"From now on, everyone will know who is the real and only champion", puffed Monsieur le Chairman of the International Tennis Federation, Philippe Chatrier, at a Paris media conference yesterday. Starting next year, ITF, via a "panel of experts," will tell us in January who were the world champion man and woman players, the ones and onlies, of the past year.
In other words, damn the computers and the point systems; step aside, Barry Lorge and confreres, you will be told in January, 1979, who were the superest in 1978 by these observers:
Men: Don Budge, Fred Perry, Lew Hoad.
Women: Margaret Court, Margaret duPont, Ann Jones.
Yes, those are multiple winners of Grand Slam events -- Wimbledon, Forest Hills, Paris, Australia -- and, yes, judging will rely heavily on the current crop's performances in those same classics. Also bearing on the selections will be Davis Cup, U.S. Masters and WCT finals for the men) Federation Cup, Virginia Slims and Colgate series finals for the women.
The human judging element is necessary, Chatrier said, because of subjective factors such as Davis Cup: "A player like (Guillermo) Vilas, for instance, has no partner to help him get through the early stages of the Davis Cup. On the other hand, it would plainly be unfair to leave the Davis Cup out of consideration."
The chairman said, "We were tired of seeing a proliferation of so-called unofficial champions -- especially in the United States" (where Vilas, Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg all found expert support as No. 1 for 1977).
And: There will be no money prize attached to the ITF title -- "we don't want to get caught up in the increasing commercialization of the sport; we will not allow any sponsorship of this title" . . .
The ITF also scheduled a Feb. 12-22 visit to South Africa by a commission of inquiry into government reforms on racial discrimination . . . continued its push to have tennis made an Olympic sport by the 1984 Games . . . upheld the suspension of Romania's Ilie Nastase from 1978 Davis Cup play for past ungentlemanly conduct . . .
Bowie Kuhn convenes the principals in the Cincinnati Reds would-be acquisition of Vida Blue from the Oakland (?) A's today -- and look who's invited himself into the New York City session: George Steinbrenner.
Yankee owner Steinbrenner wants to tell the commissioner, league presidents, player association representatives and all on hand that as a matter of principle, Kuhn must rule against the Reds to remain consistent with his negation of the Yankee attempt to buy Blue for $1.5 million in 1976. But a four-man front-office team from the Reds will argue that the inclusion of a player along with the $1.75 million they are trying to hand Charlie Finley for Blue makes it a horse of a different color -- a "trade" instead of a "sale."
Should Kuhn nix the deal, the Reds will have some collectors' items on their hands: they're just out with their 1978 press guide -- prominently featuring Blue in a Red cap and trumpeting what a pitching staff they'll have with him and Tom Seaver.
Don't think Steinbrenner hasn't figured that angle in: a Reds-Yankees 1978 World Series . . .
Kuhn meanwhile approved the bonus agreement between Jon Matlack and the New York Mets, who recently traded him to Texas. Even if under major league rules such bonus arrangements, written or verbal, are not allowed. Too many complications to scotch it, what with the lefty a principal in a four-team, 11-player trade last month and balking at reporting to the Rangers if the bonus provisions in the 1978-79 contract years he takes with him aren't taken care of by the Mets . . . And the commissioner vetoed the plan to send a major league all-star team to Cuba in March. He cited the Cubans' reluctance, at negotiations recently in Mexico City, to reciprocate by making Castroland stars available to American baseball audiences.Kuhn's unstated definition of "availability" had the ring of availability for draft by U.S. clubs??? . . .
Bud Herseth, the San Francisco Giants' co-owner willing to sell his half, says as for Emil Bernard and Rocky Aoki and their group who would move the club to D.C., forget it: "Bernard had until (Saturday) night to come up with the money, and he didn't do it." And, echoing statements by his partner, Bob Lurie, who said all along no move, Herseth added, "All this Bernard stuff is a lot of B.S. He just isn't very reliable."
Toot-toot: Dave Kindred's Sunday column in The Washington Post, first sentence: "The Dallas Cowboys will win the Super Bowl, 27-10 . . ." And here FanFare was chesty over Saturday's "Upset special? Try the Texas (basketball) Longhorns to knock off Arkansas" . . .