The tennis era that produced Australian men champions Rod Laver, Jon Newcombe and Ken Rosewall had been over for some time when Pat Cash came along.
Cash supplied some glimpses of that previous era and some tempting hints that here once again was that Australian men’s tennis player capable of duplicating the feats of those giants, but by the time Cash turned professional in 1982, the days of the grass court, the territory of Australia’s great serve-and-volley specialists, was all but over. Tennis had been taken over by the hard court players, some from the United States (John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors) and some from Europe (Ivan Lendl, Bjorn Borg), who routinely staged long points, with baseline rallies often venturing into the 20 and 30-stroke realm.
Still, Cash represented Australia more than adequately, and observers must remember that when you stand on the shoulders of giants such as Laver and the like, you are likely to suffer by comparison regardless of what results are produced. Here is an examination of his playing career.
Patrick Hart “Pat” Cash was born in Melbourne 27 May 1965. He was a right-hander and hit his backhand with one hand, like a real man. He won close to $2 million over the course of his 15 years as a professional, so had we had the pleasure of his acquaintance, we would have felt compelled to give him the nickname “Cold Hard.”
His dad, also Patrick, was a footy player for the Hawthorn Hawks, playing in 58 matches over the course of five seasons from 1951 to 1955, where he kicked 75 goals for a 15 per season average on a Hawks side that was in a bit of a rough patch.
Pat Jr. was first noticed as a junior player in the early 80s. He was the top-ranked junior player in 1981, and won the junior titles at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open prior to announcing his intention to turn professional near the end 1982.
In the tradition of the Australian players before him, Cash was known for the combative serve-and-volley tactics that put tremendous pressure on opponents’ groundstrokes, the slightest miscue resulting in a quick end to the point.
He earned the right to represent Australia in the prestigious Davis Cup competition, the youngest ever to achieve that distinction. Some might say the Aussies had an easy time of it. The played their first round against Great Britain in South Australia. Cash acquitted himself quite nicely before the partisan crowd, losing one match to Christopher Mottram and winning against John Lloyd. When all was said and done, Cash and his teammates had a decisive 4 – 1 victory and moved on to the second round against Romania in the quarterfinal staged in Brisbane.
He won a match against Nasty Ilie Nastase in dominating fashion and added an even more lopsided decision over Florin Segarceanu, losing only four games in a three-set sweep, giving the Aussie side a 5 – 0 win.
Moving on to Sydney for the semifinals in Sydney against France, Cash beat Henri Leconte and Yannick Noah, for a final margin of 4 – 1.
The final was against Sweden in Cash’s hometown of Melbourne. There, he lost only six games in a three-set sweep over Joakim Nystrom, before he bowed to Mats Wilander. Final score: Australia 3 – Sweden 2. It was the 25th Davis Cup victory for Australia.
The following year, 1984, Cash again put in an impressive performance, making it to the semifinals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. He fell in three sets to John McEnroe at Wimbledon, but Ivan Lendl needed a five set match, the last set decided by a tiebreaker, to deny Cash a spot in the final. It was McEnroe who was the eventual champion of both tournaments.
Cash continued to make strong showings everywhere he played. He was instrumental in helping Australia secure another Davis Cup, again over a Swedish squad.
He showed a great deal of determination in that year’s Wimbledon after requiring an emergency appendectomy right in the lead-up to the tournament. He eventually made it all the way through to the quarterfinals.
He made his first appearance in a Grand Slam final in 1987, although he unfortunately lost to Stefan Edberg in five sets played at Kooyong in Melbourne, the final year the Australian Open was played on grass.
Later than season, he reached his zenith at the 1987 Wimbledon Championships. He dispatched Marcel Freeman, fellow Australian Paul McNamee, Michiel Schapers, and Guy Forget. In the quarterfinals, Cash took a straight set victory over Mats Wilander. He did the same to Jimmy Connors in the semifinals, closing Connors out 6 – 1 in the third set of the best-of-five affair.
The final pitted the 11th seeded Cash against 2nd seed Ivan Lendl. Cash seized the moment and after winning a first set tiebreaker, required only eight games to take the second set before winning the third 7 – 5.
Cash dropped only one set, against Micheil Schapers of the Netherlands, during the entire fortnight, a level of dominance seldom seen in the history of the Championships.
He reached the finals of the Australian Open in 1988, but once more was unable to gain the upper hand over his Swedish nemesis, Mats Wilander. The tournament was notable for being the first ever where a Grand Slam final was played indoors, the roof of the Melbourne Park venue, where the Australian Open was played on hard courts for the first time, was closed mid-way through the match due to rain.
Cash represented Australia in the Davis Cup for the final time in 1990. The team made it to the finals, but were unable to prevail against the U.S. squad that included Michael Chang and Andre Agassi.
Eight years of competitive tennis against the top players in the world began to extract a toll on Cash. Injuries began to hamper him up until his retirement in 1997. He did win one final time in 1990 in Hong Kong, and he took a doubles title with Patrick Rafter in 1996.
He continued to play on a limited basis on the ATP and Champions Cup legends tours, winning the over-45 Wimbledon doubles title with fellow Australian Mark Woodforde four consecutive years from 2010 – 2013.
Not surprisingly, all those years wielding a racquet turned Cash in a very competent guitar player. At his induction into the Australian Tennis Hall of Fame at the 2003 Australian Open, he shared the stage with the Australian super-group INXS. Naturally, he was, and is to this day, a Hawthorn Hawks supporter. Following his Tennis Hall of Fame induction, he went into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame in 2005.
Although titles in the Grand Slam events, other than Wimbledon, eluded him, he did capture 6 singles titles and 12 doubles titles. His singles record for his career stands at 243 – 148. His doubles record is 174 – 110 and his highest ever world ranking was number four in 1988.
These days, he spends most of his days in London, but we suppose we can forgive him that.