Pat Cash, Wimbledon 1987

Extract from Pat Cash’s autobiography Uncovered:

I felt good when I walked onto court. Lendl and I had just been standing in opposite corners of the corridor, but we hadn’t spoken. I didn’t want to wish him good luck or anything else insincere. The weather was sweltering. Somebody said it was close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit although I didn’t think it ever got that hot in England. The male occupants of the Royal Box were allowed to remove their jackets. Straightaway I put the heat on Lendl, testing him for 13 minutes as he struggled to hold his first service game.

My service was working well. I dropped only six points in six games before the tiebreaker and then moved to a 6-1 lead, giving me five set points. Lendl managed to save four, and though a moment of self-doubt came into my head, I immediately pushed it aside. Lendl had a good block backhand return and a great full swing backhand, but couldn’t play a shot in between. Could I tempt him to go for a full swing on a block backhand shot? I hoped so, and aimed at the spot on the court that wasn’t too wide to give him room to swing, but was sufficiently far enough over to tempt him. Bang! My serve hit the exact blade of grass. He over-swung and directed the backhand out. I was set up, and knew I had the match won. I was loose: the nerves had gone, and my game had switched into overdrive. During the second set I didn’t allow him a point on my serve, and with such an overwhelming lead, nothing was going to slip.

Because of all the rain in England that summer, I hadn’t done as much endurance work as I would have liked; over my career it’s the one facet of my make-up that has needed the most attention. Briefly I became concerned at the unlikely prospect of the match going to five sets, but soon suppressed such negative thoughts.

Lendl broke my serve in the third when I suffered a brief lapse in focus. This quite often happens if you are initially nervous and then relax yourself so much you lose some intensity. The body is slow to react to the brain, and it’s a matter of finding that fine line. Thankfully all the work I did with Jeff once more paid off, and again I snapped myself back to break his serve twice in succession. I remember my last service game and match point like it was only yesterday: I went 40-love up for three match points. Thank God it was an easy game, and I finished it all off with a volley that got behind Lendl and into the open court.

GAME, SET AND MATCH, MR CASH 7-6 6-2 7-5. I was the champion, and pumped my fist in the air. Then I shook Lendl by the hand and he just said well done. I was polite, and I could see his disappointment; but I came out with no more than the standard reply of bad luck. There was nothing else to say, we didn’t like each other, so there would be no sympathy. To me, some of these shows of emotion towards a beaten opponent over the Wimbledon net are false. I think it’s hypocritical to put your arms around each other and have a long chat. I know that’s what Ivanisevic and Rafter did last year, but I don’t buy that sort of show. Anyway, there had been other things planned for several months. I had some climbing to do.

Pat Cash, Wimbledon 1987

Extract from Pat Cash’s autobiography Uncovered:

To my mind I wasn’t just taking on Jimmy Connors, I would also have the crowd against me. He knew every trick to get them on his side, and he would be doing everything possible to break my focus. It didn’t matter that he was nearly thirty-five years of age and hadn’t won a tournament since 1983. Zivojinovic hit twenty-five aces against him, but Jimmy had still won. A round earlier he had fought back from an abysmal start and a two set deficit to beat Mikael Pernfors.

Many people perceived Jimmy to be something of an arsehole, but in my opinion he was a great player. He had such an unusual style, nobody ever played like him and nobody ever will. He was a great athlete, but tough as nails in the bargain. Barkers [Ian Barclay] and I regularly used to watch Jimmy practice and were amazed by his drive. Every point was regarded as the most important of his life: it was inspirational to see, and that was exactly how he played his matches. Maybe that’s why he made so many comebacks and reached the US Open semifinal at the age of thirty-nine. I make no secret of the fact that I was a fan, besides which I ever had any problems with Jimmy on court. Sure, he used to play to the crowd and joke with the line judges in a thinly disguised attempt at giving himself a little rest, but tennis is all about entertainment. The first time we ever played one another was at the Canadian Open in Toronto. I was told he was making faces at me for miss-hitting a ball; I didn’t see him, so I don’t know, and I will keep an open mind. However, it’s fair to admit that opponents can certainly goad me.

Jimmy and I didn’t really socialize. He never seemed to mix with the rest of the guys, but that’s understandable – who would, if they were married to a Playboy centerfold? He had a certain style. In the States he played the true super star by climbing out of his limousine and walking straight into the court. McEnroe doesn’t hold his countryman in such high esteem as I do, but that’s because he is consumed by a competitive jealousy.

I couldn’t have a better start in the semi-final, hitting an ace with the first ball. But Jimmy was intent on being no pushover, and fought fiercely to break back at five all, after I’d served for the first set. Walking back to the baseline to return, I knew this was a crucial moment. I was determined not to fold under the pressure, and broke back immediately before taking control. This was again testimony to the work of Jeff Bond, who had instilled in me that following any loss of concentration, I should immediately snap myself back awake. Late in the third set the fire alarm went off, although I didn’t pay attention. I had moved into a 5-0 lead, dropping just four points. The bell seemed too late to save Jimmy, but he was trying all his tricks with the crowd to disrupt my concentration. I knew he’d spotted I was tense, and I didn’t want him to be inspired into another comeback as he’d managed against Pernfors. Summoning up all my focus, I managed to finish him off. The relief was immense.

In his autobiography, Uncovered, Pat Cash remembers his days on the junior European tour:

My third European trip showed that great things were by now a distinct possibility. To start with, I finally managed to win the Avvenire Cup singles prize in Milan. First I had to beat two players who could certainly go on to make their mark on the game: Emilio Sanchez in the quarterfinals and Karel Novacek in the semis. My reward was a place in the final, and a first confrontation with another young Swede who would figure prominently in my career.

In those days Stefan Edberg played the traditional Borg way. Like all the others he rarely strayed from the baseline, hit with a double-fisted backhand, and seemed to regard the net as something carrying rabies. Although feeling extremely nervous, I beat him without too many problems, and my rapidly rising junior ranking escalated still further. However, my supposed knowledge of Stefan Edberg tested the strength of my friendship with Wally Masur a year or so later.

The two young Aussies arrived in Lisbon to try and qualify for a tour event. Wally was drawn against Edberg, and I told him there was nothing to worry about because he was a typical Swede who just stayed back on the baseline. But sitting courtside, I couldn’t believe what I saw: there was this supreme young fair-haired athlete who served and volleyed everything with the crispest single-handed backhand I’d ever seen.

To pretty swift sets later, a soundly beaten and decidedly pissed off Wally stumbled his way from the court to the locker room. On his way, he gave me the unfriendliest of looks and I thought I heard him utter, thanks for the tip mate. I’d like to think they were the exact words he used, but I know for a fact they were interspersed with other considerably stronger.

Stefan Edberg, Australian Open 1987

From Pat Cash’s autobiography Uncovered

Losing the final of a Grand Slam tournament is hard enough; doing it in your home city is even worse. And the sensation that your shoulder is just about to drop off hardly adds to the feeling of well-being. But walking back into the locker room at Kooyong after being defeated by Stefan Edberg in the final of the Australian Open, I had to contend with something extra: the spectacle of Edberg’s agent, Tom Ross, shouting, screaming and leaping all over the place like some pubescent kid.
Ross worked for the management company that was responsible for Edberg, but in my excuse that was no excuse for this juvenile, unpofessional behaviour, even Edberg looked embarassed by it. I have always believed that the players’ locker room should be reserved for the sole use of the contestants themselves, their coaches and their physiotherapists, and no one else. Unfortunately, agents are allowed to ply their trade in the players’ lounges and restaurants, but certainly not the locker room.[…]

Returning to Kooyong was always going to be an extremely tough call, barely three weeks after the triumph of winning the Davis Cup final in such heroic manner. Many Australian fans believed it was a forgone conclusion that I would just carry on where I left off against Pernfors, and win the title with ease. But Neale Fraser, who had a better idea of the realities of the situation, has since admitted that he thought I would struggle to recapture my best tennis so soon after such an emotionally draining experience.

I almost proved dear old Frase wrong, and maybe I only came up short against Edberg in the final because of the intensive physical work I had put in beforehand. Seeded 11th, I got a bye in the first round, and then beat the Italian Claudio Pistolesi in four sets. A couple of Americans, Ben Testerman and Paul Annacone, should both probably have been dispatched more quickly than they were, but I made it through to the quarter-finals to face Yannick Noah.
Then midway through the match, I miss-hit a couple of shots and felt a jolt of pain in my right shoulder. Immediately I saw the danger signs flashing, because I had been working had on my serve and the joint had been taking a pounding. Fortunately I beat Yannick, ounding off the win to love in the fourth set; but I knew I was in trouble. The problem was simply over-use, and all it required was a week or so of rest. But of course that’s not possible in a Grand Slam tournament.

My shoulder was killing me as I faced Lendl in the semi, and the fact that I won remains one of the miracles of my career. I only managed to serve at three-quarter pace thoughout, and I got through to my first-ever final of a major because I volleyed so well; the grass court was dry and the ball bounced high, so just rolling my arm over generated sufficent pace.

I couldn’t practice at all on the day before the final. My trusty physiotherapist David Zuker tried loosening up the troublesome muscles, but the shoulder was shot – and Edberg was in no mood for sympathy. I’m sure he felt a revenge for revenge after the Davis Cup final, and he was playing me off the court. By courtesy of my half-paced serve, he rapidly took a two set lead.
Stefan knew the route to the title at Kooyong, having lifted the trophy two years previously. Throughout the tournament he had been in supreme form and had only dropped one set on his way to the final, in his opening match. Miloslav Mecir only managed to take nine games off Edberg in the quarter-final, Wally Masur fared just marginally better in the semi, and it appeared that I was next in line for the treatment. But somehow I managed to get myself back in the match, and levelled the score at two sets all.
However, I knew I was undoubtedly still the underdog. The shoulder pain became unbearable, and serving for the fourth set, I hit three successive double faults. There was no pace or stick on my delivery, and as I tried to find a little extra power, I lost my rythm altogether. I managed to grab the set after losing my serve, but I had lost the momentum. Edberg broke early in the fifth, and recaptured the title he’d won as a teenager. My hopes of a perfect Australian summer had fallen at the last obstacle, and my dreams of Grand Slam glory were forced back on hold.

After the match I was not in the best of moods – I defy anyone to be a good loser in those circumstances. Even before being infuriated by the sight of Ross in the locker room, I’d got myself into trouble on the awards podium. As is normally the case at the Australian Open, the runner-up is asked if he would like to make a short speech before the winner is presented with the trophy. Naturally I said well done to Edberg, because I’ve always viewed him as one of the finest players ever to grace a grass court. Then I said something along the lines of ‘I’m supposed to thank a load of people like the sponsors Ford and all that junk. But I won’t do that, I’ll leave it to Stefan.’

Goran Ivanisevic and Pat Cash

My reports on the Optima Open are finally online! This match took place on Saturday, August 16th (read my complete Optima Open report here).

First match of the day between two Wimbledon champions: Pat Cash (1987) and Goran Ivanisevic (2001).
An entertaining match with lots of interactions between the players and the public. Cash and Ivanisevic even tried to “corrupt” the line judges by offering them money. It was a lot of fun with some good tennis too.

Pat Cash

Goran’s impressive serve:

Goran Ivanisevic

Pete Sampras was the first player to pass 1,000 ace mark in a single season, but Goran still holds the record for most aces in a year.

Grandpa Cash, still looking strong at 49:

Pat Cash

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