The first of the year's major tennis championships, the Australian national, has gone into the books and Americans can find both concern and comfort in the results.
The concern stems from the failure of Vic Seixas and Tony Trabert to reassert the mastery over the Australians which they exhibited in the Davis Cup Challenge Round a month before. The comfort comes from the splendid showing of our two teen-agers, Jerry Moss and Mike Green, who showed up Australia's highly touted juniors in their own backyard.
After we had won back the Davis Cup from the Australians at Sydney in December, the general reaction was: "Okay, so you've won the cup. Now what are you going to do to keep it?"
Moss and Green provided the answer to this one when they battled their way to an all-American final in the junior singles championship at Adelaide, Moss finally winning in a hard match, and then teamed to take the doubles for a clean sweep.
Thus we have begun to reap swift dividends from the Jack Kramer junior development program. Moss and Green are both "Kramer Kids," 18 and 17 years old, respectively. They both played well throughout their three months' stay in Australia, showed remarkable improvement and then came through in the final big test.
Obviously they aren't going to step in this year, or even next year, to help defend the cup, but they have shown their mettle and should be on their way.
Young Green beat Australia's No. 2 junior, Roy Emerson, at Melbourne and again at Adelaide. He also whipped England's highly rated John Barrett and took the measure of Australian Davis Cupper Rex Hartwig in an exhibition at Perth. Moss had a decision over Emerson too, but his advance to the Australian junior singles final was helped by a forfeit from Ashley Cooper, the Aussies' top junior, who sprained a ligament in his leg. In the junior finals, however, Moss beat Green 10-8, 6-2, to help balance the books. Green had taken him twice previously to win the No. 4 spot on the U.S. Davis Cup team.
Both boys have promise. Green has sound strokes and plenty of power for his age, but he must learn to move around faster. Moss, not much bigger than the handle of a man's racquet, must put on weight and must strengthen his service before he can be a strong international factor. He has a weak service but he should be able to learn from Australia's little Ken Rosewall, who makes up for his lack of an explosive service with depth and smart placement.
Rosewall, incidentally, established himself as the player to be reckoned with for the year's individual honors on the strength of his masterful sweep to the Australian men's championship. Can he win at Wimbledon and Forest Hills? That remains to be seen. But on his most recent showing—his straight-set victories over Trabert and Lewis Hoad in the Australian semifinals and finals—he looks like the "strong man" bet of the year.
A YEAR OF MUSICAL CHAIRS?
If there was one way I could describe the 1954 season it would be that its only consistency was in inconsistency. There was no one dominant figure, no player able to win more than one single major championship. The year 1955 may be the same. Rosewall, Hoad, Seixas and Trabert might well spend it playing a tennis version of musical chairs or "Who's got the button?" This could go down as the era of tennis mediocrity.
Now the Australian campaign is over. Before closing the chapters on it I would like to put in a few words about my erstwhile opponent, Harry Hopman, the Australian captain.
As soon as we had won the Davis Cup, the so-called "Hopman Hunt" began. There were many after the sandy-haired captain's scalp. I think he was pilloried undeservedly for Australia's Davis Cup defeat. Personally, I think he should be returned as captain, if he wants the job.
Hopman hung up a very fine record. He helped win back the trophy from the United States in 1939 and 1950 and he helped defend it successfully three years before finally suffering a defeat. He is ideally suited for the job. Tennis is his life and, as a writer, he is in a position to act as captain and team manager without interference with his work. Besides, Australia has not developed anybody else with Hopman's background and availability to fill the vacancy.
When Australia challenges for the cup this year I think we can expect to see "The Fox"—as they call him—on the sidelines again, and whoever is captain of our side will find it won't be easy to "outfox the fox."