The grinder has returned.
For the 53rd consecutive year, Frederick (Ted) Schroeder, 83, of La Jolla, Calif., has swept onto the sidelines of the Australian Open and begun dispensing acerbic advice and opinions about international tennis.
Schroeder was the 1942 U.S. Champion and the 1949 Wimbledon Champion; his memory of the game goes back beyond virtually every other observer of tennis.
His working title here, off-air talent booker for an Australian sports radio service, serves as a cover for the sport's most mischievous and amusing, self-proclaimed "troublemaker."
"Nobody else has got 74 years in the game and 53 [years] in Australia," said Schroeder, who uses "grinder" to describe his approach to the sport and life.
He grinds out his opinions, too:
On marathon five-hour matches: "Those guys could come to the same conclusion in half the time, if they would just serve and volley."
Anyone who takes the risk of rushing the net, he said, "has a bigger advantage than Vegas casinos have over the gamblers."
On the U.S. Open: "Not first class. All it is is money, money, money, money. … I think class and style still have a place in sport, and I don't think [the U.S. Open] compares to Australia and Wimbledon."
On highly paid tennis players: "Some guys are so dumb, they haven't finished high school. Yet they're making seven figures. It's ridiculous."
As an amateur, Schroeder says, he earned an $80 gift certificate to a London department store for winning the Wimbledon title.
Uses Wheelchair, But Still Booking
As a talent booker for Southern Cross, an Australian radio service, the silver-haired Schroeder arranges interviews for the service's on-air talent. This year, for the first time, Schroeder arrived with a wheelchair -- but pushed it from place to place, then sat in it, seeking help to keep his balance, but otherwise undaunted in his pursuit of good interviews.
"I'm competing against ESPN, ABC (Australian Broadcasting Company), Channel 7 [and] Channel 10 (Australian television services), and radio is déclassé," he said, indicating it captures a smaller audience, even though it reaches 93 percent of Australians living outside the big cities.
"The name of my game," Schroeder said proudly, "is who do you want and when do you want them?"
"Last night, I got Brad Gilbert," said Schroeder, "and I've gotten Jim Courier and Tony Roche, who's back in charge here."
Gilbert is a former Top 10 player and coach for Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick; Courier is a two-time Australian Open champ; Roche is the 1966 French Open champion and a major figure in Australia's tennis development programs.
Graeme Agars, a fellow radio broadcaster and communications official for the Association of Tennis Professionals, said he treasures Schroeder's yearly appearances.
"For more than 80 years, he's been a young whipper-snapper."
Schroeder professes his fondness for Australia.
"I enjoy it. These are the best people in the world. They're my kind of people -- the Aussies, the Brits, the Kiwis."
Unlike some of his contemporaries, Schroeder quit the sport in his prime. He remembers the date -- Dec. 30, 1951, less than three years after winning the Wimbledon title.
"If I can't do something in a manner that is satisfactory to me," he said, "then it's not worth doing. I couldn't continue [playing] at a level that was acceptable."
Other champions, he said, asking that their names not be mentioned, continued playing because they "don't know how to do anything else."
Schroeder, a Stanford graduate, worked as an engineer and corporate lobbyist.
"I had to make money and support a family on $250 a month," he recalled.
And a final opinion on tennis?
"They're uneducated spoiled brats running this game."