Action Replay: Cash treads unique path

Wimbledon's Centre Court witnessed some of the most memorable scenes ever when Australia's Pat Cash beat Ivan Lendl to win the men's title. This was the Independent's report.
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THERE HAVE been hot days at Wimbledon when spectators have fainted and have been passed down over the heads of the crowd, but yesterday was a first in more ways than one when Pat Cash defeated Ivan Lendl 7-6, 6-2, 7-5.

Cash could not wait until after the presentation to celebrate his triumph with his family, so he clambered up several rows of seats, on to the roof of the scoreboard, and over a parapet into the players' enclosure 30ft above the court to hug his father, his girlfriend, his coach, his physiotherapist and his psychologist.

The departure from convention was typical of the impatient 22-year-old Fulham -based Australian who reached the quarter-finals last year only weeks after leaving his appendix in a London hospital and went on to win the Davis Cup almost single-handedly in his native Melbourne at Christmas.

Even when he returned to the well-worn Centre Court lawn via the back stairs, he still capered through the protocol with the panache of a Norman Wisdom. After receiving the trophy and a cheque for pounds 155,000 from the Duchess of Kent, he made a move towards the waiting photographers, only to find himself crossing the path of the umpire, Stephen Winyard, who was going up to receive his memento of the final. Cash then did the same thing to intercept the referee, Alan Mills, finally pausing to look left, right and left again like a child at the kerbside before posing to have his picture taken a thousand times.

"I couldn't be bothered waiting around and holding up the cup for the photographers when all I wanted to do was to see the people who mean so much to me," explained Cash, seeded 11, whose victory puts him back in the world's top 10. "In my career I've had a few ups and downs. It went up steeply and came downwards quickly. I wanted to share my feelings with the people who helped me through it."

It was a pretty lonesome afternoon all round for Lendl as he strove against all the factors he believes conspire against him whenever he steps on grass with a tennis racket in his hand. There was more than a hint of what was to follow as early as the second game when Lendl took 14 minutes to hold serve, staving off the threat of five break points, and finally ending the torture with an angled, backhand volley.

A backhand saved Lendl on that occasion, but it was to prove his downfall when reproduced with even more venom and accuracy by the hungry man on the other side of the net. Cash treated Lendl's first serve with due respect and his second delivery with a contemptuous controlled swing of his racket to unnerve the player who has set such store by methodical play, consistency of stroke and the ability to impose his will on opponents.

Cash constantly stretched across to return the ball with interest or hit winners to deepen Lendl's foreboding. "I feel the key was that I had to hit a lot of volleys, and he didn't," Lendl said. "I thought if I served to the backhand it would open the court. But I also served to his forehand and down the line. I was frustrated because I was trying to hit good first serves and even when I did he put it back. So I tried to hit even better first serves, and was pressing too much. Then I missed some of the second serves, and he was hitting so many winners."

If those appear to be the words of a confused man, they merely reflect the success of Cash's deceptively simple plan of campaign, worked out along with his coach, Ian Barclay, who told him: "Anything you get back is a bonus with this guy." Cash got the message: " I didn't care how I got the ball back. I'd have kicked it if necessary. His best serve is wide to the backhand, which I saw when I saw him beat Edberg in the semi- finals on the telly. I think returning has been the strongest part of my game over the two weeks."

FOOTNOTE: Ivan Lendl returned several times, but never took the Wimbledon title. Pat Cash continued to play at the highest level and won the Australian Open in 1988, but his career was blighted by injury.