Second serve under pressure

FREW McMillan made a New Year resolution - and kept to his word during a brief visit to Hong Kong last week.

The 51-year-old South African, who was returning home to England from the Australian Open in Melbourne, where he was commentating for BSkyB television, became an institution in men's doubles in partnership with Bob Hewitt.

The pair won five Grand Slam titles - three at Wimbledon, one at the US Open and one at the French Open - and McMillan added five more Grand Slam championships in mixed doubles, four of them with the Netherlands Betty Stove and one with South African compatriot Annette Van Zyl.

McMillan played his last event on the professional tour in 1983 but is still very much on top of the game, as a commentator and captain of the South African Davis Cup team.

And his observations on the state of the modern-day game led him to make a rather unusual New Year resolution.

''I would like to see only one serve in men's tennis - and it's one of my New Year resolutions to mention this as often as I can,'' said McMillan, who was in Hong Kong with his English wife, Sally.

''I would like to see it happen from two points of view. First, it would reduce the power in the game; second, it would improve the continuity.

''An average of four out of 10 first serves go into the net and if it was just one serve it would make the game more electric from the start of each point.

''I think it would be a very good idea for a promoter to try out the one-serve rule at an exhibition tournament. It would have to involve top players, not only to find out how they feel about it but also to attract attention.

''At the moment it's a case of people not wanting to try anything too different.

''I know Ivan Lendl feels it would be worth trying, so an exhibition match between Lendl and another top player would make a lot of impact.'' While McMillan feels there is room at the top for change, he refuses to follow the trend of criticising the game's leading players for being dull and cold, on and off court.

The likes of Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and Michael Stich have all been accused of lacking colour and character as they dominate the men's game with their power play.

But McMillan feels they will develop as characters as they grow older and learn to live with their success.

''Very often when people are young and successful they do not quite reveal the same character as when they are a little older, more mature and successful. By then they can relax somewhat and show some of their character.

''Initially, young people are so intent on success that there is no room or scope for relaxation, so I do not criticise the young players of today.

''I am not critical of Pete Sampras because he is a carbon copy of most of the great players of the past - they were trying to win and not trying to appeal to the crowd.

''Right back as far as Bill Tilden, Jack Kramer and Don Budge, and even more recently Roy Emerson, John Newcombe in his early days, and Bjorn Borg, were comparatively expressionless. They expressed themselves in their tennis.

''What happens then is that the players themselves are able to relax just a bit.

''Once they have developed an image of success in the public's eyes, the public see in them new and colourful characteristics. The player becomes almost an institution on the courts and people look on them with warmer eyes because they have been around longer.'' One thing that will be around for years to come in the men's game is the power play, according to McMillan.

''I cannot imagine the power suddenly disappearing from the scene but I can see someone mixing great power with great guile and great subtleties. I think people will always develop a game to combat what is successful.'' Born in Springs, near Johannesburg, McMillan became a full-time touring tennis player at the age of 19. He went on to win two career singles titles and 10 Grand Slam doubles titles.

In 1965 his tournament schedule took him to Bristol, in south-west England, where he met his wife Sally, who was helping at the event. The couple were married in 1968 and the visit to Australia and Hong Kong is part of their silver wedding anniversary celebrations, which began last year.

Their 25th anniversary tour also took in Malta last September, when McMillan competed in a senior players' event.

''It's not a particularly eventful tour, not like the seniors' golf tour, but I manage to play in about six annually, including Wimbledon and the US Open seniors' tournaments,'' he added.

''People like Ilie Nastase, Ken Rosewall, John Newcombe, Tony Roche and Peter Fleming all join the tour but it is run only intermittently.

''I have played many more in the past and it's true to say it is not quite as active now as it has been. These things probably come and go - but if it does start up again, Hong Kong would be an ideal stop-off for a seniors' world tour.''