New faces, new blood —A preview of the team which will carry Canada’s colors in the 1938 battle for the Davis Cup
H. R. PICKENS, Jr.
IN MAY, 1931. Canada's Davis Cup tennis team was defeated by the United States team five to nothing– hardly an inspiring entry for the Canadian record books. It was not the outcome or the score, however, which caused dissatisfaction among Canadian players and officials, so much as the fact that the match was played early in the season.
Because the Davis Cup at that time was held across the Atlantic, the zone draws could not offer Canada a firstround match later than the end of May. This meant that the Canadians had to go into competition less than a month after their courts had been freed from snow to face teams which enjoyed year-round training. Realizing that the country could not produce its best tennis under these circumstances and believing that money spent on team preparation might be put to better use in developing young players, Canada withdrew from Davis Cup competition in 1935, after fifteen years participation.
Last year, however, when Donald Budge and his teammates from the United States defeated Great Britain, the situation changed. With the U. S. defending, Canada would have an extra three months in which to put a team into condition should she wish to re-enter the competition.
This spring the Canadian Lawn Tennis Association announced the Dominion would again participate in the Davis Cup matches and nominated a team which will play Japan in Montreal during late July. The fruits of the policy adopted three years ago are now becoming evident, for this team is probably the best balanced and potentially the most powerful Canada has yet developed.
Captained by the former Davis Cup star. E. II. Laframboise, of Montreal, it includes Robert Murray and Laird Watt, of Westmount. Quebec. Ross Wilson, of Toronto, and Douglas Cameron, of Vancouver. Here is a combination with the background, experience, youth and ambition to make a determined effort toward turning back Japan for the first time in what will be the fifth meeting between the two countries.
Murray and Watt
OOBBY MURRAY, at twenty-four, is widely regarded U as the most promising singles player in Canada He is expected to fill one of the two singles assignments in the forthcoming matches, for it is probable that no other Canadian has defeated so many first-ten ranking Americans and other foreign stars. Murray is tall, dark and handsome, with wavy hair. He stands well over six feet and weighs around 180 pounds. He is a scholar of high standing, having graduated from McGill, where he took the bar examinations this spring. He has the natural competitive poise which is consistent with a quiet unassuming disposition. Many observers believe that, with more inspiration
and aggressive spirit, he could become the greatest Canadian player ever developed.
The principal criticism of Murray is directed against his serve, which appears surprisingly impotent in comparison with the masterly skill of his all-court game. Murray, like many stylists, favors the baseline, from which he hits powerful, accurate shots with splendid length from either side. His doubles record, however, shows that when he wishes to take the net he will give any player a battle. Could he achieve an improved service and a resolve to play crashing, relentless tennis, he would give the Japanese a great deal to worry about.
Murray’s running mate, and a power in his own right both in singles and doubles, is twenty-five-year-old Laird Watt. Watt is much the same build as Murray, slightly lighter, and along with teammate Ross Wilson, is one of the few top-flight players who wear glasses on the court. There is not a great deal to choose between Murray and Watt, but the latter is more likely to be found at the net, where his deft short shots have gained him recognition as an outstanding doubles player.
Watt’s service is by no means his strongest weapon.
His Western grip off the forehand is particularly effective in the production of fast-dropping drives which are so useful in doubles play. Watt employs the Eastern grip on his backhand. This method of changing grips for forehand and backhand strokes is unorthodox, but in his case it lends itself to fine consistency from the left side. Watt, also a McGill graduate, gives one an impression of being analytical, methodical, and likely to carry any assignment to a satisfactory conclusion. He should be a strong contender for a singles berth, and may be expected to team with either Murray or Wilson in the doubles. He is the son of R. N. Watt, progressive president of the Canadian Lawn Tennis Association, with whom he has teamed to win three United States National Father and Son titles. These victories, the only American National tennis crowns ever won by Canadians, came in 1933, ’34 and ’37.
Probably the most colorful and spectacular member of the team is Toronto’s Ross Wilson. The twenty-six-yearold ex-Montrealer’s dashing style of play is well supported by a sturdy, well-muscled physique. Wilson is a lawyer, a graduate of McGill, where he played inter faculty football and was a member of the Big Red hockey team. The past two seasons have seen him develop from primarily a doubles player to a strong singles threat, by virtue of steady improvement of a former weakness in ground-stroke production. A thrusting service coupled with the most powerful overhead game in the country, always makes Wilson a competitive factor. He is the smashing type whose net rushing, while chance-taking, is in the main well timed. Wilson is one of those rare athletes who is always in condition. which accounts for his indefatigable play and his
never-too-late-to-win attitude on the court. Though neither the stylist that Murray is, nor the tactician which Watt can be, Wilson is more aggressive than either. A slight impulsiveness is probably his only barrier to Canada’s top rung.
Doug Cameron, the fourth member of the team, is a native of Vancouver. This stocky twenty-eight-year-old has shown a strong set of strokes on occasions when Dominion ranking has been at stake. In 1936 he was the last Canadian in the Dominion Championship. His great victory over Ross Wilson in the quarter-finals of that event was a brilliant exhibition. Cameron gained first ranking in Canada that year. Again, last season, Cameron led Murray two sets to one in the Dominion title hunt before the Montrealer gathered his full power to run out the match. Cameron is essentially a baseline player with a wellcontrolled backhand. His service, heavily laden with spin, is well placed, though not carrying Wilson’s stinging speed. Cameron has the advantage of year-round outdoor play, and his game will undoubtedly reach its peak earlier than that of any of the Easterners.
An Experienced Team
T'AESPII E the youth of its members, the team has had a great deal of tennis travel and international experience during the past four years.
In 1935 and 1936 the C.L.T.A. received an invitation to
an Continued on page 34
Continued from page 16
send two Canadian players to the AllEngland Championships at Wimbledon. Watt and Murray were nominated in each year. The tennis Odyssey which the tall slim Canadians completed in those years carried them through the British major tournaments, to Hamburg for the German National championship, to the famed Rolland Garros stadium, Baris mecca of Continental tennis, and to Scotland, where they played twice for that country’s title. In Germany they were impressive as a doubles team; in France they fell victims to the strange conditions of “dead” balls and the unique bounce from the native en-tout-cas courts. Wimbledon, with its dazzling array of world-ranking stars, gave them an acquaintance with competitive tennis brought to its highest pitch.
They met such court personalities in battle as Paul Ferret, famous French professional reinstated as an amateur, Donald Budge and his champion doubles partner, Gene Mako, and internationalists from all over Europe. Finally Murray won the Scottish championship— the first and only foreign national singles title ever captured by a Canadian. The following season, in defense of his crown. Murray was defeated in the semi-finals, while Watt lost in the other bracket in the same round. Later, however, teamed with Anita Lizana of Chile, Murray won the Scottish mixed doubles title. Murray’s little Chilean ; partner of that year is now the American National champion.
Watt and Murray might also be considered veterans at the American National championships at Forest Hills, Long Island. Competing there almost annually since 1933, the two have faced numerous ranking Americans as well as outstanding representatives of other countries. George Lott, crafty Davis Cup doubles star and now a professional, towering Roderick Menzel of Czechoslovakia, Pierre Pelizza, French Davis Cupper this year, Vernon Kirby of South Africa, “dark horse” semifinalist in the U. S. tourney in 1934, tireless Brian “Bitsy” Grant of last year’s American Davis Cup winners, former fourthranking American, Clifford Sutter these, to mention but a few, have faced Canada’s j young defenders on the Forest I lilis grassy I battlefield.
Last year Murray did not compete at Forest Hills, being forced from competitive tennis with a shoulder injury which threatened his career. However, Watt ! and Ross Wilson participated. The luck j of the draw brought the first-ranking Japanese player, Yamagishi. and Watt together in an early round. Yamagishi, a bold little tactician with more pace than the rest of his countrymen, won; but Watt’s experience against the “backbone” of the squad which will play Canada in August, should be valuable when it comes to planning a method of attack against the invaders.
Murray has doubtlessly achieved more notable success against top-flight opposiI tion than other Canadians. He has picked the winter championships in Bermuda for most of these triumphs. Among his illustrious victims are numbered Wayne Sabin, Charlie Harris, Arthur Hendrix, and 1937 second-ranking American Frankie Parker. Murray’s achievements must carry a story of inspiration to young Canadian players, for they demonstrate i clearly how close to the circle of the world’s
foremost a Canadian player may come as result of natural ability, practice, and a fair amount of competitive experience.
Cameron and Wilson, ranked numbers one and two in the country in 1936 while Murray and Watt were abroad, gained valuable international tournament contact when in the winter of that year they accepted an invitation to compete in a number of important South American championships. Only last winter Wilson teamed with the American star, Arthur Hendrix, to win the Jamaica doubles championship. Wilson’s six weeks of winter play at that time no doubt will have done much to bring his game to an early peak this season in Canada.
The activity and progress of these players stand as convincing denial to any assertion that tennis in Canada has been at a standstill since 1934.
Development of Young Players
V\ 7111LE ON the subject of progress, it W must be admitted that the less fortunate tennis aspirants across Canada have found development difficult, for there has been little organized help toward providing them the opportunity of sectional, national and international play. Scarcity of provincial and national association funds has meant that promising youngsters who cannot finance costly travel have perhaps been impeded in attainment of potential stardom. Lean years for the associations have been the reason behind any such drawback. The C.L.T.A. has been aware of this circumstance, which, if allowed to continue indefinitely, would likely have a disastrous effect upon the future playing strength of the country as well as the popularity of the game.
Now, in 1938, the C.L.T.A. is making a move to offset any such danger, with the donation of a sum of money which will be placed at the disposal of a committee of tennis executives across the continent, to be used for the encouragement of young players. While the sum granted is not large, it at least represents a first step toward eliminating any existent stigma which may have overtaken Canadian tennis as being a “wealthy boy’s” game in the higher circles. In short, the new plan will help to open the portals of the “big time” to any kid with a racket and the “stuff” to battle his way to the top of a grand competitive pastime.
The move comes as the culmination of a new interest which has been growing during the past four years in junior players throughout Canada. The emphasis has no doubt been prompted by the appearance during that time of stripling figures whom experts realize cast the shadows of future champions upon our national tennis horizon. From coast to coast we may trace the improved calibre of stroking among this rising group. Vancouver’s Dominion junior champion. Bill Pedlar, and his equally brilliant fellow-townsman, Russ Hawes; Canadian Intercollegiate champion. Bruce Hall, of Toronto; Bill Piggot, of Hamilton; Don McDiarmid, of Ottawa; the French-Canadian ace, Montreal's Roger Durivage; Eastern Canadian Junior Champion. Hugh Little, of Halifax — all are products of Canada’s post Davis Cup era ! All carry a danger signal for high-ranking Canadians in Dominion events.
Two years ago another significant
development took place. This was the innovation of interprovincial team rivalry between Ontario and Quebec. The fact that Quebec has been twice convincingly victorious is not so important as the linger of possibility which these matches point to eventual interprovincial rivalry between all the provinces. Such an event would form the counterpart to golf's Willingdon Cup matches, annual highlight of that sport. Admittedly certain provinces would have little chance of victory at first, but annual participation in the Dominion championship for the leading players from each section of the country would do much to improve the standard of tennis. Played, possibly, with teams of four, the event might be scheduled just to precede the Dominion championship, and thus assure that tournament of a completely representative entry. The tennis executive who develops this long-dreamed-of plan will make a monumental contribution to the game.
Rut all such expansion and promotion means expense and requires financial support. And so we come to perhaps the vital significance of the Canada versus Japan joust. The contest is financially important, for its “gate” is expected to defray the team’s training expenses during
their month of preparation in the United States. Should Canada score over Yarnagishi and company, the team in its next round would meet Australia, which should have little difficulty in winning its first encounter from Mexico; and that would mean a very large gallery in Montreal, with consequent new opportunities for young Canadian players.
But what of Canada’s chances against Japan? On paper and in the opinion of | the great Fred Perry, who visited Canada this spring on a professional tour, Yamagishi may be expected to take two singles points, leaving only one other Jap victory necessary to clinch the round for his team. Perry, who has played with the Canadian boys, added, however, that if Canada concentrates on the other three matches, “they stand a fighting chance of coming through!” Moreover, those who know his game feel that Murray with a dependable service may well upset Yamagishi.
The Dominion’s return to Davis Cup competition after four years absence may mark the inauguration of a new era in Canadian tennis; one which may well surpass the exploits of the “old guard" Crocker, Wright, Rainville, Nunns, and Martin—which dominated the game during the decade preceding 1934.