1955: U.S. Men Play Well: English Open/Wolverhampton Match/German Open. 1955: Utrecht World Championships.
As Captain George Schein will later report, the U.S. Team members all met the morning of March 24 at Grand Central Station, N.Y., then boarded a train to Springfield, Massachusetts, where on arrival they took a bus to Chicopee Falls in order to make that day’s flight from Westover Air Force Base. They landed in Prestwick, Scotland on March 25, and, in order to avoid “the scheduled train trip across Scotland and England,” played an exhibition there in return for a 2 and ½-hour flight that would take them just outside London. By the evening of Mar. 26 they were all ensconced—hospitality provided by the English TTA—at the Royal Hotel. On Mar. 27-28 the Team practiced at both the Putney Working-Men’s Club and the Plaistow Y.M.C.A. (though on the 27th Klein was throw-up sick with an upset stomach).
The English Open started Mar. 29th in the Main Restaurant Hall at Wembley Stadium (late-round matches would be played Apr. 1-2 at the Empire Pool and Sports Arena). The playing area was so cold that most of our Team members had to buy track suits. The Europeans wore playing shorts under their suits; we were the only team that wore flannel trousers. Later, on returning home, Schein would recommend that we get in step with other countries—wear what they do, have USA pins and banners to give in exchange for those received from other countries, and, in line with the absent Millie Shahian’s concerns, make sure that all Team members have “sufficient funds available” to care for all their needs “as finances seemed to be the major problem I had with the players.” Of course, as usual, Ty Neuberger’s gambling at the English Open brought complaints—this despite the fact that a Betting Agent’s sheet was circulating about “which quoted odds on all the leading players.”
In the Men’s Singles, where the great majority of entries were Englishmen, in the top half of the large Draw, Klein lost his opening match, 15, 18, 19, to 1936, ‘37, and ‘39 World finalist Alex Ehrlich who last year on recovering from a “burst ulcer” went to Sweden to coach, and, like Tage Flisberg, took up the sponge racket. After this match, Klein himself vowed to play exclusively with sponge. Hirschkowitz dropped a 3rd-round 16, -15, 16, -19, -20 killer (reportedly he was leading 19-17 in both the 4th and 5th game) to English Swaythling Cup member Brian Kennedy who went on to upset Ivan Andreadis (no sponge for Ivan, never, he says) before losing to France’s Rene Roothoft. Meanwhile, Miles, after coming up short, 23-25, in the 1st game against his 3rd-round Essex opponent, a Beamish boy with vorpal sword, won the key 2nd at deuce and moved on to deuce-in-the-4th down the much touted Czech, Ludvik Vyhnanovsky, victor over Frenchman Guy Amouetti in 5.
This should have put Dick up against Bergmann, except that Richard had unaccountably been eliminated 3-0 by Jimmy Lowe, the English Junior Champion in 1950. Table Tennis Review quoted Richard as saying that he “failed dismally” and pointed out that “This was the first time since November, 1947 that he had lost to an English player in an official tournament in England” (Autumn, 1955, 5). Miles, “though he seems to have lost the severe forehand hit,” then beat Lowe in a time-limit 4th. “This was a dour battle of wits,” said Table Tennis editor Harrison Edwards, “with some rallies going in the region of 200 strokes.” But then in the semi’s—Dick “lacks fighting spirit,” said observer Sam Kirkwood—Miles fell to France’s Rene Roothoft who’d earlier been behind 2-0 to Kennedy. Kirkwood noted in the Review that on seeing Miles he half recognized him (wiping his playing hand on the table, for example), but half didn’t because he’d had a nose-reduction operation. Said Kirkwood, Dick “looks younger and more handsome” (World Championship Issue, 1955, 24).
In the bottom half of the Draw, Bukiet had a 2nd-round win over France’s Haguenauer before losing 3-0 to Tereba (the Czech’s now using sponge) who then quickly finished Flisberg. Believe it or not, Leach’s 1st-round opponent was Vana, who was but a shadow of his former self, reportedly playing more defense than offense. Johnny then went on to 21, -18, 18, 9 defeat Gusikoff, who’d earlier knocked out two Englishmen. Eventually Leach advanced to the semi’s by getting the better of Tereba in 5. Meantime, Somael, confident after winning two matches, –20, -18, 19, -16 let World Doubles Champion Zarko Dolinar know he’d been in a match. Zarko, in real life a veterinary surgeon, seeing no point in resuscitation, just buried Harry Venner who’d been disconcertingly forced into the 5th by Australian sponger Lou Laza. (If this year as last, Lou still gripped the racket more by the blade than by the handle, he sure was getting astonishing results…beating English Swaythling Cupper Bryan Merrett, for example). Dolinar progressed on, eliminating Stipek and Leach, to meet in the final Roothoft and take the Men’s.
In the Doubles, the Yugoslav team of Dolinar/Gabric, who would reach the final, opened with a 4-game win over Klein/Bukiet. I didn’t think it was supposed to happen, but the Draw allowed Hirschkowitz/Gusikoff to meet Miles/Somael in the 2nd round. Dick and Johnny had struggled to an 18, -19, 21, 19 win over the Australian team of Phil Anderson/Barney Peters, and, since back in the States they hadn’t been a particularly potent partnership, it was understandable that Harry and Bobby were able to beat them After which the young Americans had an excellent win over the Defending Champions, Aubrey Simons/Brian Kennedy, to reach the semi’s before losing to the event winners Andreadis/Stipek.
In the Women’s, Robinson lost her opening match—couldn’t hold a 2-1 lead against England’s Barbara Milbank. But she came back to win the Consolation over Welsh Corbillon Cupper Betty Gray. Neuberger, her hair dyed blonde, eliminated two opponents before falling to current Wimbledon Junior Girls’ holder, Ann Haydon, who’d moved to the final by outlasting Di Rowe. Prouty was beaten in her opening match by England’s Pam Mortimer, loser to the soon-to-be Champion Ros Rowe.
Women’s Doubles went to the perennial winners, the Rowe twins, who in the 1st round had their toughest match—a 5-gamer against Scotland’s Helen Elliot and Wales’s Audrey Bates. Neuberger and Prouty, over weak opposition, reached the semi’s before being eliminated by the Rowes, 3-0. Robinson and Doreen Spooner, who three years earlier had been beaten in the Junior’s here by the U.S.’s Sherry Koehnke, went down docilely in the 1st round.
In the Mixed, Hirschkowitz did as much as could be expected—won a deuce-in-the-4th match with pick-up English partner Jean Mackay. Leah had hoped to play with Ehrlich, but USTTA President Ek had nixed that, as he had her request to play Women’s Doubles with Elliot. In the 2nd round, she and Gusikoff were ousted by the eventual runner-ups, Andreadis/Peggy Franks, who in the next round eliminated Somael/Robinson. Miles/Prouty scrambled deuce-in-the-5th through their opening match, then were beaten by the winners, Aubrey Simons/Elliot.
Klein did well in the Junior events—lost in the semi’s, 20, 20, to winner Bert Onnes of the Netherlands, then paired with him to take the Junior Doubles over an English team, 24-22 in the 3rd. Erwin also won the Junior Mixed with Wendy Bates, a Sussex girl, over the #1 seeds, Derek Backhouse and Junior Girls’ Champ Haydon.
USA vs. England Match
Before leaving for the German Open at Kiel, the U.S. Team went to Wolverhampton for an Apr. 5th USA vs. England Match at the Civic Hall. The match, covered by a local reporter, “J.G.B.,” consisted solely of Singles played by the nine different members of each Team. Harry Venner opened for England—“whipped sinewy Bobby Gusikoff, 21-8, 21-18, by snappy backhand flicks down the edges.” Di Rowe then beat “immobile” Pauline Robinson, 11, 10. England 2-USA 0.
But Klein, next up, “decided to use a Jap-type sponge bat, against manager George Schein’s advice,” and the boy’s “flat hitting” was too much for Derek Burridge. Hirschkowitz then downed lefty Alan Rhodes to tie the tie. “Facing pretty Sally Prouty, England’s dynamic teenager, Ann Haydon, soon had the American twittering: ‘Oh, that’s silly,’ in self-derision. Ann’s murderous wide-arc forehand gave her a seven minute 21-9, 21-9 win. “Character (and clown) of the night” was England’s Bergmann. After using his own chalk on the floor [for what purpose?…improved footing?],” he “wore down lathlike Dick Miles 8-21, 21-12, 21-12. England 4-USA 2.
Now, however, “chunky, little-heard-of New Yorker Somael” countered with a straight-game win over an “outfoxed” Leach. To little avail, though, for “Rosalind Rowe, nimble, icy technician, sliced plump Leah Neuberger’s defence to shreds.” That gave England the 5 wins they needed. “America cocked the last snook” when Bukiet beat Kennedy 7, 15.
Tucking the Staffordshire pottery they were presented with into their bags, our Team returned to London where they caught a train to Hamburg, then rented a bus to Kiel, arriving there about 9:00 p.m. on Apr. 6.
Play at the quite large, but (costs too much to keep heated) cold Ostseehalle began on Apr. 9th. In the Men’s, Bukiet reached the semi’s without losing a game, then couldn’t take a single one from Conny Freundorfer. The Heidelberg-based American Michael Fiedler might have met Bernie in the quarter’s but, after his great win over Poldi Holusek, runner-up to Freundorfer in the German National’s, he was beaten by Wenninghoff, 25-23 in the 4th. U.S. supporter Bill Gunn, as expected, lost in the 1st round (as he would in both Doubles). Klein won his 1st match; afterwards was stopped by Michalek. In the other half of the Draw, Gusikoff, off to a slow start against Ilberg, couldn’t win the 25-23 3rd game that might have gotten him back into the match. Somael, though behind 2-0, forced World #8 Roothoft into the 5th. Hirschkowitz had two good wins—over Ernst and Gunther Matthias. Miles, down 2-0 and at deuce in the 4th, rallied to beat German International Josep Seiz, but then couldn’t pull out the 5th against 44-year-old Ehrlich who’d earlier ousted Hirschkowitz and would go on to beat Roothoft in the semi’s and Freundorfer in the final.
Pauline Robinson wrote that “Roothoft received a very bad break at 19 all in the 5th with Ehrlich”:
When the referee suddenly called out ‘two minutes to play’ in German, which Roothoft (France) did not understand, he [Roothoft] pushed the ball right off the table. What a commotion! But nothing could be done—the referee had only been warning that two minutes was left to play, a legal process! Roothoft lost the match…was very, very unhappy, and I can’t blame him!’ (TTT, May, 1955, 7).
Men’s Doubles was a triumph for the Americans. Hirschkowitz/Gusikoff reached the quarter’s before being ousted by Yugoslavs Grujic/Vogrinc. Miles/Somael defeated Fiedler and Portugal’s Francisco Campas in the 8th’s, Freundorfer/Kurt Seifert in the quarter’s, and German National Champions Seiz/Holusek in the semi’s. These successes brought them to…Bukiet/Klein who’d ousted the Yugoslavs. But in the final against Bernie and Erwin, Dick and Johnny could put up no resistance at all.
In the Women’s, Prouty lost her 1st round match (in 5) to Utrecht-entry Annegret Thole. As did Gunn’s companion, Marianne Bessinger (who was also outclassed in both Doubles). Robinson, however, advanced to the quarter’s before losing to Gloede in 5. Neuberger lived up to her #2 seeding, losing only in the final to #1 seed Helen Elliott.
Swaythling Cup Play at Utrecht, Netherlands World’s
Capt. Schein reported that from Kiel the U.S. Team shared a bus with the Swedish Team—an 11-hour trip Klein said in a letter to Wasserman—and “arrived in Utrecht at 2 A.M., on the 12th, giving us four days before the Worlds to become adjusted.” Klein was pleased during this time to “beat Bukiet even” in a practice match. He said the Japs were going to win, and emphasized that “Hitters without sponge have no chance whatsoever against sponge.” Here, said Erwin, it’s different from the States, for so many of the better players are rather evenly matched. Also, the women players are “about 2 times as good as [those in] the States.” Though he doesn’t elaborate, he thinks that “Schein is a bad choice for Captain of the Team. About all I can say is that he is honest.” Perhaps, since Schein didn’t want Klein to use sponge, Erwin thinks that George just doesn’t understand the way the Sport’s evolving abroad, and so can’t be of any strategic help. However, after the English Open and the Match at Wolverhampton, the Hon. Secy./Treas. of the English TTA, Bill Vint, sent a letter to the USTTA in which he said that “the relationship between our two Associations has been further cemented by the goodwill and helpfulness on the part of your Captain.”
In Swaythling Cup play at Bernhard Hall, 32 teams were divided into four round robin groups of eight; a single elimination semi’s and final would then follow. In Group 1, Czechoslovakia (7-0) didn’t lose a tie, didn’t even lose a match. France (6-1) was a clear second. In Group 3, Japan (7-0) advanced easily, dropping only two matches—Josip Vogrinc of the runner-up Yugoslav Team, beat current Japanese Champion Toshiaki Tanaka; and 1954 and 55 Asian Champion Mai van Hoa, who uses a hard bat, beat Yoshio Tomita. How Mai beat Tomita I don’t know, but I read in Table Tennis Review that in the semi’s of the Asian Championships Mai’s title was decided at 2-2 and 1-1. Yep—after 20 stonewalling minutes, the score was1-1 in the 5th, and whoever got the next point would win. Mai’s Hong Kong opponent, Chung Chin Sing, a defender who’d played doubles against Reisman/Cartland at the Bombay World’s, suddenly erupted into a hitting spasm, and, though he got three balls in, Mai returned them all, and Chung hit the 4th into the net (1955 Spring Issue, 13). In Group 4, England (7-0) survived a 5-3 challenge from Germany (5-2), when Kennedy lost two and Freundorfer beat Leach. Rumania (6-1) also had 5-3 problems with Germany (though Toma Reiter, playing with sponge, downed Freundorfer).
The U.S. was in Group 2. They blitzed five teams, and beat Sweden 5-2 (Flisberg defeated both Bukiet and Somael). But they lost 5-2 to Hungary. Miles downed Kalman Szepesi (a lefty sponge hitter who, because of a withered arm and/or paralyzed right hand, is allowed to serve, and very effectively I might add, with two fingers), but was stopped by both Josef Koczian and Ferenc “Feri” Sido; Bukiet gave up two matches; and Somael, though upsetting Sido, couldn’t do in Koczian. However, Hungary—surprise, surprise, raising U.S. hopes—was down 4-1 to Sweden after Szepesi had lost to Lennart Johansson and Flisberg; and Sido to Johansson and Bo Malmquist (later Consolation runner-up to Rumania’s Tiberiu Harasztosi). But despite Malmquist being up 1-0 and at deuce in the 2nd against Koczian, Sweden couldn’t find a clincher and Hungary escaped the tie-breaker.
In the one semi’s, Czechoslovakia 5-1 got the better of England. Bergmann and Merrett lost two, and Leach, after downing Andreadis, couldn’t keep England alive—lost deuce in the 3rd to Tereba. In the Hungary vs. Japan semi’s, Sido, cutting swathes backhand and forehand with his hard bat, “played like a man possessed, beating all the Japs.” Last year Montagu had said that, for some, taking on an opponent who plays with sponge would be “a test of character.” Well, Sido, who last year wanted the sponge banned, sure passed the test. Koczian helped the Hungarian side with a win over Ogimura. But in the 5-4 decider, Tomita beat Szepesi, 19 in the 3rd.
In last year’s Japan-Czech final, Andreadis defeated all three Japanese players, and damned if he didn’t do it again this year—in straight games. In a Swaythling Club News article, Derek Tyler tells us something of how he did it:
“Many European players, when confronted with a Japanese pen-grip player standing just wide of the backhand corner of the table, tried short services to the forehand, to no avail. Ivan’s method was to serve at his Japanese opponent to cramp his return, and then match his speed of stroke production” (June, 1993).
For this final the Czechs had sat out Tereba and brought in—almost as a sentimental gesture? (it would be his last appearance)—35-year-old Vana, but he couldn’t really contest against Ogimura and Tanaka. And poor Stipek lost all three. So again Japan was the Swaythling Cup Champion.
Corbillon Cup Play
As there were only 22 Women’s teams in the Corbillon Cup, these were initially divided into three round robin groups—with Group 3, which included the U.S., playing the odd tie. In Group 1, Rumania blanked all opposition, including 2nd-place Hungary. In Group 2, Japan followed suit—with France finishing 2nd over Czechoslovakia, 3-1. “Amerika’s” standing in Group 3 was as predicted. We lost to the three teams thought stronger—England, Austria, Wales (though Robinson again beat Gray)—and won from the four thought weaker. Perhaps it was in the tie with Austria that Bukiet just happened to notice than when Fritzi Lauber took off her tracksuit pants he, and she, were surprised to see that she didn’t have her playing shorts on….Yes, said Bernie, whose dalliance was with another, she wore underwear.
Last year, you’ll remember, this three-group format resulted in a three-way tiebreaker that allowed Japan, though beaten earlier, to recover and win the title. This year there’d be more high drama. Group 1 winner Rumania opened against Group 2 winner Japan, and the Defending Champions were edged out 3-2. Angelica Rozeanu won her two, which everyone had thought necessary for Rumania to have a chance, but the heroine of the 3-2 tie was 22-year-old Ella Zeller who’d rallied to beat Yoshiko Tanaka, deuce in the 3rd. Japan bounced back to 3-1 avenge their ’54 loss to England when the Rowe twins could take only the doubles. That left the English, needing nothing less than a 3-0 victory for the title, to play the Rumanians—which, as it happened, gave the packed-house local supporters initial hope, for Di Rowe right off downed Zeller. Since the twins were the doubles favorites, if Ros could somehow beat the amazing Rozeanu, World Singles Champion the last 5 years, England might again recover the Cup they’d won in 1947 and 48.
For the English spectators, this might have been the match of the tournament. After Ros was down 1-0 and 18-20, she survived…only to go down 10-3 in the 3rd. All over? Nope, not by a long shot, for from 16-11 down Ros tied it up at 16-all…only to lose 21-19. Said the Table Tennis Review: “Never has Ros played better and lost; her attack from slow top spin to the final kill was a joy to watch. How the ex-ballet dancer recovered some of those smashes was just unbelievable” (World Championships issue, 1955, 10).
Now I suppose you’d have to say that same English audience, albeit quite indirectly, had to be rooting for Japan. Though England no longer had a chance to win the title, the audience wanted to see their Team beat Rumania. Should the twins take the doubles as expected, and then win just one of the remaining singles, Japan’s 5-4 record in the tie-breaker would give them the title. Rozeanu, however, wasn’t satisfied with the table on which she’d almost lost—said it wasn’t level, so there was a delay while a new one was brought in. Perhaps the twins (especially Ros?) were missing some much needed adrenaline now that England couldn’t win the Championship—at any rate they were beaten in straight games. So Rozeanu had only to finish Di Rowe and the Rumanians were home. But Di’s “hitting was just superb” and down went Rozeanu. With the tie 2-2 (Di’s two victories would earn her English “Player of the Year”), a win by Ros over Zeller would give England a 4-5 record, Rumania a 5-5 one—neither good enough to overcome Japan’s 5-4. So, for Rumania to win, Ella would have to beat Ros—and 19 in the 3rd she did.
Of the three U.S. players not on our Team who played in the Singles, two—Gunn and Irv Levitatz—were beaten in the 1st round of Qualifying play, and the 3rd, Michael Fiedler, went down early to the Australian Champion Phil Anderson, 18 in the 5th. After a preliminary match, Miles was stopped in 5 by current World Doubles Champion Vilim Harangozo—with the last three games being determined by the time-limit rule. That is, with games even at 1-1 but with Dick down 21-20 in the 3rd, that 3rd game was automatically awarded to Harangozo—because, when the maximum 20 minutes per game allowed was up, he was leading. Once the rule was in, the games ended after just 10 minutes unless the score was tied, whereupon the next point, so long as it was finished in 5 minutes, would decide the winner. If it wasn’t finished in 5 minutes, the game was voided, and if this happened in the last game to be played, both players were disqualified. After 10 minutes, Dick won the 4th 15-12, but lost the 5th 16-12.
Harangozo was then beaten 24-22 in the 4th by France’s unheralded “spoiler,” sponger Stephen Cafiero, who would reach the semi’s with a string of close 4-game victories—over Freundorfer; over Koczian, who, down 2-0, had knocked out Andreadis; and over Leach who’d eliminated Tomita, deuce in the 4th after the Japanese seed in his opening match had been down 16-20 in the 5th. Tomita down 4 match points? Yes—and to our Erwin Klein, who (expect him to be tense, do you?) had overslept and come to the match cold, with no time to practice. This Klein-Tomita thriller was caught on TV and judged “Best Match.” Si Wasserman, in an April 22nd letter to his brother Tom, said that the L.A. Examiner “had a double column story on the match from the A.P. The story said that with 12 tables going the crowd of 2500 all piled around the Tomita-Klein match.” Gusikoff told me that Erwin, using sponge, didn’t choke for a minute, played 6 great points—but lost them all. (In the Consolation’s, Erwin won a 19 in the 3rd match from a Belgian, but lost a deuce in the 3rd match to an Englishman.)
Cafiero’s semi’s opponent was going to be Tanaka who in the 8th’s had been pushed into the 5th by Yugoslavia’s Vogrinc. Flisberg was seeded to meet Tanaka in the quarter’s, but, in an unlucky 1st-round match-up, lost to Tereba in 5. The Czech then fell to Amouretti, who in turn was beaten by England’s Brian Kennedy. Meanwhile, after our Bukiet lost in 5 to Reiter, the Rumanian advanced over Germany’s Matthias and Kennedy, only to be flattened by Tanaka.
On the other side of the Draw, Gusikoff played an excellent but losing 25-23 in the 4th match with Michel Lanskoy, the deaf Frenchman. (In Consolation play, Bobby would win three matches, and almost win the 4th before succumbing 17, -21, -14 to Sweden’s Tony Larsson.) Lanskoy in the next round was beaten by Laci Stipek. Laci didn’t last long—Szepesi ousted him deuce in the 4th. Bergmann then bid adieu to Szepesi before finding himself at grave’s end looking helplessly at Dolinar’s extended skull and crossbones. (I wonder if Richard, as a young, flyweight boxer in Vienna was ever knocked out, beaten badly.) Hirschkowitz opened against the ’55 South American Champion Fernando “Ferdi” Olazarri who’d carried on a friendly correspondence with USTTA President Cinnater’s wife Helene. Harry then downed former French Champion Alex Agapoff, and followed by making the 8th’s via patient time-limit play, 18-15 in the 5th, over England’s Merrett. But Harry had no chance against Sido.
Somael, meanwhile, finished off many-time French Champion Michel Haguenauer, also 18-15, but in the 3rd. Then Johnny, up 2-0 over the young Dutchman Bert Onnes, held on to win, 19 in the 5th. After Ogimura had prevented Johnny’s further progress, Ogi’s fans were startled when the Defending Champion was upset three straight by Hungary’s Josef Somogyi. No way, though, for this Hungarian to go on and defeat his countryman Sido. Think Ogimura’s loss was a career sore point? Thirty-six years later, driving to a European Top 12 tournament somewhere in the Netherlands with ITTF Media Chair Bas den Breejen, Ogi saw they were approaching Utrecht. “That’s where I lost my title,” he said. “Can we stop and see the Hall?” They did…such as it was. And Ogimura who, back in 1954 “had plans to be a film director/producer,” took photos.
In the semi’s against Sido, with the match 1-1, Dolinar won the 3rd at deuce and that give him the juice to take the 4th at 18 and reach the final. Leach saw the sponge as a psychological weapon, and though Zarko applied his heavy Mikado sponge racket skillfully, creating difficult-to-handle sidespin, for example, there was no doubt with both the playing and non-playing sides he meant to intimidate his opponent. Now, ironically, it was his turn to feel such pressure—and he couldn’t begin to cope with his Japanese opponent’s strange sponge serves. Ball after ball he put into the bottom of the net—it was a cruel joke. And when Dolinar did get the ball on the table, what happened? Here’s Jack Carrington to tell us:
“In the final, Tanaka appeared to have an intense dislike for the ball, prodding it distastefully a few times before getting really annoyed at its continual appearance on his end of the table. He therefore dispatched it with a forehand drive (penholder circular arm and body swing) so venomous that one heard the crack of the wood through his sponge covering.
Tanaka’s is, I think, the hardest drive we have seen—certainly as a consistent weapon rather than the odd kill. Whether his fancy sponge-sandwich-rubber arrangement [pimpled rubber is turned inward over a sponge base] assists the process is everywhere debated. There is no truth, however, in the theory that he was ordered to cover his bat with soft sponge so that he did not break the ball each time he made a winner!” (Table Tennis, May, 1955, 10).
Thus, aside from the one glitch with Vogrinc, Tanaka extended his straight-game wins through his semi’s with Cafiero and final with Dolinar to take the Championship—the 3rd straight Japanese to do so.
In the top half of the Men’s Doubles, Bukiet/Klein continued their good play, knocking off England’s Brian Kennedy/Aubrey Simons, 24-22 in the 4th, before losing in the 8th’s to the German pair, Freundorfer/Hans Rockmeier, who were beaten in the quarter’s by Andreadis/Stipek Gusikoff/Hirschkowitz, however, on getting by England’s Merrett/Ray Hinchcliffe, 18 in the 5th, were thoroughly beaten by Germany’s Kurt Seifert/Horst Jung, who themselves fared no better against Ogimura/Yoshio Tomita. The Japanese had struggled in their opening match against Vogrinc/Josip Gabric, but after that they advanced in straight-games to meet Andreadis/Stipek who’d come through from the beginning unscathed. But what a semi’s! The Czechs finally won it, 16, -14, 21, -15, 31 [sic] after Japan had had as many match points as a springing cat has lives.
In the bottom half, Sido/Koczian made it to the semi’s—beating Tereba/ Vyhnanovsky in their opener in 5, then later Bergmann/Leach after winning a key 2nd game at deuce. Miles/Somael started like losers and ended up like winners—well, almost. In the 1st round they were down 2-1 to Belgium’s Paul Bertrand/Guy Delabarre and barely won, deuce in the 5th. But then they went unchallenged by the Netherlands pair of Onnes/Wim Stoop who’d knocked out Flisberg/Malmquist 25-23 in the 5th. Vying to meet the Americans in the quarter’s were “old boys” Ehrlich and French Team Captain Raoul Bedoc who’d 25-23 in the 1st and 23-21 in the 5th eluded the Germans Holusek/Seiz. Or maybe it’d be the other old timers who’d come through, Vana and Jubilee Cup winner Adolph Slar? Nope—they fought the good fight, deuce in the 4th, but were eliminated, as were Ehrlich/Bedoc, by Dolinar/Harangozo. A great quarter’s match Dick and Johnny played against the Defending Champions—they had these thick-foam spongers down 2-0, then, after having four match points, lost 23-21 in the 5th. After which the Yugoslavs advanced to the final over Sido/Koczian. But back-to-back Championships for Dolinar/Harangozo were not to be—in the final they didn’t even average double figures. So, although Andreadis wouldn’t be able to defend his Mixed Doubles Championship—Gervai (nee Farkas) didn’t come to Utrecht—he’d just replaced the one title with another: now when he went home he’d be the Men’s Doubles Champion with Stipek.
In Women’s Singles, in her first match, Angelica Rozeanu allowed but 30 points to Bombay World’s Japanese star Shizuko Narahara. But then the Defending Champion, down 2-0 to Hungary’s Agnes Simon, had to have been feeling less of an “Angel” and more in need of one. However, up 20-14 in the 3rd, she seemingly welcomed the time-limit rule imposed, and ended up precariously winning the 5th, 5-3. After that, at 1-1 with Ros Rowe, she won the pivotal 19 3rd game and moved on—to an easy semi’s win over Japan’s Kiiko Watanabe. Meanwhile, our Sally Prouty dropped her opener to Englishwoman Margaret Fry. Could Pauline Robinson do better? Yes. Advancing from her preliminary against a Dane, she was combat-locked in the 5th with England’s #5 Jean Winn and, though having lost two deuce games, continued to persevere until she prevailed in the third one that most counted. Nothing more was expected of Pauline in the 8th’s, and nothing more was forthcoming—Rumania’s Sari Szasz beat her, then lost to Watanabe. (I don’t know why, but neither Prouty nor Robinson played in the Consolation’s.)
On the other side of the Draw, Ella Zeller, after being 1-1 with England’s Peggy Franks, 6-5, 7-3 advanced, only to fall, 19 in the 4th, to newly married Linde Wertl-Rumpler who, with her “yellow bandeau,” says Carrington, “contrives to be both ferocious and feminine at the same time.” The Austrian World #3 then reached the semi’s by taking out Ann Haydon who’d upset last year’s finalist Tanaka, 24-22 in the 4th. Leah Neuberger drew Di Rowe for her 1st match and lost respectably, deuce in the 4th. (She then went on to come 2nd to Narahara in the Consolation’s.) Di, playing well, 23-21 in the 4th stopped Fujie Eguchi after the Japanese Champion had outlasted the Czech Eliska Krejcova in 5. Hungary’s Eva Koczian, down 2-1 to, first, Helen Elliot, then Rowe, rallied to beat both. But then Wertl finished Koczian’s run. The final was 13, 5, 8 embarrassing: in winning her 6th straight Championship, Rozeanu was never more dominant.
It wasn’t any surprise that the U.S. women couldn’t win a match in Women’s Doubles. Neuberger/Prouty were beaten by Germans Hanne Schlaf/Ursula Fiedler in 4; and Robinson with Welsh pick-up partner Molly Jones lost a contested 3 games to a Bulgarian pair. No surprise either that the Defending Champions, the Rowes, would continue to advance. But, just as earlier their semi’s opponents, Eguchi/Watanabe, had had 5-game trouble with Austria’s Trude Pritzi/Fritzi Lauber, so now Di and Ros, down 2-0 to these Japanese, had to show true grit in rallying for a deuce in the 5th win. But the Englishwomen fell short in their attempt to win a 3rd World title, and with Ros soon to marry and possibly retire, their partnership, with this last 5-game loss to Rozeanu/Zeller, would come to an end.
In the Mixed, our U.S. “extras,” Gunn/Bessinger, actually won a match (though they needed to win three to advance out of the Qualifying competition). Neuberger/Gusikoff beat the Swedish team of Flisberg/Signhold Tegner, but were no match for Ogimura/Watanabe who then fell in the quarter’s in 5 to Simons/Elliot. The other Japanese team on this side of the Draw, Tanaka/Narahara, did better—they eliminated Leach/Di Rowe, deuce in the 5th, then sailed by Koczian/Imrene Kerekes. For whatever reason though, this was still another Japanese pair that continued to be thwarted in the Mixed—Simons/Elliot outplayed them in 5 to reach the final.
On the other side of the Draw, Dolinar/Wertl opened with two tough matches and won them both—18 in the 5th over Bergmann/Haydon, and 23-21 in the 5th over Vana/Hanka Vyhnanovska. Somael/Robinson won their preliminary, then 21, 18, -19, 20 gutted out a win over Ehrlich/Louise Giraud before losing to Szepesi/Koczian. Kichiji Tamasu/Yoshiko Tanaka, they’d won 12 straight games—could they beat these Hungarians? No. But they 8, -19, -20, 16, -19 sure tried—just couldn’t win a close one. Miles/Prouty took advantage of a very favorable draw and knocked off three pairs, including Sweden’s Lasse Pettersson and 16-year-old Elizabeth Thorssen (who’d later tour with Dick). But Tomita/Eguchi, who’d opened with a 4-game win over the 1952 and 53 titleholders, Sido/Rozeanu, were of course too much for them. Hard to believe that Japan was not far away from beginning a streak of 7 straight World Mixed Doubles Championships, for again their team went down—to Szepesi/Koczian, who then in the semi’s positively pulverized Stipek/Krejcova. In the final, Simons/Elliot were up 2-0, then 2-1 and 16-5, whereupon, they lost 10 in a row—and ended up losing the game, the match, and the title.
ITTF Congress Meets
Perhaps, as Utrecht Burgemeester De Ranitz urged, there was time for our players to tour “this old Cathedral city,” and see all they could of “Dutch daily life in all its manifold aspects, framed by the dreamy atmosphere of the old city canals, with their wharfs and quays and the characteristic gables flanking them.” Nothing so relaxing would await Team Captain Schein—at least not when he was our U.S. Delegate at the ITTF Meeting. In his Captain’s Report, George describes his first time experience:
“The setting was similar to that of the U.N. All the delegates had ear- phones and a ‘mike’ at their desks. As one of the delegates spoke, a simultaneous translation was given in three official languages of the I.T.T.F. [English, French, German]. Naturally the delegates would have their phones dialed on the language with which they were familiar. Delegates not conversant with one of the approved languages were permitted to have an interpreter in addition to their 2 delegates.
Even though U.S.S.R. didn’t have any playing representatives in the tournament, they had 2 active delegates and an interpreter. They introduced resolutions and were quite active at the meeting….The most important subject of the congress appeared to be the sponge paddle. The members voted to permit sponge and continue the study of its effect on the game” [In 1954 voting, the move to ban sponge bats was defeated, 37 to 21; this year it was defeated 40-28.]
In preparation for the sponge discussion that he was sure was coming, ITTF President Ivor Montagu had written an article on “The Racket Problem” for the 1955 English Open Program. Among the points he made were these:
“Suppose we do decide to ban sponge—how?…Perhaps…by limiting the thickness of the rubber used?…
And if we did succeed in banning sponge, what then? What next? I learn from a questionnaire issued in Japan that while about a fifth of those asked were using sponge, more than a fourth were using reverse rubber, that is, conventional, ordinary rubber, put on their rackets the wrong way round. What happens then? Do you know or I know? Do we have to ban this too? Look at these diagrams below; they are from a Japanese newspaper. I think we can understand from these drawings quite enough to know there are some horrible-looking experiences ahead for someone!”
How right he was.