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Original Issue

A lackluster finish for Wimbledon

The amateurs' unexciting play encouraged advocates of a 1961 open tournament

Princess Anne was there. Princess Margaret was there. Prince Philip was there. And Mr. Antony Armstrong-Jones was there. So were some 14,000 others of plain or fancy lineage as Australia's Neale Fraser, batting left-handed, defeated his left-handed countryman, Rod Laver, on the center court of the All England Club for the Wimbledon championship last week.

Although it had its moments, the match will not be recorded as one of the great ones in Wimbledon's 83-year history. And it almost certainly marked the end of a tennis epoch. This week, in Paris, the International Lawn Tennis Federation considers a plan for a schedule of open tournaments in 1961. There is no apparent opposition. Wimbledon and seven other major tournaments should therefore be open to amateurs and professionals beginning next year.

The betting at Wimbledon last week was that a companion proposal to create a new category of "authorized" players would be defeated or deferred for later action. This is the controversial scheme, advanced by France's Jean Borotra, to permit certain outstanding players to be paid over the table yet remain amateurs in the eyes of the ILTF. Suggested as a means of ending hypocrisy in amateur tennis, the plan has been backed by France and Britain but violently opposed by the U.S. and Australia.

Gritty old girl that she is, despite the ever-declining quality of her tennis, Wimbledon wore her best paint and powder for this year's tournament. If there were unbecoming brown patches on the usually emerald center court, an unavoidable fungus disease was to blame. The ladies' hats were as stupendous, the traditional Wimbledon strawberries as big and red, and the cars carrying fashionable Londoners to the matches as big and black as ever.

The Australian monopoly of the men's singles does not necessarily mean that the Aussies will continue to dominate world tennis. After Fraser, who is 26, and Laver, 21, there are no Australians with comparable talents. And though the American tide was at its lowest ebb ever—we had no one in the men's semifinal round for the first time since the war and were shut out of the women's final for the first time since the '20s—there were signs that the U.S. might be back at the top before another summer goes by.

Youngsters have promise

First, the tall, fiery Earl Buchholz, only 19, battled Fraser to the verge of a quarter-final defeat before a bad ankle and leg cramps forced him to retire. Then there was the emergence of a scowling 17-year-old Californian, Dennis Ralston (below), as a doubles hero. Young Chuck McKinley (SI, May 16), who fell in the third round, was obviously just a year away from tennis maturity. Pert Karen Hantze, 17, did very well in reaching the quarter-finals in her Wimbledon debut, taking a set from Britain's No. 1 player, Christine Truman. She served like a man but must spend time putting power into her cream-puff forehand.

But our best bets at Wimbledon didn't have it when it counted. Barry MacKay and Darlene Hard are both 24, are both subject to erratic swoops from their top form and were upset in their quarter-final rounds. MacKay, the pre-Wimbledon favorite, lost to the smooth patterns of Italy's Nicola Pietrangeli, and Miss Hard to the extraordinary forehand power of South Africa's blonde Sandra Reynolds.

So Wimbledon lacked grandeur but not significance. And the prospect of an open tournament next year, with all the implications of that historic step, overshadowed the players and their performances.


SURPRISE WINNERS of men's doubles, the pick-up American-Mexican team of Dennis Ralston (left) and Rafael Osuna receives trophy from the Duchess of Kent. Unknown to Wimbledon galleries and tennis fans generally when the tournament started, Ralston, a 17-year-old Californian, and Osuna, a sophomore at USC, upset favored teams from Italy, Sweden, South Africa, Australia and, in the finals, England's own Davis Cup pair, to provide the tournament with its principal drama.