There are 96 of us here this week, a quarter of whom are first-timers, and most will feel the kind of on-court pressure that a real tournament delivers. Part of it is due to the fact that you’ve got brilliant, incredibly accomplished players watching you—and they’re not just the Legends. They can be your own teammates.
This morning, for example, George Wachtel—whose Senior Tennis blog (www.seniortennisandfitness.com) and book will tell you much more about how to play the game than this scribbling ever could—came by to watch the last few games
of my opening doubles match against the Musclemen, named after Ken Rosewall, and coached—among others—by Murph Jensen, who finally showed up late Monday night, becknclaiming apparently that he was at a “board meeting,” which is probably code for something I don’t want to know about. George was diplomatic when my partner Chuck Beckner, who wore an outfit reminiscent of Andre Agassi’s neon era, except for the addition of a giant barcode design from neck to waist, and I squandered three match points (all on my racquet) at 5-2, but held on to win 7-5, 6-4.
George is a teammate this year, but our opponents included John Berry, on whose private jet George traveled to New Braunfels. So his allegiances were conflicted. Nevertheless, he had a thought he wanted to be sure I quoted. “Since you’re writing for a travel site,” he said, “be sure to remind your readers to put their sunscreen in closed plastic bags before packing it.” The Air Berry journey had exploded his lotion, covering pretty much everything in his suitcase. So be warned; even trained professionals can make this mistake.
Other really good advice has been delivered over the course of the first two days. On Monday, Dick Stockton had urged us to play the way each of us always has. “Don’t try to change your game here,” Dick commanded. “That takes 12 months to do.” We were also told to mind and monitor the wind, to serve to the forehand to protect against down the line shots, to keep yourself far enough from the net to protect against lobs, and to never miss a return of service.
After a quick lunch, where Marty Riessen and Brian Gottfried shared their thoughts on travel
and tennis when they played (Riessen loved the “Sugar Circuit” in southern Africa; Gottfried preferred Vienna, and hated the season-ending trip to South Africa that his group in the old World Championship Tennis competition created and underwritten by Lamar Hunt), my new partner Terry Long and I headed to an out court to take on Tom David and Adin Levine. Tom and David are younger, more powerful, quicker, and seemed quite confused to find themselves on the same court as us. Terry and I share the same age demographic and a reasonably good sense of the game. The latter carried us to a 5-5, 0-40 situation in set one when David, who was serving, finally said to himself, “What the f-word!!!!!” He proceeded to hit four aces, and we did not win another game. So the day ended for me with a 1-1 record.
Laver Talks History, Again
Tuesday night began with a carb festival—“Italian Night”, featuring chianti on the tables, and chicken parm, lasagna, spaghetti, and salad on the buffet—and some muted dirty jokes from Doc Eden. Perhaps he was distracted by the upcoming Australian Boat Race drinking contest for Wednesday night, and the fact that “time trials” would be taking place at the bar later, but the PG version of the Doc was a bit jarring.
The night smoothed out quickly, however, when organizer Steve Contardi invited Newcombe and Laver to take the stage. Since Sunday night, there had been four printed sheets of paper tacked to the wall behind the podium at the far end of the dining hall. Each was a draw sheet from one of the four Grand Slam tournaments in 1969—the Australian, the French, Wimbledon, and the U.S, Open. One by one, Newk took us through that historic march, highlighting the toughest match, and the final (which was rarely the toughest). I paid particular attention to the Open, played then at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, New York, where I am now a Governor. Laver talked at length about the final, played against Tony Roche, on a wet, slick grass court soaked by three days of rain. “I traveled with spikes,” Laver recalled, “but hadn’t worn them at Forest Hills. But I was slipping and sliding, and Tony was very difficult for me, a lefty and I had rarely played one of them in the years I was on the pro tour. I had talked about using them with Bill Talbert, who ran the tournament, and he said if conditions warranted it, I could. So towards the end of the first set, I changed shoes. It wasn’t in time to turn the first set around, and I lost it 9-7. But I pulled out the match.”
“Six-one, six-two, six-two,” Newk added for him. “Making him, if not the greatest, one of the four best ever. And his humility …” Newk simply shook his head, gesturing towards the Rocket. We rose as one to give him a standing ovation. And I wondered if we should reexamine the no-spikes rule in place today at West Side.
For those keeping score, we Wankers lost by a match, 15-14, to the Musclemen. And Newk’s Mongrel Kangaroos routed the Dunnies, 19-10. We face the Kangaroos tomorrow >>>.