Your article last week predicting victory for Australia in the 1954 Challenge Round for the Davis Cup leads me to one immediate conclusion. You are either the greatest swami in the world or you have been reading, with deep attention, Norman Vincent Peale's The Power of Positive Thinking.
You say that Australia will win with a greater margin than last year if your players' form holds true. I have been looking at the record and I can find no basis for such a statement. Of the four major championships in the world this past year—Wimbledon, the U.S., the Australian and French—your two singles representatives, Lew Hoad and Ken Rosewall, won none. Vic Seixas, on the other hand, won the U.S. and Tony Trabert took the French title. The only major title you hold, the Australian, was won by Mervyn Rose, and he will be warming the bench at Sydney when the Challenge Round is played.
STRONGER THAN LAST YEAR?
Analyzing the over-all situation as the Cup play opens, it's hard to see why you believe that Australia's position today is stronger even than last year. At that time Hoad had won three major singles titles in which Americans played. You had the two best doubles teams in the world. The U.S. was forced to struggle along with an unproved doubles combination. Our team was edgy and far from its best playing form, irked and irritated by minor incidents.
How does it look this year? To me it seems the shoe is on the other foot. Let's face it, Harry—the problems are back all right, but this time they're your problems.
The Australian press, for one thing, is firing broadsides again—but this time at the Australian camp instead of the American; and it's sparing nobody, firing at the players, at yourself as captain, and at the selectors.
You've got player problems too. Your biggest ones would seem to be Hoad's inconsistency and Hartwig's feeble resistance against Rosewall, which prompted the Melbourne Argus to call it "a laughing performance." Defeat definitely eliminated him as a singles contender.
Let's take a closer look at some of your statements and see how they stand up under the searching light of the record.
You say "Having two or three of the world's best doubles combinations on our side, the odds are Australia's way for that often vital match."
The record shows that Trabert and Seixas have defeated Hoad and Rosewall four matches to one this past year, and Rose and Hartwig have gone down before them three to one. This gives the American pair the claim to being the best in the world and certainly the masters of any combination Australia can field.
You bring up incidents of last year involving American players and say their reports of treatment by Australian galleries are greatly exaggerated.
I would like to call your attention to an article in the Melbourne Argus which says, "If Americans take the Davis Cup home with them from Sydney few Australians will complain as long as we see the same sportsmanship being displayed at home. The American Davis Cup team has given its Australian opposite a lesson in temperament right in our own backyard." And this didn't just happen by chance. Before we left America, I talked to the boys and we all decided that last year's unpleasantries were an object lesson, and that we would work to prevent a recurrence this time.
By contrast, Hoad's petulant, indifferent attitude in his match with Vic Seixas brought from the Australian press the comment: "The most shocking exhibition of court manners since Art Larsen played here four years ago." Also, his play was called "woeful," and Hartwig's performance was described as "shocking."
You say, "Hoad again will defeat both Trabert and Seixas."
If you know this to be true you could ease the minds of five selectors who are fidgeting in red plush seats and gnawing their nails over Hoad's colossal reversal of his form of last year. You say, "Rosewall will beat Seixas and at the same time I certainly don't concede the Rosewall-Trabert encounter." Well, I certainly don't concede the Seixas-Rosewall match either. Vic came within a hairsbreadth of winning the fourth set match with Rosewall in the Victoria championship. He knows the answer for beating Rosewall and is working hard to achieve it. Seixas was a long time winning at Wimbledon and Forest Hills and his next match with Rosewall may give him the third crown in a cycle of lessons learned the hard way.
NO WILLIE MAYS
You say, "With luck, Australia could sweep all five challenge round matches." On the record it would take a great deal of luck to produce such a sweep. Leo Durocher did it with the Giants against Cleveland in the World Series, but you don't have a Willie Mays or a Dusty Rhodes.
This has been a crazy tennis year with no individual or nation dominating the field. However, at the moment, the Americans seem to be in a comfortable position and from where I sit I think it will be a 3-2, 4-1, or 5-0 victory for Uncle Sam, as you predict it will be for the Aussies.
It all puts me in mind of the story about how Lew Hoad turned down Maureen Connolly's suggestion that he take up ballet to develop his agility. Hoad tried it, with two teammates and the help of some ballerinas, but his abrupt comment on the whole thing was: "I've had it."
Maybe you've had it too, Harry.
VIC SEIXAS, 31, became the U.S. singles champion this year on his 14th try. Named to the Davis Cup Australian expeditionary force for the fourth time, Vic can capitalize on foes' weaknesses, but has yet to play his best in Australia.
TONY TRABERT, 24, is former American champion and still the big gun of the U.S. Cup offensive. Off their 1954 record, he and Seixas constitute the strongest doubles team in amateur tennis. Trabert, too, is a team veteran.
HAM RICHARDSON, 21, enjoyed his best season in 1954. If he keeps this up he might break into the U.S. line-up in a singles berth.
LEW HOAD, top-seeded among foreigners at U.S. Nationals, disappointed Australia by losing to Ham Richardson. But on home turf, and with the Cup at stake, 20-year-old Hoad is usually inspired:
REX HARTWIG, 25, was a surprise finalist at Forest Hills, but then was defeated by Seixas in four sets. Able at doubles, too, Hartwig may be used anywhere in defense of tennis' greatest trophy.
KEN ROSEWALL, 20, is capable of brilliant tennis, both in tactics and execution. He won the deciding challenge-round match over Seixas last year after Hoad had squeaked by Trabert in a five-set thriller.