Next week marks the start of the 75th Los Angeles Open tennis tournament, now called the Mercedes-Benz Cup. Another in a series looking back at some of the more memorable moments.
In the 1949 Pacific Southwest final, Pancho Gonzalez beat Ted Schroeder, and the best authority on the match--a repeat result of their Forest Hills 1949 final--was one entertaining phone call away.
Asked about the details, Schroeder talked as though it had unfolded last week.
"I was pooped out," said Schroeder, the 1949 Wimbledon winner. "And I was 29 years old . . . And if you want to know the truth . . ."
Schroeder lowered his voice, shifting into confidential mode.
"Just between us, he was a better tennis player," he said. "But don't let the word get around."
In 1948, Schroeder had beaten Gonzalez in the Pacific Southwest semifinals in four sets, shortly after Gonzalez had won his first Forest Hills singles title. Gonzalez was perplexed by Schroeder's domination, addressing it in his autobiography, "The Man With a Racket."
"Ted held some kind of psychological advantage over me," Gonzalez wrote. "I was never able to understand it. I still can't. He'd get me worried long before a match started. Often, as we dressed in the locker room, he'd approach me and the conversation would run something like this:
"Good day for tennis."
"You know, I'm going to beat you again, Pancho . . . "
"Then he would stroll away, as nonchalant as ever. I'd stand there and burn--playing right into his hand. He was halfway home before we'd ever hit a ball. . . . There was no doubt about it, Schroeder was my jinx."
Gonzalez won at Forest Hills, despite losing the first set to Schroeder, 18-16, then repeated the victory in their hard-fought Pacific Southwest final, 6-3, 9-11, 8-6, 6-4.
The '40s had been dominated by Jack Kramer, who won the Pacific Southwest in 1943, '46 and '47. Kramer, however, called Schroeder "one of the most underrated players in the game."
Said Schroeder of Kramer: "I never paid too much attention to him because he was clearly the best and nobody could do anything about it. In all the tennis we played, we only played against one another once. I was unseeded in the 1939 National Junior Championships and I won the tournament without losing a set, and beat Jack in the semifinals, and we never played against one another again."