The Westchester Country Club occupies 350 lush acres in the heart of the richest country in the world. Fancy limousines ring it like a necklace of precious jewels. Anything short of a Cadillac is out of character.
Last weekend staid, expensive Westchester got a new kind of kick—Davis Cup tennis with a Latin rhythm.
The Mexican players assembled a half hour before match time each day under a broad oak and sang folk songs while a pretty Mexican se√±orita attending Manhattanville College, Maria Angelica Garza, strummed on a guitar (see picture below).
At the opening ceremonies the Mexican national anthem was played once, then apparently again and then again. U.S. Lawn Tennis Association officials looked around nervously, wondering if the needle had stuck. Then finally the end came. "I don't think they knew when to stop," commented one of the Mexican delegation.
Ball boys created another contretemps. Sons of club members, with no previous ball-hawking experience, they failed to keep the balls at the back of the court on the side of the server. Once Umpire Lou Shaw called them over for a public dressing down.
Although this was an international event in an area with a population of millions, uncomfortable stands were built for only a few guests—400 at the most—which were never filled.
"A grammar school match in Australia would draw better," dourly commented Cliff Sproule, manager of the traveling Australian team.
The crowd was treated to flashy and interesting play—not the best in the world—while the Mexicans brought a lot of charm, as well as tennis, to the Zone final. They excited the crowd with their catlike retrieving, deft shot-making and exclamations.
"Déjala!" Contreras and Llamas yelled at each other during the doubles. This is Spanish for "Leave it alone."
Other times they'd urge each other on with a "Vamos" or "Let's go"; and Contreras would greet winning shots with "Bless the ball" in plain English.
We started well. In the first singles Vic Seixas, lean and tanned, a superb athlete for all his 32 years, turned back Llamas, the stocky, bow-legged Mexican with the Charlie Chaplin mustache, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4. This is Seixas' sixth Davis Cup campaign, and I have never seen him play better.
In the second singles match Hamilton Richardson, a five-year Davis Cup veteran at 22, beat 22-year-old Francisco Contreras 6-3, 6-4, 6-4. Richardson is a bridegroom of less than three weeks. Recently it appeared that he had reached his peak and would never get better. His play against the Mexicans—and against the Canadians the week before—contradicts this theory thoroughly. His service was strong and accurate and gave confidence to the rest of his game. He moved with a sure-ness he never had before, especially on the volley.
After the two opening singles victories, our complacency was rocked by Mexico's doubles victory. Llamas and Contreras, teaming well, beat our "kids," Sam Giammalva and Barry MacKay. It was a gamble playing the youngsters, but it's one we had to take to build for the future.
Richardson came back on the final day to clinch the series with an easy 6-3, 6-3, 6-1 victory over Llamas.
In the last singles Giammalva, substituted for Seixas, played splendidly in beating Estaban Reyes, the 19-year-old Mexican comer, 6-4, 6-1, 6-3.
The analysis of our weekend rendezvous with the Mexicans is this: we won't abandon our youth movement in tennis, but we'll have to stick with our experienced boys when the chips are down—and they will be when we meet the Italians at the interzone final at Forest Hills Sept. 28-30.
PRE-GAME WARMUP favored by Mexicans Pancho Contreras and Mario Llamas was rhythmic guitar music supplied by a pretty compatriot attending nearby college.