Starting in 1950, Australia dominated the Davis Cup for a period of four years, first with the duo Frank Sedgman and Ken McGregor. Then the young Australians Lewis Hoad and Ken Rosewall took over. In Melbourne in 1953, Hoad and Rosewall beat the US players Vic Seixas and Tony Trabert.
The 1954 finals in Sydney gave Seixas, 31, and Trabert, 24, a chance to get even with the 20-year-old tennis twins Hoad and Rosewall.
And that's exactly what they did, in the first two days, in a series of four-set matches.
Back in those final sunny days of December 1954, my paternal grandparents [Pop and Ma, as we called them] had invited me to drive down to Sydney with them to watch the finals of that Davis Cup tournament at White City Stadium. I seem to recall that we attended the doubles match, on the second day, since that was the kind of social tennis to which we were accustomed back in Grafton. For us, it was hard to imagine a game of tennis in which the server wasn't gazing in the direction of the backside of his partner (often of the opposite sex), crouched near the net. Singles matches appeared to us as unusually solemn and solitary events, in which you didn't even have somebody to chat to during the calm periods while your opponents were collecting the balls for the next stroke.
On 28 December 1954, at the splendid lawn courts between Kings Cross and Edgecliff, I got autographs from the four players.
This 1954 tennis tournament in Sydney remains in the local history books as a much-publicized event, probably because of the hero status of Hoad and Rosewall. Personally, I wasn't greatly surprised to see the young Australians defeated. Physically, they looked like young Australian sportsmen of the kind one could see anywhere. Seixas and Trabert, on the other hand, appeared to me as Martians, particularly when seen up close. They seemed to exude a mysterious mixture of power and sporting wisdom, quite unlike the naive grins of the Aussie kids. I had the impression that, for these superior Americans, tennis was not just a game; it was their business.