Even before the United States was eliminated from this year’s Davis Cup competition by West Germany, there was deep concern about future prospects for the team.
The problem is two-fold. First, as evidenced by recent results, the rest of the world has caught up to the United States in producing new talent. Second, when it comes to playing on clay courts, the Americans are lagging farther behind.
As a result, whenever the United States is the visiting team for Davis Cup, the surface inevitably is clay. Faced with this kind of disadvantage, the U. S. was beaten by Argentina in the first round in 1983, by Sweden in the finals last December and by West Germany in the second round this summer.
Also not helping this year was the absence of John McEnroe because of a requirement that he sign a certificate of good behavior.
While he can’t do much about McEnroe’s temperament, J. Randolph Gregson, first year president of the U. S. Tennis Assn., would like to ensure stronger American representation in world competition. To accomplish this, Gregson speaks of creating a national tennis academy under the aegis of the USTA where the most promising juniors--girls as well as boys--would live in dormitories and be trained by a national coaching staff.
“Improving our clay court performance is one of my goals,” Gregson said. “I feel very strongly about it, but the situation is becoming more difficult. A lot of players don’t like to play on clay. It is hot, requires a lot more work and the points are longer. It is a tougher test of men and material.”
On a dissenting note, SMU coach Dennis Ralston doesn’t see the need for a national program as being so urgent.
“I don’t think there’s any real reason to press the panic button,” said Ralston, a former world class player. “We lost to a good team in Sweden and we pressed the button. Our problem last year was our guys didn’t get there in time to prepare.
“My personal feeling is our guys can play on European clay. It just takes getting used to.”
After finally winning the U. S. Open following three successive losses in the final, Ivan Lendl was feeling close to invincible.
Taking time off following his straight sets victories over John McEnroe at Flushing Meadow only to fly to Stuttgart, West Germany, Lendl didn’t concede a set in winning the $117,000 Mercedes Cup.
“I still have so much confidence from winning the U.S. Open that I feel I can make any shot I try,” Lendl said after beating Brad Gilbert, 6-4, 6-0, in the final.
It was Lendl’s seventh singles title of the year on the Nabisco Grand Prix circuit, four of them coming on clay, and his hot hand continued in doubles as he teamed with fellow Czechoslovakian Tomas Smid to win at Stuttgart.
The world’s top-ranked player, who earned $23,000 for his week’s work, treated himself to a German Shepherd, the seventh such dog he now owns, and explained, “I just can’t resist them.”
Gilbert, who enjoyed a good tournament before running into Lendl, won his quarterfinal match from Andreas Maurer following a pre-game meal of 25 Ritz crackers, and he prepared for his semifinal against Smid by listening to a football game between the Los Angeles Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs on the American Forces Network.
A tennis product helped Miss America get a grip on herself where it really counted.
Susan Akin of Meridian, Miss., said she sprayed “firm grip” adhesive on her backside to keep her swimsuit from riding up during the Miss America competition.
The 21-year-old blonde, during an interview on WABC-Radio this past week, said she saw nothing wrong with beauty queens padding or taping parts of their bodies to enhance their figures during competition, although she said she never did.
“The closest thing I did was put ‘firm grip’ on my behind so when I walked, my swimsuit wouldn’t ride up,” she said.
The aerosol adhesive known as firm grip, and sold under various product names, is used by tennis players to improve their grip. It is also used by bald men to keep their toupees from slipping.