By Rex Bellamy, The Times, January 25, 1988
Mats Wilander took four hours and 28 minutes to beat Pat Cash 6-3, 6-7, 3-6, 6-1, 8-6 yesterday in an exhilarating climax to the first Australian championships played in the new National Tennis Centre at Flinders Park. Wilander became the first player since Ken Rosewall to win the men’s title three times and the only overseas player ever to do so. The final was a great match. It also had a satisfying, if slightly peverse outcome. A week ago most people fancied Wilander’s chances less than those of Ivan Lendl or Cash – the men who, with Stefan Edberg, grabbed last year’s Grand Slam titles. “It’s a long time”, Wilander said, “since I saw the four top guys so intense about winning a Grand Slam tournament.” And when Cash beat Lendl in a semi-final for the second year running, it seemed that the dramatic convention would insist on an Australian champion in the brave new world of Flinders Park. It almost happened. Cash came within two points of winning.
But Wilander fooled them all: and did so with a beautifully-crafted, unflinchingly resolute performance. Nor did the public seem to mind. They were mostly behind Cash, a Melbourne man, whose fighting heart accepts no compromise between a VC and a blanket. But they like Wilander, too, partly because he has a more engaging, less peevish personality and partly because of his tennis. They know him well. They should do – this was the fifth consecutive Australian title won either by Wilander or another Swede, Edberg.
Wilander also had a noisy and demonstrative following: young Swedes with faces daubed in the national colours. Australians responded in kind. The sunlit, packed stadium raised images of some tribal festival. The roars of 15,000 voices rang and rang across the Yarra River, the Melbourne cricket ground, and the tower blocks of the city. Even the silences were punctuated by the strange sound of wind gurgling through the amplifying system.
Yes, it was windy. Often cloudy too. And the match was twice interrupted by rain: for 33 minutes when Wilander was 4-1 up in the second set (which he lost) and for 18 minutes when Cash had a break point for a 4-0 lead in the fourth set. Yet those breaks added fuel to the excitement rather than dousing it. They were conversational pauses in a feast we had no wish to finish.
For the first set and a half (and often thereafter) Wilander played what he thinks may have been the best tennis of his life. Cash was not serving well enough to earn himself easy volleys. Wilander’s service returns were superb – they remained so – and with nimble cunning he contained, teased and frustrated the net -rusher. Often Wilander went to the net himself, once startling the incoming volleyer by advancing to meet him. Wilander’s technical soundness and tactical variety were exemplary. One spectator kept shouting “Get him, Pat.” He might as well have asked the fish to hook the fisherman. There was nothing Cash could do from the baseline, especially with a shaky forehand, and for a time there was not a lot he could do from the forecourt. Then came the first break, in which the rain transformed the court into a shining green pool.
When play resumed, Wilander volleyed too often – and not well enough to avoid damaging counters. By contrast Cash began to serve well and also found a better length with his approach shots. That meant he had higher volleys to play, and plenty of chances to exploit his astonishing quickness in the forecourt. At times his racket seemed impassable. What a match we had then. Each man in turn moved from the shadows into the sunlight and back again. They were cold-eyed, almost baleful, emitting waves of willpower before every point. Cash took the second and third sets but Wilander, who served consistently well, then won eight games out of nine. Cash seemed to be tiring. Wilander was probing his forehand and Cash was no longer as quick to respond.
Urged on by the crowd, Cash somehow pumped himself up again. The fifth set was a marvel in that, having given so much for so long, the players produced a set gloriously dominated by dazzling, hard-won points – rather than errors. The crux came when Wilander, with incredible physical and mental resilience, kept himself in a rally he twice seemed to have lost. That gave him a second chance, which he seized, to break 7-6. He held his service to love for the match.
“I played pretty well”, Cash said, “but Mats was too good on the day.” Somebody asked Wilander if he felt he had ruined an Australian party. “Such a great match,” he said, “couldn’t ruin anything.”
At the 1995 Australian Open I come out like the Incredible Hulk. I don’t drop one set in a take-no-prisoners blitz to the final. This is the first time I’ve played in Australia, and I can’t imagine why I’ve waited so long. I like the surface, the venue – the heat. Having grown up in Vegas, I don’t feel the heat the way others players do, and the defining characteristic of the Australian Open is the unholy temperature. Just as cigar and pipe smoke lingers in the memory after playing Roland Garros, the hazy memory of playing in a giant kiln stays with you for weeks after you leave Melbourne.
I also enjoy the Australian people, and they apparently enjoy me, even though I’m not me, I’m this new bald guy in a bandana and a goatee and a hoop earring. Newspapers go to town with my new look. Everyone has an opinion. Fans who rooted for me are disoriented. Fans who rooted against me have a new reason to dislike me. I read and hear a remarkable succession of pirate jokes. I never knew there could be so many pirate jokes. But I don’t care. I tell myself that everyone is going to have to deal with this pirate, accept this pirate, when I hoist that trophy.
In the final I run smack into Pete. I lose the first set in nothing flat. I lose it gutlessly, on a double fault. Here we go again.
I take time before the second set to collect myself. I glance toward my box. Brad looks frustrated. He’s never believed that Pete is the better player. His face says, You’re the better player, Andre. Don’t respect him so much.
Pete is serving like grenades, one after another, a typical Pete fusillade. But in the middle of the second set, I feel him tiring. His grenades still have the pins in them. He’s wearing down physically, and emotionally, because he’s been through hell these last few days. His longtime coach, Tim Gullikson, suffered two strokes, and then they discovered a tumor in his brain. Pete is traumatized. As the match turns my way, I feel guilty. I’d be willing to stop, let Pete go into the locker room, get an IV, and come back as that other Pete who likes to kick my ass at slams.
I break him twice. He slumps his shoulders, concedes the set.
The third set comes down to a jittery tiebreak. I grab a 3-0 lead and then Pete wins the next four points. Suddenly he’s up 6-4, serving for the set. I let out a caveman scream, as if I’m in the weight room with Gil, and put everything I’ve got into a return that nicks the net and stays inside the line. Pete stares at the ball, then me.
On the next point he hits a forehand that sails long. We’re deadlocked at 6. A furious rally ends when I shock him by coming to the net and hitting a soft backhand drop volley. It works so well, I do it again. Set, Agassi. Momentum, ditto.
The fourth set is a foregone conclusion. I keep my foot on the gas and win, 6-4. Pete looks resolved. Too much hill to climb. In fact, he’s maddeningly unruffled as he comes to the net.
It’s my second slam in a row, my third overall. Everyone says it’s my best slam yet, because it’s my first victory over Pete in a slam final. But I think twenty years from now I’ll remember it as my first bald slam.
The dress looks a lot like last year’s outfit, do you like it?
Wozniacki will also the adidas by Stella McCartney Barricade 2015 shoes:
Follow our Australian Open coverage on Tennis Buzz!
I usually travel hundreds of kilometers to watch live tennis, so it was a strange feeling to leave home, take the metro, walk about 10 minutes and be there in front of the Stade Pierre Mauroy, ready to attend the much expected Davis Cup final between France and Switzerland.
It’s kinda ironic that’s the only times I’ve been to a football stadium were to attend rugby matches (when I was a volunteer for the rugby World Cup in 2007) and tennis matches.
Despite the queue, it took only a few minutes to enter the stadium.
The road to the Davis Cup final has been quite a rollercoaster for me: the excitement when I learned Lille (my hometown) would stage the final, the disappointment when I wasn’t able to buy tickets, the relief when I managed to buy tickets (thank you Twitter), the doubts about the visibility from the category 4 seat. But here I am. The court, the crowd, the flags, the atmosphere, as soon as I sat in my place I knew it would be something like I never seen or lived before.
Skip the use
But first, a mini-concert by local band Skip the use. I honestly couldn’t care less.
First big moment of this historic Davis Cup weekend, the teams presentation. And no surprise, Federer is the most applauded player.
I look at the giant screen and I have a bad feeling: I see Tsonga’s face, he looks scared, exactly the same face he had just before his semifinal disaster against Ferrer at Roland Garros last year.
Unfortunately, I was right…
Tsonga vs Wawrinka
3 meters behind the baseline, the French number one can’t do anything to counter Wawrinka‘s powerful grounstrokes. He just can’t pull a ball in the court and keeps making errors after errors after errors. A really bad start for Tsonga. Wawrinka wins five straight games to clinch the first set 6-1:
27,432 spectators! The previous record for a tennis match (27,200) had been set in Seville in 2004 for the Davis Cup final between Spain and the USA.
Things look a bit better for Tsonga in the second set, he is more aggressive and Wawrinka starts making a few errors here and there. Second set for Tsonga 6-3, a little hope for the French fans:
Wawrinka breaks in the sixth game of the third set and leads 4-2. Tsonga then saves two set points at 2-5. Tsonga and the French crowd are on fire..
But it only lasts two minutes, the Swiss wins the third set and leads 2 sets to one. An early break for Stan in the fourth set, Tsonga looks resigned and nobody believes in a win from behind. Game, set, match Wawrinka 6-1 3-6 6-3 6-2. Switzerland leads 1-0.
Tsonga’s game was bad but his attitude was worst, he kept complaining for nothing, looked at times completely lost, and the only excuse he found for his non-match was that the crowd didn’t support him enough. Seriously…
Too much pressure on his shoulders? Too much expectations? Visibly still bothered by his right arm injury (he kept saying “J’y arrive pas” to Clément during the changeovers), he perhaps should have been preserved for Sunday’s reverse singles or perhaps Tsonga wanted to play this final at all costs because he missed the Belgrade final in 2010? In any case it is too late to change the course of the final now.
Monfils vs Federer
There had been much talk about Federer’s back injury during the week, his first serve is at 207km/h, the case is closed. A completely different match from the first rubber and a completely different atmosphere: Monfils is on fire from first point on and so is the crowd! First set Monfils 6-1:
He keeps the pressure on Federer in the second set: solid serve, powerful forehands, and 6-4 for Monfils:
Monfils leads two sets to none and I start thinking: please Gael, don’t go nuts!, because the last time both players met, at the US Open this year, Monfils led by two sets to none, wasted 2 match points in the fourth set, only to lose in five sets. This time, no regret for the Frenchman who is rock solid on serve: 6-1 6-4 6-3 in less than two hours.
When you watch Monfils playing like that, so focused, you can only ask yourself: what if? What if he had a coach? What if he had a more professional attitude? What if he had taken time to improve his technique. He probably would have been a top 5 and a perennial Grand Slam contender. I guess we’ll never know…
It’s now time to go home:
Bothered by a right arm injury, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga withdraws from the first reverse single. He is replaced by Richard Gasquet who can’t do anything to prevent Federer from winning his first Davis Cup.
The match was broadcasted on a giant screen in the center of Lille. Here are a few pictures and videos (thanks to Miroslav).
A Tennis Village had been installed Place de la République in Lille, with a mini tennis court, a speed of serve game and a padel court:
More Davis Cup coverage:
Led once again by an impressive Wawrinka, the Swiss defeat Gasquet and Benneteau 6-3 7-5 6-4. The dream to win a 10th Davis Cup slowly goes away for the French team.