The Wimbledon program lists entrant No. 66 in the gentlemen's singles as "C. Hooper." His real name is Lawrence Barnett Hooper III but he answers to "Chip," his nickname since childhood. In the locker room he's known as "Hoops."
The British sporting public sees him as leading the charge of the first substantial group of black tennis professionals to play here. Other black Americans entered in the main draw here are Lloyd Bourne of Los Angeles, Leslie Allen of New York City, Rene Blount of St. Louis, Kim Sands of Miami and Zina Garrison of Houston.
None has impressed, though, like Hooper. At 6-feet-6 and 212 pounds, he physically impresses everybody. His serve has been clocked in the vicinity of 150 mph. But he is the first to counter that, "I can do more than just serve."
Playing his first-ever match on court No. 1 here against the eighth-seeded Peter McNamara, he demonstrated an all-court game that few first-timers produce. Under very slippery conditions because of constant rains, he methodically managed a four-set victory over a player with a proven record on grass courts.
His success was by no means sudden. Born in old Freedman's Hospital in Washington, D.C., he moved with his family to Riverside, Calif., and started playing tennis at age 7. "If you like sports, I can't imagine a better place to grow up than Southern California," said Hooper. "Though I did well in school, I loved sports--all sports."
At 17, he entered Canada (Calif.) Junior College having already decided to be a tennis player. "I'm only 23 and, though I'm just coming into my own, I've been around John McEnroe, Mel Purcell, Tim Mayotte and that bunch for years. We're all within two years of one another."
But medical problems plagued any steady improvement. He contracted Osgood Slaughter's disease at 16, which occurs when bone growth outpaces muscle development. One year leter he came down with scoliosis, which caused an irregular curvature of the spine.
Rick Anderson, his coach at Canada, was the first to prove to him that specific, concentrated training could significantly raise his ability. After a few semesters at Memphis State, he transferred to the University of Arkansas. Under the tutelage of Tom Pucci, Hooper finished his last year in junior tennis with a national ranking of 16. He won a berth on the Junior Davis Cup team in 1980 and played the USTA Penn Circuit, a satellite adjunct to the Grand Prix tour.
"It was awful," he said. "It was so hot and humid that I just couldn't adjust. Plus, I started growing all of a sudden--three inches in my junior year. I was only 6-foot-1 when I graduated from high school."
That inability to physically finish the 1980 Penn Circuit started him on a conditioning program that he fairly admits "saved me from oblivion. I started weight training with the football team at Arkansas and a cardiovascular conditioning program with the track team."
He got his first ATP computer point by losing to Brian Gottfried at Columbus, Ohio (he went through the qualifying rounds there by earning one point). His first victory in a pro event was at the 1980 U.S. Open. His first big victory was over John Alexander in July last year.
Hooper turned pro after the 1981 U.S. Open, but an eye operation took eight weeks out of his fall campaign.
"I have set definite goals for myself. I always have. Right now I want to make the top 10 this year and after that to win a major tournament."
Can he win Wimbledon?
"Don't count me out."