Under the Black Flag

Of Gentlemen Sportsmen

By the time you read this the U.S. Open will be in full cry.  Tough, unsmiling professionals will be hitting balls back and forth with machine-like regularity, and Cyclops, the mechanical eye that overrides human decisions, will be resolving close matches.  It is Aldous Huxley come true, with a little Orwell thrown in for good measure.  Let’s face it, tennis ain’t what it used to be.

I went on my first tennis circuit exactly 52 years ago.  It began on the French Riviera, Cannes, Nice, Monte Carlo, then on to Rome, followed by the French Championships at Roland Garros Stadium in Paris.  After that we crossed the Channel to Bristol, Newcastle, and eventually to Wimbledon, the grandest tournament of them all.  When Wimbledon was over the good players crossed the Atlantic for the American grass-court season—South Orange, New Jersey, Newport, Rhode Island, Southampton, Long Island, and then on to Forest Hills, New York, for the American Championships, as they were then called.  Lesser players like myself went on to play a smaller circuit in July and August—Venice, St. Moritz, Klosters, and so on.  By the middle of September everyone went home until the following March and the French Riviera.  There were some South American tournaments, but with mainly local contestants.  Tennis was an amateur sport played by talented sportsmen who accepted free travel tickets and small, nominal amounts...

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