??? tennis, fans, warmed by nostalgia and hot coffee, have had a rich time at?
??? tennis, fans, warmed by nostalgia and hot coffee, have had a rich time at London's Royal Albert Hall this week (31 October - 3 November). They've been watching a group of yesterday's champions, greyer on top and thicker around the middle, performing in the Mazda Cars G.B. Classic. Among the titans of the 1950s and 1960s on view were Pancho Gonzales, Rod Laver, Manuel Santana, Neale Fraser, and Frank Sedgman. This select band of over thirty-fives proved that time has reduced their serving power and mobility, but little of their impact.
SYNOPSIS: Australian Ken Rosewall, in the near court, urges forty-five year-old muscles into action against Britain's Mark Cox, still a Davis Cup player at thirty-six. Sadly, the fine edge of Rosewall's ground strokes is blunter now, and his legs slower to respond. Cox beat him six-one.
Nobly bearing a total of ninety-seven years between them, Australian Neale Fraser, a former Wimbledon champion, and the incomparable Pancho Gonzales.
Surely the world's best fifty-one-year old tennis player, Gonzales ran to a five-three lead over Fraser, a crafty stripling of forty-six.
The arm that won the United States singles title in 1948 serves for the match, and still has enough power to force Fraser to pat his return into the net. The post-war era, now a generation long, has still not brought along a more exciting player than Gonzales.
Rod Laver, serving here to Roger Taylor of Britain, belongs on the short list of claimants to the title of the best player of all time. Trailing four-five, Taylor serves at match point. But the man who won the Wimbledon title four times retains too much class to falter here. Laver remains a winner at forty-one, with pride and flowing memories perhaps matching the lure of prize money as an incentive to display his talents.