His short, compact body remains taut, his two-fisted backhands remain strong and accurate and his shirts still end up wringing wet after every match.
Yet the Harold Solomon who successfully trekked through junior tennis at Indian Spring Country Club in Silver Spring, through Rice University to six straight years in the top 10 of professional men's tennis, now finds himself more noteworthy off the court than for even his famed moon balls on court. And what he is doing off the court is threatening his career as a player.
The executive board of the Association of Tennis Professionals, the players union in men's professional tennis, recently elected Solomon, 29, to a third straight term as its president, an unprecedented move in the 10 years of the union. Solomon did not have to campaign for the job, either. Because of his outspoken opinions on such topics as the players' responsibility to the game, the continuing war between the Volvo Grand Prix and Lamar Hunt's rival World Championship Tennis and the overall direction of pro tennis, Solomon has become synonymous with the ATP.
But, some say, to the detriment of his game, for Solomon has not won a tournament in 21 months and has dropped from fifth on the ATP computer listing at the start of his presidency to 92nd today. He was beaten by Ivan Lendl yesterday in the third round of the U.S. Open, 6-3, 6-0, 6-1.
"As long as he remains in the top 100 or so, he'll get into tournaments without having to qualify. But if he keeps sliding, that could be a problem," said Dewey Blanton of the Grand Prix, who has worked closely with Solomon the last two years.
In an age of spoiled stars, his sport desperately needed a playing spokesman such as Solomon to lend credibility to the label "professional." It is not a role Solomon could shy from, a role that now consumes him as tennis did a decade ago.
"I told Jan (his wife) when I decided to accept the presidency that it would definitely take away time from everything else," Solomon said.
"It's something I've always wanted to do, though perhaps not until my 30s, just as I always thought, when I was younger, I would go into politics some day. But it's been rewarding, and if it has taken time from other things, it's been by choice. I don't know if I'll want to be involved in a bigger capacity with the ATP a few years down the road. It would be foolish to speculate on that now, because I have no idea when I'll stop playing. Probably not for another three to five years."
That the ATP's executive board chose to retain Solomon as the players' most visible spokesman surprised few in the tennis community. Solomon is an articulate young man who feels as comfortable trying to persuade newcomers to join the union as he does representing his union in matters before the Men's International Professional Tennis Council, the governing body of men's professional tennis.
"He's been a good sounding board back to me and the staff of players' sentiments and he freely gives his own sentiments about the future of the game," said Butch Buchholz, the ATP's executive director.
"I can really see an analogy between Harold and myself when I was still playing tennis. At 26, 27, 28, I was frustrated because we were only then approaching the era of open tennis . . . It frustrated me that I could not work out this problem to the point that I stopped being a good tennis player. Consciously or subconsciously, being involved in the politics of the game became more important to me than the short-term thing of being a tennis player.
"Maybe this is going through Harold's mind. But when you're 28 or 29, you only have another four years of really good earning power in this game. In my judgment, to play tennis well it must be a single-minded purpose for you, not something you can turn on and off like a switch. Yet he certainly resists the notion that being ATP president has affected his game."
"My game is really all based on mental toughness," Solomon said. "But there was a period last year when I was burned out and I did not want to play. I continued to play, in spite of that, because of commitments I'd already made. Through all this I tried to get back the mental edge, but it was tough.
"But I'm enjoying playing again. I think I'll be ready to play some good tennis for the last few months of the year."
Others, not convinced so readily, cite problems in his path.
"In a lot of ways, this job (as ATP president) is consuming him," Buccholz said. "You can see much of the determination that made him a great player transferred to his job with the ATP. The grit and fight -- that's always there with Harold. That's why I think he just doesn't have enough mental energy to do both things."
"It is difficult, to some degree, to talk with players about the future of the game and what contribution they can make and then go out there and face that player on the court," Solomon said. "But right now I'm most concerned that the game, as a whole, prospers."