Gold lamé pantieswere strictly taboo and only virgin white was permitted on the courts atWimbledon. But the efforts of those in charge to restore an oldtime look ofstuffy respectability to this queen of tennis tournaments somehow failed again.The stars of the show this year turned out to be two flamboyant young Americansaddicted to sliding across the hallowed courts on the seats of their unadornedpants.
The first ofthese was blond, chunky Charles (Chuck) McKinley, who looks less like a tennisplayer than a wirehaired terrier trying to catch a rat. After severaldisappointments in the past—he lost in the 1961 finals to Australia's Rod Laverin 55 minutes flat—this reformed and penitent onetime "bad boy" ofinternational tennis went straight to the top of the ladder without losing asingle set, the first American to win at Wimbledon since Tony Trabert in1955.
One obviousexplanation of McKinley's relatively easy victory was the elimination by othersof the two competitors he feared most: Australia's top-seeded Roy Emerson, whowas knocked out in the quarter-finals by a virtually unknown German namedWilhelm Bungert, and Spain's nervous and sometimes brilliant Manuel Santana,the No. 2 seed, who bowed to Aussie Fred Stolle in the semifinals. Less obviouswas the training strategy that brought McKinley to Wimbledon in peak form—astrategy used successfully by Jack Kramer in 1947. In a series of pre-Wimbledontournaments, McKinley concentrated less on ultimate victory than on practicingunder competitive conditions, sharpening his game and his mental attitude forthe big one ahead. As a result, he won none of the minor tournaments butarrived at Wimbledon relaxed, eager, confident and with his often volatiletemper under control.
After reachingthe top without having to face a single seeded competitor, McKinley foundhimself matched in the finals against possibly the only tennis player in allAustralia with a sense of humor. When not playing tennis—which he considers agame and therefore an activity not to be taken too seriously—Fred Stolle worksin a bank and plans to make that his real career. "There's more future init than in stringing rackets," he says. Stolle's father, who taught him toplay, claims he lacks the ability to concentrate, but Fred says he solved thatthis year by watching his feet. "Fletcher [another Aussie] beat me the lasttwo times before playing at Wimbledon because I used to watch his antics on thecourt. This time I decided there was only one thing to do, and that was to copyEmerson. Every time you hit a ball and the point is finished, just look at yourfeet."
While Stollefixed his eyes on his feet, young McKinley glared at him and peppered the courtwith a wild assortment of drives and lobs. "Fortunately, I found my touchbefore Fred did," said McKinley, whose manners as well as his game showedconsiderable improvement over '61. "My shots were a little astray because Iwas nervous, but not nearly so far astray as when I played Laver. If Fred hadbeen serving real well I'd have been in trouble." But, said Stolle,"all my good serves were knocked right back down my throat." After ahard-fought first set the result was an easy McKinley win at 9-7, 6-1, 6-4.
McKinley, wrotethe austere and faintly disapproving tennis correspondent of The Times, won thematch like "some American tycoon, a battery of a dozen telephones on hisdesk, tidying up an important deal."
If Chuck McKinleyresembled (which he really did not) a big wheel concluding a deal in U.S.business, the other top star of the tournament resembled nothing so much as aneager office girl suddenly left alone to mind the store when all the executivesare out playing golf. Effervescent, energetic Billie Jean Moffitt had entrancedand electrified Wimbledon a year earlier by knocking out top-seeded MargaretSmith in her very first match. The best measure of her impact on British fansduring this year's tournament lay in the clipped admission of one stifflyproper English lady that "I do hope she wins, even though she is anAmerican."
Billie Jean, thedaughter of a fireman in Long Beach, Calif., stands 5 feet 6 inches tall, hasbrown hair, light blue eyes, a small impertinent nose and a weight problem."She's got one real vice," admits a friend at Los Angeles StateCollege. "She loves hot fudge sundaes and she's not supposed to havethem." Despite this weakness, Jilly Bean, as her friends call her, rateshigh with her teammates, both male and female, on the LA State tennis team."She's a ball," said one of them. "She's real fun. She can twist upa storm, she putters and dinks around a piano at a party and she loves to playbasketball."
Alice Marble, aCalifornian who is no stranger to Wimbledon herself, sometimes tutors BillieJean. "I remember her from the first time I ever met her," says Alice."She was about 16, a fine tennis player, a tomboy and a gal who played agreat game of touch football. Now all of a sudden she has grown up."
Billie's newmaturity showed itself first in England a few weeks ago when she dragged herteammate, Darlene Hard, along to America's first victory in the newlyestablished Federation Cup. Last year at Wimbledon, Billie Jean hammed it upall over the place, yelling encouragement to herself at every stroke. This yearshe has been somewhat quieter—for two reasons. One is that she is suffering aslight difficulty in breathing that she hopes to remedy later with a sinusoperation. The other is that she has discovered she can concentrate better bynot talking so much.
During the pastwinter Billie, who never approaches anything casually, spent 15 minutes ofevery day staring intently at nothing through her thick-lensed glasses andthinking about how to improve her concentration on the tennis court. Thehomework paid rich dividends at Wimbledon, where, despite her upset victory oflast year, she was once again unseeded.
In three of thefive matches that took her to the finals, Billie Jean—unlike her countryman,Chuck McKinley—faced seeded players. After beating unseeded Lea Pericoli ofItaly in three tough sets, she found herself facing Australia's second-bestwoman player and the tournament's No. 2 seed, Lesley Turner. Jilly Bean oustedthis giant and then went on to face the No. 7 seed, Brazil's Maria Bueno. Sheneeded only two sets to finish off Maria, and by that time all England wassecretly rooting for her. Next came Ann Haydon Jones, currently the best of theBritish girls, the tournament's No. 3 seed and the one who finally knockedBillie Jean out of Wimbledon in 1962. Ann had just won the British Hard Courtsand was a finalist in Paris. With her customaryeverything-to-win-and-nothing-to-lose attitude, Billie Jean tore into thematch, and in two-sets interrupted by rain at a crucial point she reversedhistory with an attack that never let up. "She killed me last year,"shouted the bouncy little Californian when the match was over, "but I goton top of the net today!"
By that timeMargaret Smith, once more seemingly invincible, had disposed of Darlene Hard instraight sets, and the stage was set for a replay of the David-Goliath match inwomen's dress Then, England being England, it rained, and for the first time in36 years the concluding matches were postponed.
Rainchecks are asrare in England as rain is common, so the disappointed crowd sat waiting forfour hours in the downpour, hoping the match might go on. When the postponementfinally was announced many filed right back to the box office to queue in therain again.
Even a legendaryDavid cannot go on slaughtering Goliaths indefinitely, however, and Billie Jeanwas not yet quite a legend. By Monday morning the rain had stopped, leaving thecenter court in the grip of a chill damp, and in this atmosphere realityreasserted itself. Twice cheated of victory at Wimbledon, Margaret Smith, whohas earned the right to be called the world's best woman player with far morevictories in far more tournaments than little Jilly Bean, took the measure ofher opponent from the start. In a smashing display of power that left the othergirl helpless, Miss Smith took the match and the championship in straight sets,6-3, 6-4, to become the first Australian woman ever to win at Wimbledon. As forBillie Jean, the upset kid, even in defeat there was glory enough to spare forher.
Stealing the show from more famous names, Billie Jean Moffitt gained added stature as the top upset artist in the game, white Chuck McKinley became the first American to win at Wimbledon since 1955.
Intense, nearsighted, endlessly shouting, talking, laughing, mugging, darting, scurrying and winning, Billie Jean Moffitt captured hearts and matches alike.