As a milestone in monotony, the 73rd All-England Lawn Tennis championships played at Wimbledon should long be remembered. For most of the forbidding fortnight, play was as dour and leaden as the skies. There were, nonetheless, a few quicksilver performances on the courts, especially in the women's division.
When the British ladies won the Wightman Cup last month for the first time in 28 years, there was some reason to suspect that American amateur tennis supremacy, already vanished from the men's ranks, had now disappeared entirely. But such is not the case, not as long as Althea Gibson prefers swinging a racket to singing in a nightclub.
Playing powerful, if erratic, tennis, Althea won her second straight Wimbledon singles title, defeating Britain's Angela Mortimer in the final 8-6, 6-2 despite an attack of first-set jitters.
Many had hoped to see Althea meet Britain's "wonder girl" and Wightman Cup heroine, Christine Truman, in the final. It had been the 17-year-old Christine who had provided a necessary point in the recent Cup Victory by defeating Althea. But in the biggest upset of the tournament, California's Mimi Arnold defeated Miss Truman 10-8, 6-3 in the fourth round. Before Mimi's methodical assault, Miss Truman showed herself a wonder girl wondrously innocent of tactical judgment.
The men's final, won by Australia's dark and brooding Ashley Cooper, was an exhibition of mechanical serve and volley that stylist Fred Perry described disdainfully as "this biff-bang-wallop game." The London Times referred to it more academically as "the recurring decimal point of a game reduced to the last stages of automation." Cooper, a schoolmaster's son, has a game which is solid and unimaginative. Neale Fraser, whom Cooper met in the final, has a good serve, a good volley and a glaring weakness: no backhand. Cooper probed it and Cooper won 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 13-11.
America's Barry MacKay played according to form. He was seeded eighth, which means the tournament directors thought he should reach the quarter-finals. He did, and that's where he was beaten by Mervyn Rose.
Those who mourn the absence of Americans in the late stages of any international men's tournament can take heart: the Wimbledon boys' singles title was won by Earl Buchholz Jr. and he's from St. Louis, Mo., U.S.A.
DARK AND BROODING, new champ Cooper knew how to probe an enemy's weakness.