start and waved to her in the stand.

    “In the first game I played with my new racket I won my service easily and hit two good shots. This lifted my assurance so high I thought, ‘Well, since I lead 5-4, this is where I take this here match.’ However, in the tenth game, Trabert, down 15-30 on his own service, won three successive points, two with unbelievable strokes. At 30-all, he served down my forehand side, and I drove back down the sideline. He dove out and got it back, and I hit a backhand volley down the other side. Trabert ran across and hit a top-spin lob, the most difficult shot he could have hit for a winner. 40-30. On the next shot I hammered a perfectly timed cross-court volley away from him; and he lunged and hit a drop-volley which just cleared the net and splashed on the grass for another amazing winner, which made it 5-all.
     
    Last edited: Jun 22, 2014
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  5. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

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    Part IV of V

    “Despite the rain, the muddy court, Trabert’s remarkable shot-making, and the emotion which I could feel in the crowd, I won my service to thirty to lead 6-5, acing him on the last point. Later I learned that all over Australia taxi drivers were refusing fares so that they could listen to the match description as Trabert took new balls to serve.

    “I won the first point. Then I played a backhand cross-court which Trabert volleyed up the line. I hit a forehand top-spinner cross court just over the net. Trabert volleyed it up and I decided not to volley it, stepped back, and slammed it back at him. He lunged again but hit the ball out. 0-30. Trabert’s next service was a fault, though Tony thought this was a bad call. Trabert’s displeasure was clear to all, but newsreels later proved the call correct by showing that the ball had landed six to eight inches out.

    “He wound up for his second service and as he did, I moved and he took his eye off the ball again. His service came down at me and I hit it for what the crowd, highly strung and edgy, many shaking with excitement, believed was a winner. The spectators did not hear a linesman call fault again and did not realize Trabert had double-faulted. They continued cheering what they believed was a winner for me. Trabert thought they were cheering his double fault, and he hitched up his pants, turned on the crowd in disgust, and glared around the stands. 0-40 and match point. Trabert looked tired. Hopman’s idea of chipping the ball and forcing him to lunge had worked.

    “Trabert gathered himself in to serve, but the cheering was so continuous and noisy that the umpire called through his loudspeaker, ‘Please, ladies and gentlemen. Quiet, please.’ A voice in the audience shouted back, ‘Wake up, man, the Davis Cup’s at stake!’ They quieted down, and I could feel the silence. It was like a pulse.

    “His first service was right, and instead of hitting it hard as Trabert seemed to expect, I took it very early and chipped it across his body, skipping like a schoolgirl at hopscotch. I didn’t think it would clear the net and the jump was to help it over. Although Tony sprawled in a desperate effort to half-volley it back, I knew when the ball squelched on the wet grass he couldn’t make it. I was moving in to shake hands before the ball bounced twice. I thought it was a clear winner, but Tony says he hit it back into the net. I had won, taking the last game to love to win, 13-11, 6-3, 2-6, 3-6, 7-5. We had won thirty-one games each.

    “The crowded stands, diplomats, society, big shots, famous soldiers and politicians among them, went berserk. From the tops of the steep, towering tubular stands, where many people had been so far away they could not judge the pace of the ball, down into the front row, people drenched but unconcerned by the rain stood and cheered themselves hoarse and shouted bravos. They threw hats and newspapers into the air and clapped until their hands were sore. We had been playing five minutes short of three hours, but I think both of us were so stimulated by the excitement it drugged away our fatigue.

    “I stood in the centre of the court and gave the ‘V’ sign, and then when the umpire announced the scores, people bellowed, ‘Let’s hear them again.’ Cushions landed like confetti on the court. I walked in a haze to my chair, where Hopman put my jacket on me and lifted my numb legs to scrub my spikes. When I looked around at Trabert he was crying. I looked at him incredulously as Bill Talbert came to me and said, ‘Great match, Lew. Congratulations!’ You had to be sorry for Trabert, who, to his eternal credit, had come back so well after losing two sets. My father had missed the end of it, and my mother cried for joy. Everywhere in the stands people were trembling. Jenny’s mother scarcely made it down the stairs, she was shaking so much.

    “Dripping from perspiration and raindrops, I walked alongside Hopman off the court in my spikes. As we disappeared into the dressing-room, a man in the gallery yelled at the Prime Minister, Mr Robert Menzies, who had seen every shot of the match, ‘Give him a knighthood, Bob – Don Bradman didn’t ever do anything like that!’ I lay naked on the rubbing table, and while the masseur worked on me, Mr Menzies walked in beaming like a stage comedian and congratulated me.

    “I read later that in Sydney two wharf labourers were sacked for stopping work loading a ship to listen to the match, and that throughout the nation, in offices and boardrooms, in parked taxis and in the sickrooms of hospitals, there were great roars of relief after the match.

    “As we finished the last game, the rain had become heavier, and the referee and the two captains agreed that the deciding match between Ken Rosewall and Vic Seixas should be postponed until the next day, a decision which might easily have put intense strain on Rosewall, especially after his nervousness of the first day. Another game in my match with Trabert, and rain would probably have halted play.

    “The crowd was rain-soaked but happy, and many of the spectators sat in the rain out in the stands waiting for play to begin between Rosewall and Seixas. Outside the door of the Australian dressing-room a policeman stood ready to keep milling people away from me. Every time one of them tried to break through to see me, the cop bustled them aside.

    “I went back in an elated coma to the Hotel Australia, drank a few beers, and changed into my dinner suit for the dinner given by the Governor, Sir Dallas Brookes. As I went into the hotel, an army lieutenant came up to me and said, ‘Excuse me, Mr Hoad, but, err... I have orders here from the Department of the Navy for you to report in Sydney on January 2 for your National Service.’ He was apologetic, almost reluctant to do his job.

    “To give you some idea of the importance tennis has for a young Australian, I said, ‘But I can’t go into the army on that date! I’ve been committed to play in South Australia at that time. I just can’t do it!’ And to give you some idea of how important tennis is everywhere in Australia, the officer replied, ‘Then I will arrange for you go into the second intake, the rear party.’

    “At the Governor’s dinner, Sir Norman Brookes, a beaming smile wrinkling his face, congratulated me. He looked particularly pleased after all the fuss about the doubles selection, and he must have felt it was unfair for him to have taken the rap for the entire selection committee when he was merely its spokesman.

    “Ken Rosewall went to the Governor’s dinner, and while the other guests ate heartily and drank whatever they desired, he had to take care. At the end of the dinner, he went back to bed at the hotel, and I escorted Jenny and Judy Miller, the girl Rosewall had intended to partner. After dancing until four a.m., Jenny and I took Judy to her home a few miles out of Melbourne. We went to Jenny’s parents’ home at Hawthorn. As daybreak came Jenny’s father awoke and congratulated me, and I left.
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2014
    #5
  6. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

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    Part V of V

    “Still in my dinner suit, tired and numb, I began the long walk back to Melbourne through the empty streets with a curious, tingling happiness. After three miles, I looked up as a car appeared and the driver pulled up.

    “‘Get in,’ he said, boggling a bit at the dinner suit. I climbed in gratefully and he said, ‘Where you been, mate?’ ‘To a ball.’ ‘Geez, it must have been some ball.’ He dropped me off a few streets from our hotel, and I walked through the streets alone, whistling unconsciously to myself. A newspaper truck veered into the footpath and the driver tossed me a pile of papers. ‘Here, Lew, read about yourself,’ he called, and I waved thanks to him and picked up the papers.

    “I dawdled up to my room, picked up some more papers from under the door, and climbed into bed, almost reluctant to go to sleep and end my day. It was then that I read how Trabert had wept the previous night during a radio interview with Ted Schroeder. Trabert had said, ‘I couldn’t understand why the crowd applauded in the last set when I double-faulted. Right now I am disillusioned and very disappointed to know that you can go out there and play such a tough five-set match and double-fault and the crowd applauds it.’

    “Trying to comfort Trabert, Schroeder took the microphone from him and said, ‘I disagree with you, boy. I know these people, and I don’t think a thought like that would enter their heads. Tony, you are the most popular American to play here, and these people were pulling for you just as hard as they were for Hoad.’

    “Hopman and Talbert had told the newspapers it was the greatest tennis match they had ever seen, and I felt pretty content sitting up in bed reading this. I had only been there a little while when there was a knock on the door and Hopman came in. It was 8 a.m. ‘What time did you get in?’ said Harry, who always rises with the sparrows. ‘Don’t know exactly what time it was,’ I hedged. ‘I’ll bet you don’t,’ he said smiling. ‘But take a couple of hours’ sleep, and then I want you to go out and give Rosewall a warm-up. Give him the kicking serve like Seixas will, and help him sharpen up his returns. Just play your service points.’

    “He went out and I thought, ‘Gee, this is great!’ But I did not mind, and I was in a very mellow mood when I got up an hour or two later and went out and gave Rosewall a warm-up. He was not at all nervous, and I knew he would make a great fight of the match which would decide the Cup. Seixas would only have to let him settle, and Rosewall would win.

    “I watched the match through a window in the players’ rooms, and it turned out as I anticipated, with Rosewall hitting dozens of characteristic passing shots, many off his wonderful backhand, and outmanoeuvring Seixas for the first set, 6-2. Only another remarkable demonstration of Seixas’ competitive talents swayed the match back to even terms as Seixas took the second set, 6-2.

    “Australia stopped work again. From then on, however, there was little cause for alarm, and Rosewall breezed through to a four-set win, 6-2, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4. Australia had retained the Davis Cup, and the jubilation at Kooyong was a rare and wonderful thing. In America, headlines said, ‘Two Babies and a Fox Hold Davis Cup.’ Rosewall’s mother, who had flown from Sydney for this match, burst into tears as Ken hit the winning shot, but it was that kind of Challenge Round, nerve-straining, emotional, with tears at the end.

    “I received more than one thousand letters from Australian tennis fans as a result of beating Trabert, one of them from a nurse at a country hospital who movingly described how a little girl whose body was paralyzed was left alone to listen to a broadcast account of my match. The radio started to static and the volume faded, and the little girl was so worked up by the match that she got out of bed to adjust the knobs. It was the first time she had moved for many years, and it became an important event in her hopes for recovery I answered all the letters personally, but I took particular joy in replying to that one.”
    ------
     
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2014
    #6
  7. Phoenix1983

    Phoenix1983 Hall of Fame

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    Great read, thanks for that.

    From what I have heard about this encounter, it may have been the best match in Davis Cup history.

    All the participants, bar Hoad, are still alive by the way:

    Vic Seixas - aged 90
    Rex Hartwig - aged 84
    Tony Trabert - aged 83
    Ken Rosewall - aged 79
     
    #7
  8. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    From 1900 to 1968 DC was really so big and so special.

    Thanks for the nice reading.
     
    #8
  9. newmark401

    newmark401 Professional

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    Yes, the status of the Davis Cup has changed, especially since the Open Era began in 1968. Nowadays players tend to focus on their own ambitions, which usually means doing well at the majors. And, of course, there is so much money in the sport now that a financial reward of some sort has to be part of any prize.
    -----



     
    #9
  10. Dan L

    Dan L Professional

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    Interesting to read of Hoad's service call-up.

    This had serious consequences, as he developed while in service a personal exercise of

    push-ups with fifty-pound weights on his back, which caused his back injury

    and hampered his subsequent career.
     
    #10
  11. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    What is even more important:
    Davis Cup made tennis known to countries that could not have an important international tourney,be it pro or am
     
    #11
  12. Dan L

    Dan L Professional

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    Tennis as a sport in Australia has declined in status since the 1950's.

    I bought a Mercedes ML55 a few years ago from a former Australian junior contemporary of Hoad and Rosewall, and he used to practice with Evonne Goolagong in her prime years.

    But his main interest became sports cars and racing, which reflected the shift in Australian sports interest.
     
    #12
  13. Dan L

    Dan L Professional

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    Here are the two British Pathe clips of the 1953 (mislabelled 1954) Davis Cup final match between Hoad and Trabert, in excellent condition, looks good on fullscreen, with audience and official sound.

    This shows the first set and second set highlights, plus some from fifth set.

    Notice how Hoad leans over on his racquet after the end of the first set, and prolonged applause at 4:50 and following.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2b-XxVcDNOk

    Here are the last points of the match and handshakes with official.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2nxn5LYtBQ

    These two players also played the Kramer Cup (pro Davis Cup) fifth match decider in 1961, with Hoad winning 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-0, Hoad winning the last eight games.

    Trabert stated that "Trying to stop Lew in that final set was like fighting a machine gun with a rubber knife."
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2014
    #13
  14. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    How did Hoad fare at pros vs Trabert? I think they were pretty close friends, too.
     
    #14
  15. Dan L

    Dan L Professional

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    Hoad defeated Trabert at Roland Garros in 1958 and 1960, Trabert defeated Hoad at Forest Hills in 1957 and 1958.

    They remained close friends, and Hoad was expecting a visit from Trabert the day following his death.
     
    #15
  16. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    I just happened to read a book by one of Hoad and Trabert top pro mates and one of the chapters describes both as the funny, jester fellows on the pro tour.

    Curiously, it seemed to me that Hoad was better on grass and Trabert on clay but those results indicate otherwise.
     
    #16
  17. Dan L

    Dan L Professional

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    They were both great on both surfaces.

    Trabert won four RG titles in the fifties, and beat Hoad at Forest Hills twice, and Sedgman at FH in 1959 in a classic match.
     
    #17
  18. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    In the 80´s there was a lot of noise when an american player did something worthy at RG; people kept telling how TT had been the last US citizen to win the title there.
     
    #18
  19. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    Dan, I doubt that tennis declined as a sport in Australia in status in the 1950's. What about the 1960's when the Aussies won virtually all amateur and pro majors including Davis Cup?
     
    #19
  20. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    kiki, Hoad was better on grass than Trabert.
     
    #20
  21. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Trabert came from Ohio and had grown up on cement Courts. He was at his best on clay and hard Courts, with a compact and solid ground game with an excellent backhand. On the pro tour, on his first hth tour in 1956, he had to face Gonzalez mostly indoors, so he had a distinct disadvantage. On hard and clay it would have been certainly closer. He was one of the best clay courters of the 50s winning RG am and pro each twice. He once hammered Rosewall at RG pro 1, 2 and 2 or something similar.
     
    #21
  22. Dan L

    Dan L Professional

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    I think it declined during the 1960's sometime, and auto racing became the hot sport.

    I had a friend who played good tennis, and went to Melbourne for his postgrad work in physics about 1976, and he was disappointed that tennis was virtually a dead sport in Australia by that time.
     
    #22
  23. Dan L

    Dan L Professional

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    Trabert actually defeated Gonzales in a 1956 clay court tour of South America, 6 matches to 2.

    He also won the 1956 RG final against Gonzales in a five-set match.
     
    #23
  24. Dan L

    Dan L Professional

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    Some great footage of the final and deciding Rosewall/Seixas match for the 1953 Davis Cup (mislabelled 1954),

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fhInldMOMI0

    The footage in these links is MUCH clearer and better preserved than the usual sources, and gives a good feel for the matches.
     
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2014
    #24
  25. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    urban, Yes, Trabert demolished Rosewall, the holder, 6-2,6-0,6-2. Muscles got a little revenge when they met again at Vienna one month later when Rosewall in the Viennese "Stadthalle" (indoors but on clay!) beat Trabert 2:1 sets. It was part of the Euopean Grand Prix which was won by Sedgman narrowly against second placed Rosewall.
     
    #25
  26. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    Dan, Thanks for the link and the correction from 1954 to 1953.

    The film shows a pretty fast service from Rosewall at matchpoint. It shows to me that Rosewall could yet serve rather fast at times even though he improved his serve only after turning pro.
     
    #26
  27. Dan L

    Dan L Professional

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    I think that Rosewall improved his serve as a result of an extended two-month coaching session with Frank Sedgman in 1956, during the European clay season.

    In an interview immediately after the Wimbledon singles final, which I have on DVD, he expresses satisfaction with the improvement in his grass game.
     
    #27
  28. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    Dan, Thanks for the information.

    I always respected you as a man who knows very much about tennis history.
     
    #28
  29. Dan L

    Dan L Professional

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    I have learned much about tennis history results from you, Bobby.

    I marvel at your sources.
     
    #29
  30. Dan L

    Dan L Professional

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    What footage exists for the 1955 Davis Cup final at Forest Hills?

    It was watched by 10 million viewers, was the first national broadcast in color by NBC of anything, and the trophy was awarded by Vice President Richard Nixon.
     
    #30
  31. Dan L

    Dan L Professional

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    Here is excellent footage of this historic event on British Pathe, good on full-screen.

    http://www.britishpathe.com/video/davis-cup-2/query/Seixas
     
    #31
  32. Dan L

    Dan L Professional

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    #32
  33. Phoenix1983

    Phoenix1983 Hall of Fame

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    ^ Finally something that Dan Lobb and BobbyOne will agree on!
     
    #33
  34. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    Phoenix, Yes, Dan has sometimes good ideas and opinions.
     
    #34
  35. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Did the two Wonderkids ever meet Brom and The Doctor?
     
    #35
  36. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    kiki, I don't know. It's possible. I do know that Bromwich-Quist had a clear win over Rosewall-TALBERT in QFs of the 1954 Australian Championships.

    It's maybe of interest that Bromwich with "baby" Rosewall won a few doubles tournaments, their first one in 1949!
     
    #36
  37. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    wonderful post, thanks
     
    #37
  38. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    kiki, Did you know that old Bromwich at 36 reached SF of the 1954 Australian Championships? He beat Worthington in QFs and lost to Hartwig a touch match in the SFs.

    Brom had reached the Aussie final for the first time as early as 1937 (beat Crawford, lost to McGrath)...
     
    #38
  39. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    yeah.What a great player.To me, if somebody who lost a W F deserved to win it, it is him - and the Old Master, of course-.Nastase would be my other pick.
     
    #39
  40. Dan L

    Dan L Professional

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    Bromwich was runner-up to Hoad in the 1953 Australian Hardcourt (Clay) Championship.

    A great match, too.
     
    #40
  41. Phoenix1983

    Phoenix1983 Hall of Fame

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    In the Wimbledon book by John Barrett, it even says that Falkenburg was lucky to win the 1948 final against Bromwich.

    A bit harsh to write that in a book, I thought - but obviously shows how close Bromwich was to winning W ( he had match points in 1948 ) and also proves that he was considered superior to his opponent.

    Mind you, Falkenburg is now 88 and the 3rd oldest living male slam singles champ. He's gone into history, no matter the circumstances of his win.
     
    #41
  42. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Brom and the Doctor were the first truly great team in doubles history, as Bromwhich focused in doubles, but he was such a great player he still made it to a Wimbledon singles final and squandered a mp as you mention.
     
    #42
  43. BobbyOne

    BobbyOne Banned

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    kiki, Borotra/Brugnon, Borotra/Lacoste, Cochet/Brugnon were much earlier, also Allison/vanRyn, Lott/Stoefen...
     
    #43
  44. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Great teams, very specially the Frenchies.But I meant players who, at one point were focused on winning major doubles titles.
     
    #44
  45. Dan L

    Dan L Professional

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    The memories of 1953 may not be so sweet for Hartwig, but he teamed with

    Hoad again in the 1955 Davis Cup final to win the decider against Trabert

    and Seixas.
     
    #45
  46. Dan L

    Dan L Professional

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    There is substantial footage of the 1956 Davis Cup final online.
     
    #46
  47. hoodjem

    hoodjem G.O.A.T.

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    Dang!

    (Tennis was more important back then, I guess.)
     
    #47
  48. Dan L

    Dan L Professional

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    I did not provide a link, due to copyright warnings, but the quality of the films is very high, with an extended footage from Hoad vs. Flam and Rosewall vs. Seixas.
     
    Last edited: Jul 30, 2014
    #48
  49. Dan L

    Dan L Professional

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    Does anyone care about what's happening in the hospitals today, or just the glory?
     
    #49
  50. Dan L

    Dan L Professional

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    The importance of the Davis Cup at this time cannot be overstated.

    Hoad's wins at the final should be sufficient to give him the number one ranking in singles for that year.
     
    #50

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