I'VE A NEW DAVIS CUP PLAN
The only possible way to develop a Canadian team of real Davis Cup contenders, says our national champion, is to send its members abroad for winter competition
DR. JACK WRIGHT
AS THIS article is being prepared, the calendar shows that we are nearing the end of summer, which means also that we are nearing the end of Canada's
regular tennis season. In a few days I am leaving, with Marcel Rainville, for New York, to play in tournaments there. What we do after that depends upon a number of assorted circumstances. It is my intention to discuss those circumstances.
I think everyone will agree that this season, 1931, has been the most successful summer in Canada’s tennis history. We started with Rainville’s record performance during the Davis Cup series in May. Marcel then, for the first time in history, established the precedent that a Canadian player could beat a United States player in a Davis Cup game. He defeated that fine tennis exponent, Sidney B. Wood, Jr., scoring the first Canadian triumph over an American Davis Cup contestant.
There followed a series of well conducted, entirely successful provincial tournaments all over the Dominion, which drew large entry lists and demonstrated a growing public interest in the game. A great summer of tennis was climaxed by the Canadian Championships on the courts of the Vancouver Lawn Tennis Club, which was, by a wide margin, the most successful Dominion Championship tournament ever held.
So we approach the end of the regular Canadian outdoor tennis season with our game established as it has never been established before. All over the country, clubs are prosperous and their membership is increasing. From the Maritimes to the Pacific Coast enthusiastic young players are coming along in all the provinces to challenge the oldtimers in seasons to come.
A LL this is very much as it should be; but, most important of all, the position of Canada’s Davis Cup team is firmly established on its record in the Dominion championships. Our four Davis Cup players eliminated all competition, Canadian and foreign, to find themselves
bracketed in the quarter finals. Apart from the natural satisfaction I feel at holding the championship once more, it is a source of much gratification to me that all four of our seeded international plavers were able so positively to place themselves in a position of superiority, because the team, as at present constituted, is so thoroughly representative of Canada and of Canadian tennis across the Dominion.
In Marcel Rainville our
possess an outstanding player and a splendid sportsman.
Walter Martin, the young player from the prairie provinces, I am more than ever convinced, is a coming star if he is able to devote the necessary time to the game. His great performance at Vancouver merely serves to confirm the excellent opinion I have held of Martin’s ability since I first played in his company, and which I expressed in a previous interview published in MacLean's Magazine.
Gilbert Nunns is a worthy representative of Ontario, certain to be strongly supported by Toronto, his home town, who achieved a considerable victory for Canada when he disposed of Dranga on *he Shaughnessy Heights court. For myself, I make my home in Montreal, and I like to think that in tennis I represent the English-speaking people of Cemada’s eastern provinces.
Rainville, Nunns and myself managed to come through at Vancouver to make it an All-Canadian final, although I have to admit that Laurison Driscoll, of California gave me many anxious moments. Martin’s win over John Murió, the Hawaiian player now a resident of San
Francisco, I regard as especially impressive. We shall hear more of Murió. Prior to the Canadian championships he had won five Western tournaments in a row, to establish himself as an outstanding player in that territory; but Martin, the junior of our Davis Cup team, was still too good for him.
We were much better in Vancouver in August than we were in Montreal in May; and that is a point I wish to emphasize. In the Davis Cup games we gave the United States team plenty of trouble, but at Vancouver we met powerful American opposition and defeated it at all points. If the Canadian championships have any significance at all—and surely they have—it must follow that our tennis now is in a splendid position, probably at its peak.
It is only fair, too, to state that on the showing made on Shaughnessy Heights, the personnel of Canada’s Davis Cup team for 1932 is clearly indicated. Supporters of tennis the country over are satisfied that the team of Rainville, Martin, Nunns and Wright is the evident selection. The results of the Vancouver tournament, I think, prove this beyond any question. From personal observation and enquiries made during the exhibition tour which Rainville and I made after the championship was decided, I am satisfied that public opinion interested in taiuiis agrees that this is the fact If we accept that, then Canada is in the happy position of having four ranking players with international experience to represent her in the Davis Cup matches of 1932; players who are the obvious choice, with no sectional jealousies to disturb the situation, to muddy the waters and obscure vision. We have a French-Canadian, a Westerner, an Ontario repre-
sentative from Toronto, and an English-speaking Montrealer. An All-Canada team, if ever there was one.
Now, what are we going to do about it?
Winter Competition Necessary
IN RECENT years it has been the unfortunate fact that Canadian Davis Cup teams have suffered because of lack of winter competition against good players outside Canada. Every Canadian follower of tennis knows this to be true. It has been just one of those things about which nothing could be done.
No matter how fine a player a man may be, he must have constant practice against strange opponents of approximately his own calibre if he is to remain at the top of his game. Casual practice is not enough. Nor is indoor tennis against players with whose tactics he is already familiar sufficient properly to condition a man for the Davis Cup series, which in recent years has been dated for the very
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IVe a New Davis Cup Plan
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beginning of the Canadian season.
I am convinced, as are many others, that Canada will not travel far in Davis Cup play until her representatives are afforded the opportunity to play during the winter months against foreign opponents whose game is new, whose strategy is unfamiliar.
The fact is self-evident to officials, players and close followers of the game. All these are aware that our team in May cannot be in as good condition physically or as keen in court strategy as the same team will be later in the season. This year’s experience is further proof. We were much better at Vancouver in August than we were at Montreal in May. Between the time when we were asked to go against Frank X. Shields, Sidney B. Wood, Jr., Geoffrey Mangin and Clifford Sutter in the Davis Cup round, and the time we were called upon at Shaughnessy Heights to defend the Canadian championship, we had the advantage of many weeks of minor tournament play.
Further to emphasize my argument, consider Rainville’s case when he beat
Marcel was entered in the Canadian Indoor Championship held in Montreal last January. Physically at that time he was out of condition. On the court he was out of practice.
He lost to C. G. Plimpton. But on the form Rainville displayed in Vancouver at the Canadian championships, Plimpton would, I think, have been beaten in straight
There must be an answer, an explanation, for such a reversal of form. The answer in Marcel’s case is that immediately after the indoor Championships he went south, played in a number of American winter tournaments and built up his physical condition. When he returned to Montreal in May, he was keen and on top of his game. He had regained confidence; he was fit; and he made Canadian tennis history with his defeat of Wood.
In that same Indoor tournament, L. B. Rice of Boston, a powerful player who has an out-of-doors job and always manages to keep in shape, battered me down in the second round;but at Vancouver, six months later, I beat Laurison Driscoll, a younger and, I think, more expert player than Rice. It is difficult in a frank personal interview of this sort to avoid the appearance of boasting; but I am sure that followers of tennis in Canada and the United States, including Mr. Rice himself, will absolve me of braggadocio when I state that I am sure I could have beaten Rice at Vancouver in August, although I could not master him at
Montreal in January. I had played almost no tennis during the winter months, whereas at Vancouver I had several weeks of minor competition and exhibition games behind me. In August I was in the best possible condition, and my tennis had come back to me. I had the feel of the racquet, the sense of strategy that was lacking in the Indoor Championship. Anyone who knows tennis will understand what I mean.
The same is true of Martin and of Nunns in their Davis Cup appearances. Martin, a law student at the University of Toronto, barely got through his examinations in time to play at Montreal last May. Nunns had been attending to business all winter, with tennis a very secondary consideration. Neither was impressive then; but in August, after a summer of match play, both Martin and Nunns were far better than they were earlier in the season, when they had had nothing to condition them but an occasional game against the average club player. In August, on the form they showed at Vancouver, they would have given Mangin and Sutter an argument in singles or doubles. On their May form in Montreal they had little to offer.
Worth Doing Well
VW" HEN I was a small boy in knicker-
* ’ bockers—that was before they thought of calling knickerbockers “plus fours”—an adage often repeated to me went something like this: “If a thing is worth doing at all, it is worth doing well.” It seems to me a sound idea to apply that old maxim to Canadian tennis, especially to Davis Cup tennis. If Canada is going to engage in international competition at all. surely we owe it to ourselves to exert every effort to achieve distinction in that competition.
Our Davis Cup record is not inspiring. While English, Australian, United States, Japanese and French teams have fought their way through to temporary possession of that prized trophy, Canada has been consistently among those who enter but do not progress. Our first year was 1913. We beat South Africa and Belgium, but lost 0-3 to the Linked States. In 1914 we lost to Australasia in the first round, 0-5. War intervened and we had no further Davis Cup entry until 1921, when Australasia again beat us 0-5. In 1923 we played Japan in Montreal. This was my first appearance on a Davis Cup team, but even that momentous event could not save the day and once more we were beaten 0-5. Next year we beat Cuba at Ottawa, but lost to Japan in Montreal by a 1-4 score. Australia beat us
in the first round 0-5 in 1925, and we lost to Cuba in cruelly hot weather in Havana in 1926. That score was 2-3.
We had revenge in Toronto in 1927, when we beat the Cubans 3-2; but Japan defeated us at Montreal in the second round by the same score. Again Japan won in 1928, 1-3, and in 1929 we got nowhere against a strong United States team which handed us an 0-5 beating in Montreal. Last year, at Philadelphia, the United States repeated the 0-5 castigation. The story of 1931 has already been told.
For the past four years Canada has been compelled to play off her Davis Cup fixture in May. We face a similar situation next year.
My contention is that unless we can select our Davis Cup team in the fall of the year, that is, at the end of the Canadian outdoor season, and then grant the chosen players the advantage of play in foreign tournaments during the winter months, Canada cannot hope to make a better showing in international competition than she has done so far.
There is also the fact that the present system is unfair to the players themselves. Canada, it would seem, demands of her tennis representatives that they step on the courts in May, having had no winter tournament competition outdoors at all, and under those conditions turn back opponents who have played outdoor tennis almost every day all winter long.
“If a thing is worth doing at all, it is worth doing well.”
Send Our Players Abroad
AS THE situation appears to me, this year of 1931 is the logical time to introduce a new plan.
We have our 1932 Davis Cup team already indicated in the four Canadian players who reached the quarter finals of the Dominion championship.
Let Canada afford these players an opportunity to participate in winter outdoor tournaments. Then, in May, Canada will hâve a right to expect her chosen representatives to be at the top of their form.
Why should Canada not send her tennis ambassadors abroad? Why not give them the opportunity, enjoyed by players of other nations, to take part in the various winter competitions held continuously in the United States, in Southern France, and in the spring at Wimbledon?
Other countries entering teams for the Davis Cup do this. England does it. Japan does it. The United States does it. France and the other Central European countries regard the winter tournaments as a matter of routine. For their players to reach the Riviera is no more than a trip between Montreal and Toronto for us.
I am satisfied that a Canadian Davis Cup team, given the advantage of play in the winter tournaments of the United States and of Europe, would step on the courts next May in far better physical and playing condition than any Canadian Davis Cup representatives have shown in the last four years. Who knows how far so well-conditioned a team would travel toward the championship?
The experiment would be moderately costly, but the expense need not be prohibitive. I have gone into the matter in some detail, and my estimate is that the outside legitimate expenses for four Canadian players to compete in the Riviera tournaments and at Wimbledon during the winter and early spring months would be not more than $6,000. The value of this advertising to Canada would be far greater than the amount expended.
One may reasonably suppose that the Canadian Lawn Tennis Association would put up half the amount. I am sure, from my recent enquiries, that a number of
wealthy Canadian citizens who are interested in tennis as an international sport would guarantee the other $3,000.
From a share of the gate receipts at Wimbledon, and possibly from some of the French matches, this guaranteed $3,000 might very well be forthcoming. In that event the original guarantors would get their money back, plus the satisfaction of a patriotic deed well done. Meanwhile our Canadian players would reap the benefits of outdoor tournament play through the winter months, and consequently be in the best possible condition for the Davis Cup matches in the spring.
I am not prophesying, or even suggesting, that the extra winter play would give Canada a superteam able to beat France, Great Britain, or the United States; but there are other countries in the European zone, highly ranked among international tennis entries, whose players we might well with wider experience be able to defeat. Our prestige in sport would increase as our tennis team appeared among foreign peoples who today know little of Canada’s sporting prowess except in hockey and the Olympic games.
Effect on Younger Generation
ANOTHER important point to be considered is this:
There are throughout Canada today a large number of young players just coming to maturity, from whom our Davis Cup players of the future must be selected. Right now these boys are tremendously enthusiastic about the game. They believe that at last Canadian tennis is making progress. Our comparative success in the last Davis Cup matches and our defeat of the invaders in the National Championship has whetted their interest to a keen edge. Their hopes are high.
In the interior of British Columbia and elsewhere during my exhibition tour with Marcel Rainville, I saw more really good young tennis players than I have ever before observed in the Dominion. Kid players such as the junior Verley, son of the Vancouver Lawn Tennis Club’s very able pro.; Stewart Milne, whose father is the famous old-time player, A. S. Milne of Vancouver, himself a Davis Cup performer in ’21 and ’23; Laird Watt of Montreal; Leadley McMaster, Eric Yorath, and Kinloch from the Middle West—these boys and many others whose play I have watched in the past few weeks are fine Davis Cup material if thejr interest in tennis is maintained. They should be encouraged. I think the best possible encouragement that could be given them would be a Canadian effort in international competition during the next few years which would demonstrate to the world that the Dominion is solidly and practically behind its tennis representatives.
It so happens—another fortunate circumstance—that our four ranking players of the moment are able to give the necessary time to competition abroad if the question of proper and ethical expenses can be surmounted. Every factor is favorably disposed toward a really worth-while effort at this time.
It remains only for the officials who govern tennis in Canada, in co-operation with the several wealthy and patriotic citizens who are interested in seeing the Dominion make progress in international competition, to arrange the details. Then, at last, we shall see Canada taking her place with the other British Dominions and foreign nations at Wimbledon, at Paris and in other tournaments abroad.
The record of this year shows Canada to be at the peak of her tennis performances right now. Surely we should take every possible advantage of this fact to consolidate our rightful position among the tennisplaying nations of the world.