What next: a CANADIAN tennis star?

Grattan Gray June 18 1966

What next: a CANADIAN tennis star?

Grattan Gray June 18 1966

What next: a CANADIAN tennis star?

Grattan Gray

SOMEONE, NOT VERY long ago, must have been telling those athletic young Canadian males in the photograph below all about the Caribbean Tour and how the tour is one lovely logical reason for them to ignore hockey, Canada’s national sport, in favor of tennis.

Tennis? The young men are students at the University of British Columbia — and very special students, since they're also members of a kind of informal national tennis team gathered on the UBC campus. Normally, according to the hoary old Canadian sports tradition, they’d be like other athletic young men — aiming for careers on the ice at Maple Leaf Gardens or the Montreal Forum. But hockey, someone must have pointed out to them, is mastered in drafty old arenas out in the boondocks, and even if you make the Leafs you've still got to suffer through those northern winters and spend weekends playing cards with the fellas on the trip from Toronto to Sundaynight’s game in Chicago. (And you know what they call Chicago — the Windy City.)

But when you choose tennis you take the Caribbean Tour. It lasts two months, and when it's snowing back home in Montreal or raining in Victoria, you’re lounging around a cabana in places with names like Barranquilla, San Juan and Caracas. At nights you’re strolling

through the gaming rooms of a Hilton hotel. Hanked by girl tennis players named Monique and Lesley and Heidi. People — rich people — pay a hundred dollars a day for the privilege. but you, tennis player and invited guest on the Caribbean Tour, are actually paid tip to twenty-eight dollars in expenses per day just to be there and, for a couple of hours in the afternoon, to play a little tennis for those rich folks.

You just can't beat it if you're young and co-ordinated enough to hit a good backhand. Summers you're in Monaco or Rome or standing on the edge of the courts of the Réal Club de Tenis Barcelona with the glories of Mount Tibidabo towering somewhere behind you. Even around the Toronto Lawn Tennis Club in late August, between sets you can make time with the cool blonde in the black fishnet swimsuit baking her tan (left over from Barranquilla?) beside the club’s lush green pool. Now. that's a life in sports.

So far, not many /

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TENNIS STARS continued from page 17

The word’s around: watch Canada now

presentable young Canadian men have made much of a splash on the Caribbean Tour, or have shown much of anything on the international tennis circuit. And it’s a shame — even, in a small way, a national disgrace. As a Davis Cup threat, Canada traditionally ranks somewhere after Japan and Switzerland, and in the important tennis tournaments at Wimbledon and Forest Hills, you don’t have to hunt much past the second day’s results to discover the ultimate fate of the Canadians. Even in our own national championships we don’t show well; in the 1965 finals, someone named Ron Holmberg, of Dallas, Texas, beat another someone named Lester Sack, of Clarksdale, Mississippi.

Well, those young men at UBC who’ve opted out of hockey in favor of the Caribbean Tour may just be the players who can bring Canada to the brink of a tennis renaissance — or, rather, naissance. The idea behind the UBC experiment, according to the Canadian Lawn Tennis Association, is to set up a tennis program patterned after Father David Bauer’s national hockey program and to develop a core of young players who might one day put Canada a notch up on Japan and Switzerland in Davis Cup competition. UBC was chosen as the logical place for the experiment because it is the only college in Canada with indoor courts. Besides, one of the best tennis coaches in Canada, Paul Willey, was already at UBC teaching kids all about ground strokes and overhead smashes.

Things got started in September 1964. when seven players arrived on campus equipped with five-hundreddollar tennis bursaries courtesy of the CLTA. And this school year the same number of young men, five of them returnees and all of them twenty-one or under, are working out under the same deal. For four of them, it’s just a streetcar ride out to the campus: they're from Vancouver, the home of the best young players in Canada since the great Lome Main was going strong a decade ago. The other boys are from Victoria, Montreal and Halifax.

And the team may be decorated next year by a pretty nineteen-year-old girl, Faye Urban, of Windsor, Ont. She rates a scholarship on the basis of her dazzling performance in the 1965 nationals where she swept impressively into the finals and looked very good there indeed, though losing 6-3, 8-6 to a more experienced American girl.

Every week, right up to final exams, Coach Willey was whipping his boys through four or five rough make-orbreak. two-hour sessions in which the players practised their strokes — over and over and over . . . Then, before they were released to the showers, Willey would give them a fast burst of calisthenics, wind sprints and stomach exercises. But the most rugged moments each week would come during the challenge matches — singles contests in which players showed each other no mercy (around the UBC courts these weekly matches are known as “those blood battles").

All of Willey’s work and the boys’ dedication are beginning to pay off in

at least a modest way. Nobody has knocked off an Australian yet or made the seeds at Wimbledon, but two UBC boys — Bob Bardsley and Bob Puddicombe, both of Vancouver — were picked for the 1965 Davis Cup team, and two more — Puddicombe and Keith Carpenter, of Montreal — make up half of the 1966 team. In the 1965 junior championship one UBC boy, Pierre Lamarche, of Montreal, beat another UBC player, Vic Rollins, in the finals. But the most important result of the UBC experiment has been to raise the quality of Canadian tennis. The latest word around the international tennis circuit is that the Canadians aren't really such patsies any more.

Of course, the UBC boys still have a lot to buck. There’s the weather for one thing: even with the indoor

courts, it’s hard for a boy to develop a sound all-round game in the short Canadian season. Then there’s the massive national ignorance of tennis in Canada. “Canadians,” says Don Fontana, a not-bad Canadian player for the last ten years, “lack respect for tennis. They don’t encourage us the way the Australians encourage their guys.”

And don’t forget the tennis brass. World amateur tennis has always been run in anything but an open, freewheeling, “professional” style. Every tennis season is marked by petty squabbles and player piques. Canada hasn’t been an exception. In the fall of 1965, directly as a result of some mean little bickering over the CLTA’s tight-fisted attitude to finances, Canadian tennis lost one of its most valuable and dedicated officials, Denis Kirsten, of Toronto. Kirsten had run Ontario’s junior tennis program for five years. But finally he said he couldn’t go on if the CLTA wouldn’t give him a little backing.

That’s the attitude the young tennis players of UBC are up against. But somehow they’re going to make it in tennis. After all, they’ve got incentive. They don’t jus* want to prove themselves, they w.al.t to hit the Caribbean Tour — bec&usé for tennis, sunshine and girls nam.cd Monique, you’ve got to make it to Barranquilla. ★