Thursday, 27 September 2012

Adrian Bey

When ADRIAN BEY, at the age of twenty-five, was named 1963 Sportsman of the Year for the Federation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, it climaxed a memorable year for him personally and an historic one for Rhodesian tennis. The tanned, well muscled Bey was part of that history-making when he teamed with Frank Salomon to crush the Netherlands 4-1 in May to give Rhodesia the distinction of being one of the few countries to win a Davis Cup tie in their first year of entry.

On the eve of the team's departure, Bey consolidated his position as the country's top player by retaining his Rhodesian closed title with a swift 6-3,6-1,6- 3 victory over big-serving Basil Katz at Bulawayo. His confidence high, he set off with Salomon and Roy Stilwell, with Don Black non playing captain, for warm-up tournaments in Britain before moving to The Hague for Rhodesia's Davis Cup debut.

Later that month, Bey and Salomon made a brave bid in the second round tie against Sweden at Stockholm, going out 2-3, but both gaining the distinction of beating Jan-Erik Lundqvist. It was a creditable display, because Sweden were European Zone finalists in 1962 and Lundqvist had not been beaten in Sweden for over two years.

At Wimbledon in June 1963, Bey heightened his reputation by reaching the last sixteen of the men's singles for the second time. He outplayed a leading American, Allen Fox, former Italian champion, Beppo Merlo, and the American veteran Herbie Flam, to repeat his notable success of reaching the last sixteen in 1960. Bey remains the only Rhodesian to progress so far in the singles at the world's most prestigious tournament. In his bid to reach the quarter-finals in 1963, Bey fell to Chile's Louis Ayala, while in 1960 he stumbled to Manuel Santana of Spain.

All this made Bey a worthy winner of the John Hopley Memorial Trophy on the last occasion it was made on a Federal basis to the country's supreme sportsman. It was also the first time a tennis player had been selected as winner.

When he emigrated in March 1974 to take up a coaching post in America, Adrian Bey had carved out an impressive tennis record. Almost unbeatable on his home courts in his hey-day, he played in three Davis Cup teams (1963,1964 and 1968) and won three Rhodesian open and eight closed singles crowns between 1958 and 1971.

Rhodesian-born Bey attended Salisbury's Prince Edward School which won the national inter schools Mim du Toit tennis trophy eleven times in succession from 1954 to 1964 — a proud record initiated in the Bey era and carried on by high-calibre players like Frank Salomon, Hank Irvine, Roger Dowdeswell and Brian and Clive Kileff.

Bey won his national junior colours in 1955 and was the country's junior champion that year and also in 1956 to signify clearly the emergence of a bright young star. At this time big Brian Rooke reigned as king of the courts, winning the country's first closed championship at Easter 1955, when he teamed with Susie Smit to take the mixed doubles as each won the triple crown.

In 1956 it was gratifying to see a Rhodesian win the national open championship despite a strong entry from South Africa. He was the big-hitting Basil Katz of Bulawayo who ousted Rooke as the nation's top-ranked player with the young Bey coming into the list for the first time at number three. It was in 1956 that another leading Rhodesian player, Don Black, came close to causing a major sensation at Wimbledon when he held four match points against the Australian maestro. Ashley Cooper, but lost the match. Cooper went on to win Wimbledon in 1958.

Bey progressed to the second ranked player in 1957 and hit the top spot in 1958 after winning the first of his eight closed championships at the age of nineteen. He had polished his game by going overseas for the first time in 1957 along with Basil Katz, Roy Stilwell and Francis Rink. Katz and Bey played in all events at Wimbledon and Stilwell participated in the doubles.

Bey was accepted into 1959 Wimbledon without qualifying. Before leaving for overseas he went on an arduous warm-up tour of South Africa, where he was ranked number four. He established this unofficial ranking by winning two provincial titles and recording a straight sets win over the fourth member of the Springbok Davis Cup team, Ray Weedon, while winning the Eastern Transvaal title.

As the sole Rhodesian representative at the 1960 Wimbledon, Bey again distinguished himself by reaching the last sixteen, though in 1961 three Rhodesians played on the hallowed grass courts — Bey, Black and a highly talented new young star, Roger Dowdeswell.

Among Bey's finest hours were his victories over the Italian stars, Nicola Pietrangeli and Beppo Merlo, at Salisbury in April 1962. Rhodesia won this Alitalia Cup, Davis Cup-style match 3-2, with Stilwell partnering the classy Bey.

Also in 1962 Bey gave Rhodesian tennis a major boost with a 6-4, 6-3 win over Britain's Mike Sangster — a Wimbledon semifinalist — at Salisbury Sports Club. The crowd of more than 1 000 was thrilled as the local boy fought back from near oblivion to victory against one of Britain's top-liners. Bey had been down 1 -4 in the first set, looking tense and moving slowly, while his backhand gave away point after point. He looked set to crumble, but proved one of his best qualities as he fought back and reversed the temper of the game.

Bey and Frank Salomon, who were bitter rivals for years and fought many absorbing duels, teamed up for the 1964 Davis Cup, sweeping aside Israel 5-0 but losing 0-5 to Italy in the second round, Salomon taking Merlo to the fifth set.

Typical of the Bey-Salomon confrontations was their Rhodesian closed final at Bulawayo in March 1964 which Bey won 4-6, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5, 6-4 in a two and a half hour marathon. But the following month Salomon gained a measure of revenge by beating Bey in the Salisbury Sports Club final 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2. It was the first time Bey had been beaten by a Rhodesian in at least five years and
he seemed strangely lethargic and out of touch. It was a triumph Salomon was to repeat later in the year in the Mashonaland event, winning 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.

But in 1965 Bey was back to his sharpest, beating Keith Diepraam 6-2,6-2 in an unofficial South Africa-Rhodesia match at Salisbury and winning both the Rhodesian open and closed titles and regaining the Mashonaland crown by overwhelming Hank Irvine 6-1, 6-0, 6-2 in just forty-five minutes. His first open title came with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-0, 3-6, 6-3 win over Gordon Forbes of South Africa. Bey again demonstrated his fighting spirit by coming back from 0-4 down in the second set and facing Forbes's lethal service and volley attack. Bey transformed the spellbinding final by taking the next thirteen games.

The calm, calculating Bey continued his mastery in 1966, thrashing Salomon 6-0,8-6 in an hour in the Rhodesian closed final — making an unprecedented five titles in a row. Two weeks later Bey and Salomon embarked on Rhodesian tennis's toughest assignment — a two-day Davis Cup style amateur match against the Australian super-stars Roy Emerson and Fred Stolle at Salisbury Sports Club.

Emerson had won Wimbledon in 1964 and 1965, while Stolle had lost in the Wimbledon final for three years in a row. The dynamic Emerson outplayed Salomon 6-3, 6-4 on the opening day, but Stolle had to summon all his skill to sneak a 3-6, 9-7, 6-4 win over Bey. Next day Salomon recorded his finest hour by beating Stolle 6-3, 6-3 while Emerson thrilled the 1 700 crowd by sweeping Bey
aside 6-3, 6-1 in thirty-five minutes. But the Aussies were made to fight for the doubles, winning 10-8, 3-6, 6-4.

A month later Salomon took the Mashonaland crown with a nerve-racking 6-2, 13-11 triumph over Bey, who, however, recovered his form a week later to retain his national open title with another victory over the top-seeded Springbok, Gordon Forbes, this time 8-6, 6-4, in a repeat of the previous year's final.

Bey played little competitive tennis in 1967, hoping to fade out quietly. But with Rhodesia accepted for the 1968 Davis Cup he was persuaded to come back for the 1968 Rhodesian closed championships. The thirty-year-old Bey proved he was still lord of the courts by beating his old rival Salomon 6-0,5-7,6-4 in a tense final and being named captain of the Davis Cup team scheduled to play Sweden at Bastaad. It was a tie that was beset by problems and brought many moments of high drama.

Radical Swedish students promised to sabotage the match as a protest against racial policies and armed police kept a round-the-clock watch on the tennis club.

While front page headlines of a Bastaad newspaper proclaimed: "Tennis war — in face of alarm, police say they are ready for anything," Rhodesia nominated only Bey and Salomon for the tie starting next day. Bey was to face Ove Bengstenand Salomon was to meet Hans Nerell in the opening singles draw.

But the Swedish militant students won the day and the match was called off before it started when the courts were besieged by about 1 000 demonstrators. This ended in pitched battles between police and firemen and the students, who broke through the main gates and pelted the courts with bags of oil, stones and bottles.

Said Swedish captain, Mats Hasselquist, "We do not intend giving the Rhodesians a walk-over."

And so the tie was organised in France in complete secrecy. The Rhodesians quietly slipped out of their Bastaad hotel for an undisclosed destination. The tie had been scheduled to start on 3 May, but eventually got underway two days later at the Bandol Tennis Club near the French naval base of Toulon.

Bengsten gave Sweden the lead with a 6-3, 6-2, 6-4 win over Bey before Salomon levelled for Rhodesia by defeating Nerell 2-6,6-4,7-5,1 -6,7-5. Next day the Swedes easily won the doubles 6-2, 6-3, 6-0 in fifty-two minutes in a match only attended by a small group of reporters.

The reverse singles saw this strangest of 'cloak and dagger Davis Cup ties end in 4-1 triumph for Sweden, with Bengsten beating Salomon 6-1,6-3,6-4 and, with the tie lost, Hank Irvine replacing Bey for the final match to lose 6-2, 7-5, 3-6,3-6, 3-6 to Nerell.

But Bey had a proud personal record to preserve back home and in April 1969 was seeded first in the Rhodesian closed championships. Since he first won this title in 1958 at the age of nineteen, he had not been beaten in this tournament, only relinquishing his title in various years through non-participation.

However, this time he faced a serious challenge to his supremacy as he had been seen in little competitive play since returning from the dramatic Davis Cup tie. Frank Salomon meanwhile was in peak form and had just won the Mashonaland crown, thus it was surprising he had not been top seeded.

Bey, now a professional coach, was no longer eligible for Davis Cup selection and thus lacked that incentive. Salomon had only twice beaten Bey in competition — once in a Mashonaland championship and the other in a Salisbury Sports Club event — and now had a great chance to take that tally to three and establish himself, for the first time, as Rhodesia's top player. He had been in this closed final six times, winning only at Bulawayo in 1967 when he beat Roy Stilwell.

The carrot in this national tournament for Rhodesia's eager young players was a trip to Lisbon to meet Spain in the Davis Cup.

Neither Bey nor Salomon encountered any difficulties in entering the final to set up another of the needle clashes which always attracted capacity crowds.

This time there was no stopping a super confident twenty-six-year-old Salomon who swept aside his old rival 6-3, 6-4 in just fifty-five minutes to signal the end of Bey's long and vice-like domination of Rhodesian tennis.

It was a surprise when the thirty-one-year-old Bey, who played in only two tournaments all year, was placed on top of the national gradings for 1969. The ranking was proved to be incorrect in early 1970 when Hank Irvine became Mashonaland champion by beating Bey 6-4, 6-4 in the final, repeating this triumph a week later to take the national closed title 7-5, 5-7, 6-1.

With Salomon and Irvine pressing for recognition as the country's top player, the national newspaper, the Sunday Mail, set up a special four-man challenge series to settle the issue in April 1970.

The prize for the winner of this round robin Champion of Champions series was $125 — at that time the highest ever offered in Rhodesian tennis. It was an intriguing event with no outright favourite.

Bey, now thirty-two, had the edge in experience and court craft, while he was renowned for his fighting spirit. He had beaten Frank Salomon in the semifinals of the national closed before losing to Irvine, who went into the Sunday Mail tournament with two successive wins over Bey — a feat no Rhodesian had achieved since 1958.

But Irvine, a superbly fit twenty-six-year-old, proved his form was red-hot by first mastering Bey 7-5, 7-5, 6-1 and then disposing of Frank Salomon 2-6, 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 and Alan Salomon 7-5, 8-6, 6-2 to earn the title Champion of Champions. Bey took second place when he beat Frank Salomon 6-3, 6-3, 6-2.

Bey was still far from washed up and again won through to the final of the national open championships at Bulawayo in September 1970, showing his tenacity with a marathon 4-6, 8-6, 10-8, 3-6, 6-3 win over South African Lou Sylvester. However, he lost 6-3, 6-3, 7-5 to another South African, twenty-two- year-old Collen Rees in the final.

The year 1971 was to climax Bey's illustrious career. He helped Rhodesia beat South Africa in a Test at Salisbury with a straight sets singles win over Dennis Matthews and a doubles victory with Irvine.

Then at Bulawayo in April 1971, Bey won the national closed title for the eighth and final time with a decisive 7-5, 6-2 victory over Frank Salomon.

One who watched Bey emerge from a novice schoolboy through to a champion, was former national champion Brian Rooke, who was a master at Prince Edward School and undertook hostel duties at Jameson House, where Ian King, then national junior champion, and Bey were boarders.

Rooke recalls: "It did not take long for Ian to get me out on to the courts and I soon became aware of a somewhat serious-minded fourteen-year-old who never seemed to be far from the action.

"I will never forget what ranked as some of the happiest times of my life when, together with Ian, Brian Ashley-Cooper, Adrian and that legend among schoolmasters, 'Fussy' Wootton, we used to play doubles matches.

"It was the next term, however, that I got my first real insight into the human resources that lay within Adrian. In between rugby practices he reached the finals of the under-15 singles to play Carl Richardson, who had a good eye but a frail physique.

"I had worked quite hard with Carl during the term and on the morning of the finals I placed a number of half-crowns with members of staff predicting that Carl would beat Adrian. I was proved to be correct and felt happy for Carl who was a shy young lad who needed a boost

"That evening I returned to Jameson House well after lights out when there was a knock on my door and Adrian was standing there. He simply said: 'I'm sorry sir, I see I have got to practise'. It was this sense of humility, combined with determination, that played a big part in Adrian's subsequent success.

"I remember at the Western Province championships at Cape Town in 1956 he accounted for Eastern Transvaal's Cookie Hammill in the under-21 event. Hammill's father was a Runyonesque character and I recall him saying to me: 'Your boy is a thoroughbred'.

"In later years it was a tremendous thrill for me to win the national closed doubles title with Adrian in 1962 and successfully defend it in 1963. He was like the Rock of Gibraltar playing men's doubles on the left court and never panicked, no matter how depressing the situation."


Men s singles: Katz Cup (Rhodesian closed) — 1958,1962, 1963, 1964, 1965, 1966, 1968, 1971.

Men's doubles: Goldberg Cup (Rhodesian closed) — 1958 (A. Bey, I. King). 1962 (A. Bey, B. Rooke). 1963 (A Bey, B. Rooke). 1964 (A Bey, F. Salomon). 1970 (A. Bey. D. Irvine). 1971 (A. Bey, A Fawcett).

Mixed doubles: A. Sanders Cup (Rhodesian closed) — 1969 (A. Bey, S. Hudson-Beck).

Men's singles: Rhodes Challenge Cup (Rhodesian open) — 1965, 1966, 1969.

Men's doubles: Wilson Fox and Maguire Cups (Rhodesian open) — 1962 (A. Bey, F. Salomon). 1967 (A. Bey, D. Irvine). 1970 (A. Bey, D. McKenzie).

Mixed doubles: Hillyard and Eaves Cup (Rhodesian open) — 1965 J. Walker).

1963 — D. Black (capt), A. Bey, F. Salomon, R. Stilwell.
1964 — A Bey (capt), F. Salomon.
1965 — R. Stilwell (capt.), R. Dowdeswell.
1968 — A. Bey (capt.), D. Irvine, F. Salomon, R. Stilwell.
1969 — B. Rooke (non-playing captain), D. Irvine, A. Salomon, F. Salomon.

1971 — v. South Africa. Men: A. Bey, D. Irvine, F. Salomon, A. Pattison.
Women: Miss D. Allen, Miss F. Morris, Mrs. M. Procter.

Played 14, won 6, lost 8.



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