Pat Cash, Wimbledon 1987

Wimbledon 1987 SF: Cash defeats Connors

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.

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