In the 60s and 70s, between Woodstock and the bright orange wallpapers, the Flower Power movement also made it to the tennis courts. How? Through the presence on the tour of several players with “eccentric” behaviours. The journalists even unite them under the generic term of "the hippie band". But each of them had his own quirks. We present an overview of these fanatics who really delighted the female audience...
1/ Torben Ulrich
A dubious frown. It's the expression that all Metallica fans make when someone tells them that the father of Lars Ulrich, founder and drummer of the American heavy metal band was a great tennis player. Before pounding the drums, little Lars spent his childhood in the corridors of the poshest country clubs around the world. More than a handy player, daddy was also a real Danish hippie, who hated training, haircuts or shaving his beard equally. Legend has it that at its peak, it was 20 inches long. After a stint in prison for desertion during his military service, Torben didn't come to Roland Garros in 1958 because his father (grandfather of Lars Ulrich), then director of the Danish Federation, didn't like General de Gaulle’s speeches on the Algiers' crisis. Worse, this night-owl categorically refused to play tennis in the morning. Early 1968, at a small Australian tournament, while his match was scheduled at noon, he was barely able to open his eyes and quickly found himself 6-0 5-0 down, before eventually winning the game. Also, at that time, he was often seen hanging around Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris, offering to play boogie-woogie in the jazz clubs in order to enter without paying. "Am I a man who dreamed of becoming a moth, or am I now a moth dreaming that I am a man?"
he once said. An exceptional clarinettist, one of the best in Europe, Torben also enjoyed philosophy, writing, painting, journalism, television, and cinema. In 1969, he appeared in a short film by Jorgen Leth, a Danish underground poet who greatly influenced Lars Van Trier. In short, a total player.
2/ Raymond Moore
"Everyone is free to do what he wants with his hair.” Of all the hippie players, the South African Raymond Moore was the most insolent, the most arrogant, the one who clearly was the least concerned with protocol and kept repeating it in interviews: "I do what I want, when I want, where I want" As Ulrich, Moore hated playing in the morning. He even claimed he would get out of bed an hour before he had to be on the court, not before. A heavy marijuana smoker, the real problem wasn't his lifestyle, but rather his look: red mane or fake blonde hairs, moustache or sideburns, this Rolling Stones fan loved wearing a T-shirt with the words "Rebel" or "Humpty Dumpty" written on it. A non-conformism that didn’t prevent him from reaching the rank of 34th in the world in 1976, contesting two finals in singles and winning eight doubles titles. “I believe in a certain hippie philosophy,” he once said. “There's money in tennis but I can't help it. It's what I do best and you have to eat three times a day."
3/ Thomaz Koch
Perhaps wrongly, the Brazilian Thomaz Koch was for a long time stuck in the "hippie" category. The reason: his long hair, his bandana and his impressive erudition. In the 1960s, it was he who turned his friend Guillermo Vilas on to great literature. A poor student, the Argentinian would only remember the fashion lessons. "I was hiding in the locker room to spy on the way he walked and especially how he dressed, he explained. Regarding my style, I must admit that I owe him everything.
" Less flamboyant and eccentric than his disciple, Koch nevertheless hit the headlines in 1972, when he eloped, despite the opposition of his in-laws with an 18 year-old Brazilian girl. Peace & Love.
4/ Ray Keldie
June 1973. For refusing his selection in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas, the Yugoslav Nikola Pilic was sanctioned by the International Federation, which suspended him for Wimbledon. In solidarity, almost all of the best professionals and amateurs withdrew too, except three: Ilie Nastase who feared expulsion by his Federation; Roger Taylor who, as an Englishman, claimed to respect above all his public; and the modest Australian Ray Keldie for "personal reasons", even though the player was a dyed-in-the-wool hippie and looked like Christ’s athletic twin. Paradoxical, right? "I am the sole founder of the ATP who had been denied his pension,”
he revealed in 2006. “Forty years later, I'm still paying for that damn boycott that I didn't want to respect.”
5/ Harold Blauer
Tennis player, teacher, single and depressed, the American Harold Blauer knocked, one morning of December 1952, on the door of the Psychiatric Institute of the State of New York. To treat his mental disorder, the institution proposed the intravenous injection of a new revolutionary substance. Harold hesitated a little, even strongly declined, until the nurses threatened to send him to the Bellevue clinic - an establishment headed by Dr Lauretta Bender, a pioneer of mental health treatment by electric shock... Finally, Harold accepted the shots. On the 8th of January 1953, Harold Blauer died of a fifth consecutive mescaline injection (powerful hallucinogenic extracted from some cactus, Ed.)
It's true that the last dose was sixteen times higher than the previous. A quiet player, Harold became the first victim of MK-Ultra, a behaviour study program initiated by the CIA. A project intended to capture the complexity of the human being: hypnosis, torture and usage of various drugs. “The U.S. government chose Mr Blauer because he led the lifestyle that was later called hippie,”
said a source close to the case in 1987. “It's dramatic but, for us, he was just a guinea pig.”
By Victor Le Grand and Julien Pichené