1975: Charlie Wuvanich Winner at $3,000 Del Webb Townehouse Invitational. 1975: Max Marinko Dies. Insook Na/Dan Seemiller Top CNE. 1975: Zlatko Cordas/Barb Taschner Best at $3,000 Nissen Open.
Stan Moyer gives us the write-up (TTT, Nov.-Dec., 1975, 19) for the Del Webb Townehouse Hotel tournament, held Aug. 8-10 in Phoenix. Why this 3-day $3,000 tournament had only 57 entries, not nearly as many as the Arizona Open draws, I don’t know. Stan says, “Apparently in this part of the country money is not a major attraction.” Huh? Did the B’s, C’s, D’s, where the bulk of the entries usually come from, offer any enticing prize money, any prize money at all?
Understandably, the Phoenix sponsors were irritated that they’d received a number of entries, especially from players out East, that were not accompanied with the requisite entry fees (in this case, $60 to play in Men’s Singles, Men’s Doubles, and Class A). So they decided very privately not to consider them. The would-be entries non-compliance just made extra follow-up work, and almost certainly they wouldn’t come anyway. So who needed them? A not unreasonable point of view, but one which I didn’t think gave off good vibes. First and last year for this Townehouse tournament?
One of those entries was from Zlatko Cordas, who, as anyone running a $3,000 tournament must know, is again this year the Canadian National Coach and who before he left Belgrade for Toronto in 1974 was a world-ranked player. To Zlatko it wasn’t that important when or even whether the Canadian Association would pay for his entry or he would—he’d never had any difficulty sending in an entry without a check before. The tournament was still a month away—if there were any problem surely it could easily be resolved—and so off he went on one of his coaching trips to Saskatchewan or someplace.
But when, a few days before the Phoenix tournament was to start, he’d returned to Toronto and found he’d not received any confirmation, any note of direction, any offer to meet him at the airport to make him feel welcome, he thought he’d better call Phoenix. No, the Tournament Chairman told him, almost as if he were quite pleased about it, Cordas was not entered and would not be entered in the tournament because he hadn’t sent in his check. What Zlatko wondered, would have happened had he not called and just got on a plane for Arizona?
I got even worse treatment. I wanted to go to this Phoenix tournament for the fun of playing of course—but mostly because after giving so much of myself to the Game over the years and putting myself $10,000 in debt, I kept hoping to see U.S. table tennis rise up out of its desert ashes. I was convinced that we’re at least beginning to see, if not yet that fabled table tennis bird on the wing, at least the outline of its resurrection taking shape—forming the money circuit that will visualize the sport, that will let it take off in this country. Hence I felt it was my duty to support such tournaments as this one in Phoenix to the exclusion of others, including the USOTC’s where, without prize money, there is just no point in any good player attending.
So I wrote to the Tournament Chairman that the night flight to Phoenix would cost me $250 and asked that, if I came, could he and his Committee waive the entry fees for me and provide me with a room at the Del Webb Townehouse that I thought might well be sitting there vacant if I didn’t come? In return, I’d do the best story for Topics I could on the tournament, play as well as I could for the spectators, and, if the Committee wanted, would do interviews on radio or TV.
I could understand any position the Tournament Committee might take in regard to my offer—any position but one. The one position I could not understand, any more than could Cordas, was, sure enough, the one they took. And that was (in this advertised “coolest tournament of the summer”)…silence. Like I didn’t exist. Like Cordas didn’t exist. That wasn’t cool, that was frigid.
You’d think Charlie Wuvanich and the Seemiller brothers would be an attraction anyplace, especially at a tournament where they were strangers to many locals. But I guess, with 150 highly enthusiastic spectators watching their semifinal final round robin, there was interest enough. The 4th player for the Open Singles bucks was Dean Galardi—but he couldn’t win a game. His best chance was against Ricky. “Deano’s style is to attack service. But faced with terrific sidespin off most of Ricky’s serves, he was often forced to gingerly push returns.” Looking tormented, Galardi “had shouted to himself, ‘It takes a game to get used to his serves!’” Actually, make that three games…but if he could have won that last one from 22-all….Turned out that Ricky couldn’t challenge brother Danny or Charlie any more than Dean could. Danny’s “close-to-the-net play” was markedly superior, and Charlie mounted “a spectacular attack” against him—“blocks, loops, serves.”
The climactic match, however, was, especially for a time, well contested. With Danny having won the 1st at 19, and up 19-14 in the 2nd, it looked like he’d prevail. But at that point “the explosive Wuvanich’s fierce hitting game regained its virility. An acrobatic defense rescued him from Danny’s usual block placements and, given the opportunity for a smash, his hits had tremendous speed.” After that, the best Danny could do was a -15, -18 finish.
Other results: Championship Doubles: Seemillers over Ray Guillen/Russ Thompson. 3rd: Wuvanich/John Soderberg. Did Guillen play Singles? If so, he didn’t make the $50 quarter’s with Soderberg, John Harrington, Roger Yee, and 1975 U.S. Open Class B Champ Al Everett. If not, why not? A’s: Everett ($200) over Soderberg. A Doubles: Everett/Al Martz ($100) over Harrington/Bill Guerin in 5, then over John and Jerry Soderberg who’d eliminated Jim DeMet/Shebaro, deuce in the 4th. B’s: Jerry Soderberg over Andy Yu who’d struggled by Warren Livingston in 5. C’s: Harold Kopper over Jerry Soderberg. D’s: Jim Boatman over Neil Christensen. Esquire’s: Gene Wilson over Thompson. Senior’s: 47-year-old defensive specialist Dr. Helmuth Vorherr over Wilson.
Max Marinko Dies
During the Aug. 28-31, 1975 Toronto CNE Mal Anderson reports (TTT, Sept.-Oct., 1975, 3; 14) that “a number of us left the tournament to go to Max Marinko’s funeral.” He died after a courageous battle with cancer at the age of 58—and this after having won the Esquire’s at the Houston U.S. Open just months before! Yeah, he was tough. Mal said, “The church was overflowing, people were standing in the aisles. Max was one of the nicest people in the game, he will be missed.”
I’ve followed Max’s career, beginning in Vol. I (in 1936 he became the Yugoslav Champion, and in 1937 he had a Swaythling Cup win, 21-7 in the deciding 3rd, over that year’s World Champion Richard Bergmann). Many of my readers know that Max, a penholder wielding an over-sized bat, played internationally for his native Yugoslavia (and won a silver medal in the Team’s at the ’39 Cairo World’s—that’s when he and his teammates saw the Sphinx and the Pyramids). Know, too, that he helped Czechoslovakia win two World Team titles (in ‘48 and ‘50), and that finally he played for Canada (where from 1955-1963 he was their 8-time National Champion).
Max’s great love for table tennis I’ve noted in tournament after tournament, so I thought I’d show you another side of him, what he did for a living, so I reproduce the tribute to him (TTT, Sept.-Oct, 1975, 6) from his colleague, Hugh MacDonald, at the Toronto Harbord Collegiate Institute where Max taught Latin. I also reproduce the poem I wrote in homage to Max (7), and though some readers thought poetry had no place in Topics, I’m pleased to say not only that I liked it, but that Max’s wife Jenny, herself a Canadian National Champion, called me, crying, to tell me how much she liked it.
CNE: Junior Team Matches
The Thursday Junior Invitational Team event at the CNE was won by Illinois-Michigan—Faan Hoan Liu, his sister Faan Yeen, and Kurt Lloyd. They beat, first, the Pennsylvania team of Bruce Plotnick, Randy Seemiller, and, though they didn’t have the requisite girl for their three-person team, they soon were provided with Ottawa’s Lesley Marsham. Faan Yeen, however, was too strong—won her singles and mixed match, and that decided that semi’s tie. In the final, Illinois-Michigan stopped New York—Rutledge Barry, Carl Danner, and Dana Gvildys.
Ray Seemiller enjoyed his first ever stint as U.S. Team Captain and brought home a 5-3 winner for our Junior Men. Of course, Barry, Bruce Plotnick, John Soderberg (though sick the night before), and team-member Danner as Coach helped. Of the Canadians—Eddy Lo, Pierre Normandin, Marc Lesiege—only Lo could score. Ray said he’d never seen him play better.
Our Junior Women, as Team Captain Rufford Harrison put it, were “hopelessly outclassed.” Canadians Birute Plucas, Christine Forgo, and Gloria Nesukaitis were far above Faan Yeen and Dana in rating points, in having been well coached, and in having played against varied styles.
CNE: Women’s Team Matches
Women’s Team Captain Fred Danner reluctantly bypassed his #3, Barb Taschner, in both singles and doubles, to rely on Insook Na and Alice Green Sonne (pronounced Sony—on July 5th she’d married Lennie, a resident doctor at N.Y.’s King County Hospital), and they came through, 3-1, against the Canadians. It was our first Women’s Team victory since 1971.
“The intensity of spin on Insook’s chops and her strong forehand drives prevented Violetta [Nesukaitis] from making effective returns,” so the U.S. was off to a 6, 17 lead. But former Yugoslav ace Irena Cordas, Canadian Coach Zlatko’s wife, largely on the strength of her serves, evened the match with an 18, 17 win over Alice.
That made the doubles key. In the 1st game, the Canadian pair, Cordas and Mariann Domonkos, “were able to topspin and kill several shots through both Alice and Insook,” thus forcing “returns which were either high and short, or deep off the table.” In the 2nd game, Danner instructed Alice “to play defensive shots, as softly as possible, into Mariann, while Insook was to try to force Irena Cordas to move as far as possible to make each shot. Both players were to hit at every good opportunity but not to force an attack shot without good position.” The idea was for our players to reduce “the severity of the Canadian attack” and give themselves more time to play their returns. This strategy was successful: Alice caused Mariann “to over-stroke her forehand and miss several points,” and Insook, moving Irena, prevented “strong loops or topspin shots to Alice.” In the 3rd, Insook’s “heavy chop spins,” and especially Alice’s angle play to Irena and then soft-shot play to Mariann easily won the day. Insook finished off Irena for the four-match U.S. win.
CNE: Men’s Team Matches
Captain Bill Sharpe had to select his U.S. Men’s Team against the Canadians from a 5-man squad—Danny Seemiller, Lim Ming Chui, George Brathwaite, Ricky Seemiller, and Dave Philip. He picked Danny, Ming, and George—but George had been mistakenly told the wrong time for the Tie, and so Ricky was substituted in his place. Canada left out Alan Heap and went with Cordas, Errol Caetano, and Alex Polisois.
First up: Chui against Cordas. Ming “had not been playing much of late, he mis-hit ball after ball, and otherwise could not out-exchange Cordas.” Next: Ricky against Errol. In the deciding 3rd, Caetano spun and hit well, but Seemiller’s blocks were quite controlled. Ricky’s forehand serves continued to give Errol real problems, especially “whenever Ricky served from his extreme left to Errol’s left side.” It was Caetano’s inability to handle these serves that allowed Seemiller to upset him. Tie 1-1.
Danny had an easy time with Polisois—“spinning strong and placing his blocks well off Alex’s loops.” Caetano, however, tied up Chui with a “slow-down type of game” so that Ming had no opportunity “to make those quick-placed blocks.” Against Danny, Zlatko “was top-spinning and blocking Danny’s spin very well. And he seemed to know just when to hit or spin himself. But at deuce Seemiller’s better physical condition prevailed,” and after that Danny had no trouble. But then the Tie evened up again when “Rick allowed Alex to play the loop against loop kind of match he enjoys,” and Rick “could not gain control.” 3-3.
“Despite the fact that Cordas had been trying to teach Caetano to concentrate better,” Errol could not get into it against Danny. When Polisois made the mistake of speeding up his play against Chui, Ming’s fast, angled blocks did him in—and the U.S. came out a 5-3 winner.
CNE: Individual Results
Mal Anderson, covering the Individual matches for Topics, tells us that in the Men’s final Danny Seemiller downed Zlatko Cordas in 5—with only the 3rd game being close. “Zlatko looped with his forehand and hit off both sides. Dan countered and blocked and hit once in a while—both men moved very quickly.” In the pivotal 3rd game, Dan was down 19-17 with Zlatko serving. “The final point was a Seemiller block that hit the middle of the net and somehow climbed over”—game 21-19 to Dan. In the one semi’s, “Seemiller beat Caetano 17, -20, 19, 19, with Errol running and looping, and Danny blocking and occasionally stepping around to loop kill one himself.” In the other semi’s, Cordas blanked Chui—“Ming said that Zlatko’s control was so good he was forced to hit while running.”
Notable Men’s matches: Barry over both Ricky Seemiller, -12, 19, 20, -19, 13, and Frank Watson, 16, -10, 14, -11, 14, before losing in 4 to Chui. Sharpe over Canada’s Alan Heap, 21-4 in the 5th. Eddy Lo over Mike Veillette, 17, -20, 17, -19, 15. And Carl Danner over Jim Dixon, -17, -15, 15, 21, 19, a gutsy win that helped bring the 17-year-old into more prominence, specifically as the Nov.-Dec., 1975 Topics “Junior of the Month.” In a strange bit of whimsy, Editor Boggan suggested Carl himself “ghost” this Junior article under Boggan’s by-line—which he did, calling immediate attention to himself as a sort of Topics sub-editor, real or imagined. As I noted earlier, Carl went 5 with Pradit at the Miami Newgy’s tournament, and now two weeks later had upset Dixon, so we can see he’s playing well. In order to see what else he’s doing well, read this excerpt:
“…Scholastically, Carl has distinguished himself. He’s a National Merit Scholarship semifinalist, is in the top ½ of 1% of students in the nation, and has been scheduled to appear in this year’s Who’s Who of American High School students. As a senior at Long Island’s Huntington High, Carl is studying college physics and math, having last year gone through university-level chemistry with high honors. French is another subject he’d like to academically pursue but can’t at the moment, having worked through his school’s program a year early….”
The CNE Women’s event was won by Na over Cordas in 4. “Irena looped and hit, often catching Insook leaning the wrong way,” and so won the 1st. But then Insook “moved much better, chopped, and hit off both sides” to 13, 17, 19 take the title. In the semi’s against Na, Violetta couldn’t get to double figures in any of the three games, and one had to think that her illustrious career (10 Canadian Closed Championships in the last 11 years) was about to end. Mariann Domonkos, thought her successor, played only in the Canada vs. U.S. Team Match because she was supporting her fellow Quebec players who didn’t come to the tournament. Mal said there were two reasons for this: either they “were protesting against the playing conditions, or their Quebec doctor said they shouldn’t play on a cement floor.”
Alice Sonne, however, indicated that, though she planned to continue going for her Masters in History at New York’s Columbia University, she also planned to continue her table tennis career. She won a 5-game quarter’s match from Rupa Bannerjee, controlling the ball beautifully, attacking well, and not giving Rupa much chance “to use her excellent forehand kill.” Then she put up fierce resistance in losing -19, -15, 24, -22 to Cordas—making a fantastic comeback in the 3rd from 20-15 down. To end the 4th, Irena scored on some clutch forehands of her own.
Other Results: Men’s Doubles: Cordas/Caetano over the Seemillers, deuce in the 4th (“Errol looks like Dell Sweeris in Doubles—lots of spins and counterdrives with excellent angles”). Women’s Doubles: Na/Tischner over Cordas/Flora Nesukaitis, 15, -20, 22, 10, then over Banerjee/Gloria Hsu. Mixed Doubles: Caetano/Cordas over Dan Seemiller/Sonne (“Errol said he has to work too hard when he plays Mixed Doubles with Violetta—she chops.” That means he has to play defense, too, “so he intends to play with hitters from now on”—another indication that Violetta might be ready to call it quits). Men’s A’s: Barry over Plotnick Women’s A’s: Flora Nesukaitis over Gaeta O’Gale. Esquire’s: George Rocker over Lou Radzeli, then Bill Hornyak, both 17 in the 5th. Senior’s: Derek Wall over Ken Kerr. Boys U-17: Lo over Plotnick in 5, then over Mike Stern. Girls U-17: Birute Plucas over Gloria Nesukaitis. Boys U-15: Barry over Ray Reichert in 5, then over Liu. Girls U-15: Lisa Airst over Gloria Nesukaitis in 5. Boys U-13: Jeff Williams over Joe Eng (later Ng), destined to be a Canadian superstar. Girls U-13: Becky McKnight over Ramona Raguckas.
$3,000 Nissen Open
Houshang Bozorgzadeh, who very soon would be in a hospital undergoing surgery for a ruptured disc, didn’t win the Men’s Singles at this first annual $2,000 Nissen Open, held Sept. 6-7 at Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. But, doctor’s orders be damned, he did what at the moment seemed the next best thing: he paired with the eventual Singles winner, Yugoslav International Zlatko Cordas, to down some formidable opposition and take the Men’s Doubles.
Of course even before the action started, Houshang had an even bigger success with sponsor-partner George Nissen who was soon to bounce nattily in from one of the many trampoline tournaments he and his gymnast daughter were into (this time it was the “Eterna” in Switzerland). Houshang and George, working together, through personal contact with a number of players and officials, showed themselves eager to make arrangements that would ensure the success of this initial tournament. Bozorgzadeh, a proud, passionate player all his life, and Nissen, an international competitor from way back, know how to give off good vibes, know how to make players want to come to their Open—whereas some other sponsors do not. Here, where Houshang was directing the tournament, you always heard and felt a voice speaking not only to you but to each individual.
In the beginning, round robin matches were held to determine whether you would play in the Championship, A, or B Singles. It was hoped, the appealing Houshang announced, that “everybody will play honest and try as hard as he can.” Kalamazoo’s Mike Baber was unhappy, though, because he’d come “400 miles to play five 1400 players” and then, advancing to the Championship division, would catch Wuvanich in the 1st round. “The format’s ridiculous,” he said. “I don’t have any chance for rating points. It’s absolutely ridiculous. I feel like dumping a match to get into the A’s. At least I’d have some kind of competition there.” But Mike didn’t throw a preliminary match (and 32 rating points), played Wuvanich and lost 3-0, and, since he wasn’t eligible any more for the Junior’s, went without any consolation home. Now that he was getting older and better, was there no satisfying, not to say enjoyable, place for him in the game? That U-21 event Bochenski had spoken of—would that be incorporated into tournaments?
Junior play there was. In the U-13’s, U.S. U-11 Champ John Stillions beat Minneapolis whiz kid, 9-year-old Brandon Olson. Actually, Brandon lives 10 miles or more from Magoo’s, but he’d been coming in faithfully twice a week for two hours at a stretch (which still left him some time for another passion, ice hockey). His non-playing father and mother had always accompanied and encouraged him and gradually he got a lot better. It also really helped him to be in Wuvanich’s three training clinics this summer—seven times a week he played, three hours a session, a month at a time. Whew! Someone told me that if you talked when you were supposed to be practicing at Wuvanich’s training camp you had to do 50 push-ups. Tough for a 9-year-old to keep quiet?
Young Stillions, who’ll be 12 in April, is in the 6th grade and generally plays about two hours a day—though some days, he says, he plays all day and other days he doesn’t play at all. In fact, if the truth be known, he has quite a few other interests. He goes skating (mostly to play the pinball machines), and is into coin collecting—pennies, of course, because he also likes to play poker. “My friend’s dad is a real collector,” he says. “He collects 17th century U.S. coins. They’re probably worth at least a $1,000 apiece.”
Stock car racing is fun—but his mom thinks he’ll get too tired. I don’t get that, though. He’s just watching, isn’t he? Or has he got goggles on? Is behind a steering wheel? A frisbee—now that’s something he can really handle. You didn’t know? He was a recent finalist in a city-wide Frisbee contest. Yeah, he can catch it behind his back, through his legs. “My cousin is a champ,” he says. “You should see him. He can juggle four frisbees.” When Johnny wasn’t playing a match here, he was still very near a table. “Bring me back something to eat, will you? I want to watch.”
The U-17 Junior winner, John Soderberg, it’s hard to believe, was once a child. Now he’s going to a Catholic Military Academy where he’s studying the History of the Church. Morning after morning he and his look-alikes march by with their guns, then uniformly go to religion class. “It’s the best academic program available,” he said, sounding like a High School Cicero…or the equally ironic W.C. Fields, whose “Just War” was always with babies. John was the kind of student (“I’m not worrying. I’m going to stay up and study all Sunday night”) who could do no less than win the $100 A’s here. One of his opponents was Steve Isaacson who hadn’t touched a racket in years.
Barbara Taschner was the Women’s winner of the Stillions Trophy. She’s out of school now and working as a secretary to not one manager but three at a pharmaceutical company called Abbot Laboratories. “Pills? Oh, yes,” she said—“you name them, we got them.” And, silly me, I wanted to know how she’d been winning tournaments? “Oh, no,” she said. “They’ve very good scrutiny where I work. Everyone asks me for pills, but, really, I can’t get them.” So how had Barb gotten good? “By watching men,” she said. A transition which, if ever I needed one, now leads me to the Open Singles and the most significant matches of the tournament.
In the quarter’s, Danny Seemiller, fresh from his triumph the week before at the CNE Open in Toronto, suddenly had his future here in this tournament in doubt. He was having trouble not only with multi-time Thailand Champ Chan but the brand new ball and table they were using. The soft ball wasn’t coming out, didn’t bounce—the table was still too “grabby.” Up 2-1 and up 19-17 in the 4th, Danny had missed two of Chan’s crucial high-up serves. There’d been lots of spin on them and Chan threatened to follow up well. That brought the two of them into the 5th where they were tied at 14-all. But now Chan failed to return serve. Danny won the next point with fast corner to corner placements, and then got a net. After that Chan never earned a point. “He seemed to want to win so badly,” Danny said later. “You know he really needs the money. That extra pressure on him—I thought I could see it in his face—gave me confidence.”
Maybe Danny himself was finding it difficult to stay mentally up. In the last three weeks he’d trekked 6,000 table tennis miles….Little Rock, Salt Lake City, Phoenix…and then the 1700 non-stop miles home to get there in time for his clinic. With all that frantic driving no wonder he’d blown an engine. He’d have to be careful, huh? Take time out every once in a while to relax. But when? There was Niagara Falls, Atlanta, Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, and the start of the Pro Tour on Long Island, then he was immediately off to Yugoslavia and Sweden.
No chance for Houshang in his quarter’s against Cordas. He had the responsibility of running the tournament, and worse, much worse, he’d injured his back by picking up of all things a too heavy watermelon and so had been sleeping on a hardwood floor for the past three weeks. It had been hard on his wife too.
A number of us watching the one-sided Houshang-Zlatko match talked of seeing the ABC telecast of the Houston National’s. Where were the U.S. players? A shot of Miles playing, but not one of Danny or Insook. I myself objected to the ignorant, bullshit lines, “Tell me, Dick, do you think any really good player in this country—like a recreational director, say—could take even a point from these guys?” Or “Say, Dick, those fellows are really perspiring out there.” Such remarks were disgusting to me. And yet I thought it was the best telecast ABC had ever done.
In another quarter’s match, Fuarnado Roberts stopped gathering names for his Players Association roster long enough to get out there and scare Wuvanich. Down 2-1, Charlie was having trouble hitting Robbie’s hard chops. But then, making an adjustment, he drops more, and slow spins from the forehand, forcing Robbie, lest his return be weak, not only to hit that ball but be prepared for a counter-kill. At the start of the 5th, Robbie maneuvers beautifully to get one open table forehand shot after another but again and again just misses it, and so loses the match.
In the last of the quarter’s, Ricky Seemiller beat Chui 3-0. It was obvious that with his new job and the hassle of getting his family settled somewhere in the table tennis wilds of Vermont he was out of practice.
Ricky did have an exciting match in the 8th’s, though, against the Thai Sears who they say runs 10 miles every day. Though Ricky was still feelin’ good from his win over Caetano in the CNE U.S. vs. Canada Team Tie, he insisted he’d been getting stiff and scared in close matches ever since he’d lost to Herb Vichnin in Philadelphia some months ago (a trauma I wouldn’t wish on anyone). Here, however, he managed to win a key, come-from-behind 24-22 game against Sears. Ricky had been worried about the young Thai’s serve and follow until he finally realized that he should try to receive the ball with his anti side and just roll it back. Therefter he was always in the point. Up 9-2 in the 5th, he was 13-12 down, then 17-13 up. Such heady swings—as if Ricky didn’t always use his head. Once when he had Sears back at the barrier lobbing, Ricky, just as persistently, began trying to kill the ball—until of course he missed. “S-T-U-P-I-D!” he yelled. Finally, after he won, he said the match was very important to him because he wanted to make a good impression on John Read, not to say his Selection Committee, so that he’d be picked to go to Europe in November with Danny.
In the round robin semi’s, Ricky opened against Charlie and lost the 1st. In the 2nd, Danny kept yelling at Ricky to stop making errors. “You weren’t ready for that serve. Make him wait till you’re ready!” Still, Ricky was up 19-16 when, crazy, he unbelievably missed three of Wuvanich’s serves. “You fool! You stupid fool!” he yelled and looked at Danny. “Was Ricky even trying to win the point?” Danny thought. But Ricky had the ad. Despite the fact that Danny had been yelling at him to serve short, Ricky served long—and lost the ad. Given another chance he served long—and lost the game. Danny was really furious. “You totally threw that game away,” he said as Ricky came over for some quick advice. “You gotta ____ing learn, man! Where’s your ____ing head?” Ricky, looking properly chagrined, went back to the table and again played end-game close. But then the compressed Wuvanich (he does 400 sit-ups a day?) twice unwound in a spectacular smash of a finish—and the match was over.
Danny knew that Zlatko would be here in Cedar Rapids. “Man, was he mad in Toronto,” said Danny. “I beat him before all those Canadians.” (And where, by the way, was Caetano? At Peter Gonda’s wedding. You remember, they used to be doubles partners.) The Seemiller-Cordas match went 5 games. Zlatko had won the big deuce 3rd game, had let out a roar, and Danny had thrown up his racket. In the 4th, Seemiller followed the advice Roberts and others had given him: serve short spin to Cordas’s backhand and then, by playing him more to his center and forehand, catch him in the middle. In the 5th, with Danny down 13-10, Robbie shouted, “C’mon, you’re not in the game!” And it was true. Danny was just not being aggressive enough. At 14-10 there was a beautiful exchange—which Danny lost. “Aahhh!” he said. And it was all over. This time Zlatko had out-placed, out-countered—out-played Danny.
Danny has a good service and a good fast loop, Cordas was saying later. But when the ball gets into play, Danny’s forehand is too soft. He’s got to change his footwork—move in more. Kill any sort of high ball while he’s got the chance. What Danny really needs, says Zlatko, is a first-class professional coach. Trouble is, who knows more than Danny about how to get the most out of his peculiar grip, his unique strokes?
Well, if Danny can’t beat Cordas, how can Ricky? He too of course has that forefinger hooked round the corner of the blade—and a special marking on his racket that enables him to feel without looking which side has the anti. He dutifully plays to Cordas’s center and forehand. As a result in one of the three games he loses, he’s down 10-1.But why talk about it?
Or Ricky versus Danny?
O.K., Charlie against Danny. In the 1st, Seemiller’s not aggressive enough—is flat-footed, is blocking too much. In the 2nd, Danny still looks lazy, but Wuvanich can’t win it. In the 3rd, at 10-all, Danny’s pushing rather than stroking his forehand. “God,” he says, “you can’t make all these errors and still win!” Only in the last part of the game Danny doesn’t make any errors—goes up 2-1. “Play like this is the 5th,” says Danny, but the only time he puts together some points in the 4th is when he’s 20-11 too far gone. In the 5th, Wuvanich, attacking, is up 14-9. Then Danny loses a paddle point and exasperated throws his racket high into the air. Down 16-10 he says, “Dammit!” and wins 6 in a row. Down 18-17, Danny’s got the serve—and scores on a beautiful 3rd ball follow. Ahead 19-18, Danny pushes Charlie’s return of serve off the table. But then, up 20-19, he screams, “Yeah!” Everybody in his entourage is yelling, “Go for your towel!” But Wuvanich hasn’t once stalled for time so now neither does Danny….Charlie’s ad…Danny’s ad. Then, as luck would have it, Danny misses a shot—but the ball hits Charlie’s wrist. Umpire Gus Kennedy of Magoo’s hesitates, then calls Seemiller a winner on the racket rule.
The winner of the Cordas-Wuvanich match gets $500; the loser $100 for 3rd. Charlie, down 17-12 in the 1st, rallies to win it 23-21. He’s giving Zlatko those high-up loaded serves, but it’s not just returning them that worries Zlatko, it’s what Wuvanich will wind up and do next with his racket arm in total extension. But on into the 5th they go. Charlie is hurrying after the ball as if he’s got an unlimited amount of energy. He’s up 10-5 at the turn. But Wuvanich’s play is loose, and now with every point he wins Zlatko shakes his fist. At 16-all, Cordas goes for his towel. At 17-all Wuvanich goes for his towel—Chan is conveniently holding it for him at the barrier. Suddenly the match seems to hang on a single unbelievable return Cordas makes of a Wuvanich kill. Later, Zlatko said that when he saw Charlie was going to all-out smash the ball he knew his only chance was not just to stick out his bat and simply block the ball back (because Charlie would put the next ball away), but to bring the racket straight down in a chop/block that might miraculously carom the ball back.
After Wuvanich had lost, the consensus was that he hadn’t played very smart when he was ahead. Some said he seemed only to want to hit the ball hard—and diagonally, never to the middle. Others said he was smart enough—but too proud. Too anxious to prove that he was clearly the best player in all of North America.
What did Charlie himself say? Nothing specifically about the match. But he was worried about his future in the Sport. Because if he’s gonna play in more money tournaments he’s got to practice, right? And yet if he practices, instead of coaching or giving exhibitions, how’s he gonna make a living?