Remarks at a White House Reception for Members of the Davis Cup and Wightman Cup Tennis Teams

September 14, 1981

The President. First of all, I think on behalf of all of us, I want to thank the two gentlemen who gave us this exhibition and then to welcome all of you here.

We're delighted to have you here, and we had originally planned, you know, to have some of our White House staff also do an exhibition, and I was preparing some remarks -- --

Mrs. Reagan. They chickened out.

The President. What?

Mrs. Reagan. They chickened out.

The President. Yes, they chickened out, Nancy said. [Laughter]

I was preparing some remarks, and I didn't know whether to have some facetious remarks in which I would say, ``They were better at their jobs than they are on the court,'' or whether I was to be generous and say, ``Well, they're just as good at their jobs as they are here,'' -- and that could be taken wrong. So, anyway they settled that for me.

We are pleased to have you here. Tennis, of course, in recent years, beginning about 1968, really, has stepped off and become one of the great national sports. There are now, as I believe, 92 tournaments. And we're very proud to have the Davis Cup team, the Wightman Cup players, team, here. We were very proud of what our ladies in the Wightman Cup did to the British, and we were proud of the Davis Cup team in defeating last year's champions, the good Czechoslovakian team, in New York. And we're all going to be watching them next month and rooting for them in that.

Tennis not only belongs to the expert players of the kind that are on those teams and that are in the tournaments and that we've been seeing the last couple of days on television. Tennis has become such a general sport. It is estimated that there are some 32 million people playing it, and it's become a family sport. We can now believe that a family that plays together stays together, and parents and children can be found playing. Sometimes the parents win. I was going to take up tennis again until I found out you couldn't get the horse on the court. [Laughter]

Now, I just want to say that with regard to your first suggestion about the net here, that ``appropriation'' was the wrong word. Dave Stockman, wherever he was, flinched. [Laughter] ``Contribution,'' yes, that would be acceptable.

But again, we want to thank you all for being here. And now I'm going to quit talking, because I understand all of us are to go up there on the West Lawn.

Mrs. Reagan. Arthur wanted to introduce the players.

The President. Oh! Fine, you do that. And then I'll make the announcement I was going to make.

These Izod shirts say ``White House Tennis Court'' on them. And speaking of contributions, each member of the Wightman Cup and the Davis Cup are going to receive one of these shirts.

Mr. [Arthur] Ashe. Before we depart, Mr. President, I would like to introduce the members of the Davis Cup and the Wightman Cup teams who are here. Here she comes, one more. To Mrs. Reagan's immediate left, newly crowned 1981 U.S. Open Champion and a Davis Cup stalwart who has never failed us when we've asked, John McEnroe.

His partner in crime on the doubles court, Wimbledon and U.S. Open Doubles Champion, Peter Fleming.

Former Wightman Cup player, now Wightman Cup captain, Rosie Casals.

Fresh from her victory 2 days ago, the 1981 U.S. Open Champion for the second time now, Tracy Austin.

Next to her, 3 years ago I think it was, runner-up U.S. Open to Chris Evert Lloyd, Pam Shriver.

And she threw away her bubble gum today, Andrea Jaeger, 15 years old -- sorry, 16.

Next to her, of course, our two players, Stan Smith and Marty Riessen.

And I'd also like to introduce -- because it is appropriate and this is a national team, the two national teams that we are representing here today -- president of the USTA, Marvin Richmond, and chairman of the USTA Davis Cup Committee, Gordon Jorgensen. Gordon, where are you? There he is. Thank you very much.

The President. All I have left to say is that there are going to be refreshments up there on the West Lawn, and we'll all just head that way right now. Thank you all again.

Ms. Shriver. Just one more moment, please. If Mr. President cannot bring a horse onto the tennis court, at least maybe he can bring a Prince, so I'd like to give him a Prince tennis racquet.

The President. Well, thank you very much.

Ms. Shriver. Thank you for having us.

Ms. Jaeger. And if he doesn't want to start tennis again, he can just stick with his jellybeans. [Laughter]

[At this point, Ms. Jaeger presented the President with a gift of jellybeans.]

The President. Well, that beats one of those boats in a bottle. [Laughter] Thank you very much, and you're almost forcing me into it now. I can see the Attorney General down there now. Mr. Smith is looking up. He is one of our tennis-playing set here in the Capital. You realize that I could win almost from the very first by Executive order. [Laughter]

Well, shall we go up for the refreshments?

Note: The President spoke at 5:36 p.m. at the White House tennis courts.