Pat Cash... Remembering 1987 Wimbledon (Part 2)
Thirty years ago, Pat Cash left no stone unturned in his pursuit of the ultimate prize. With exclusive insight from Cash and his closest friends, James Buddell of ATPWorldTour.com recounts how the Australian lifted the Wimbledon trophy
As Pat Cash’s star burned bright, rising to World No. 8 in 1985, so did the pressure — Australia had not seen a Wimbledon singles champion since John Newcombe in 1971, but also the pressure of leading his country, the expectations Cash put on himself and the expectations people put on him. A back injury for which Cash had experienced sporadic pain in previous years, was soon to flare up. For the final six months of the 1985 circuit, shortly after Wimbledon, and the early months of 1986, a swollen disc complaint had kept the young Australian sidelined. So when he made a telephone call for help to his old Heatherdale Tennis Club friend Ann Quinn in March 1986, his inner-drive came to the surface.
Quinn had first worked three nights per week as assistant to Barclay in Mitcham, and developed fitness drills to help “her second father” further develop his talented crop of children, which included Cash. As a piece in the jigsaw puzzle that Cash had begun to form on his journey to Wimbledon glory, Quinn remembers 30 years on, “He rang me up, saying, ‘I’m 463 in the world, I can’t walk. I’m starting from scratch, can you help me?’ I thought it was just for a couple of months to get him back on track.” Quinn, who was studying in the United States, first worked with Cash at the 1986 US Clay Court Championships in Indianapolis, Indiana. “We started from scratch, as he had very little base, building his power, endurance and strength.
“Yet four hours before I got on the plane in the build-up to Wimbledon in 1986, Pat called me up and said, ‘I’ve got a burst appendix, I’m about to go under the knife.’ Cash's friend, Rocky Loccisano, got him to hospital, just six days after the birth of his son, Daniel, in Oslo on 27 May to his Norwegian girlfriend, Anne-Britt Kristiansen. Cash’s participation at The Championships was in doubt. “It felt like we were back to the beginning again,” says Quinn.
The All England Club committee held off on announcing their wild cards list, hoping that the 1982 junior champion would be fit to play after an emergency appendectomy at St. Stephen’s Hospital on 2 June. Cash, a Wimbledon semi-finalist in 1984, recalls, “In those days it was just the start of key hole surgeries and the doctor [Dr. Charles Akle] told me, ‘I’m going to try this procedure, where it doesn’t cut the muscles.’ So the operation didn’t cut the muscles, but what it did was in a matter of a couple of weeks the muscles were able to repair. It was a new type of surgery.”
“Ian was back in Australia, so I helped Pat through, and I thought he can do anything on grass, so go for it,” remembers Quinn. “We had specific instructions for the surgeons not to cut any muscles. Pat rang me up from the hospital bed, asking me ‘What can I do with my legs? I can’t do anything with my upper body.’ He was so determined.”
On the hospital exercise bike and doing gentle sit-ups within a day of the operation, Cash was back on court within three days. The scar had barely healed when Cash went to play an exhibition match in Dublin with John McEnroe, Mats Wilander and Matt Doyle, where he hit three-quarter pace serves. Thinking he would turn down a Wimbledon wild card, he accepted at the urging of his friend, Charlie Funcutt. “After that exhibition match, I got off the court and rang Wimbledon to say everything was fine. Even though it wasn’t.”
Cash reached the quarter-finals losing to Henri Leconte at Wimbledon, an incredible effort. He rose from No. 413 to No. 103 in the [Emirates] ATP Rankings, the greatest single leap at the time in tennis rankings history. “To get a wild card at Wimbledon, then to pull out is not something you want to do,” says Cash. “My legs were gone. It was out of my control, but I did make sure I was super fit moving forwards to ensure that if I got to the quarter-finals I was ready and wasn’t in the situation again.”
The 1986 championships had also heralded the arrival of the black and white chequered headband, for which he is so famously associated. “A fan had given me a white headband in 1984, and remembering the thrill when I had received a sweaty wristband from a player as a youngster when watching tennis at Kooyong, I asked my Mum to source and find something different that you couldn’t find in a store,” says Cash. He wore his first chequered headband at Wimbledon in his second-round win over Kiwi Russell Simpson. “I’d asked my Mum for at least a couple of years and she thought it was a stupid idea! I just wanted something lively, a bit rock n’ roll, Guns n’ Roses. It was actually inspired by Cheap Trick, whose guitarist Rick Neilsen wore black and white chequers.”
The following year, having moved to Queensmill Road in Fulham, not far from The Queen’s Club a couple of months earlier, the semi-detached house was beginning to fill up. Players did not have entourages in those days, but Cash had built a team in the pursuit of the prize he thought he was destined to win. Staying with Cash, Anne-Britt and one-year-old Daniel were Barclay and Jeff Bond, a sports psychologist at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, to fortify his mental approach and help Cash in daily meditation sessions and to visualise himself winning — and turn the infamous ‘Wimbledon groan’, of fans collectively exhaling after the loss of a point — into a positive. Every detail was now in place to give Cash the very best opportunity.
“Martina Navratilova was the only one at the time who had a trainer and psychologist, which had that level of detail,” said Quinn, who stayed with a friend around the corner, but was an early morning visitor each day with freshly baked high-protein muffins. “He recognised the importance of fitness and nutrition and he’d get ridiculed by other players over ‘Why do you need someone to tell you how to exercise?’ Pat was a total professional, recognising the importance and doing everything in detail.” Cash’s father and Uncle Brian stayed at a hotel in Gloucester Road, whilst his American mother stayed at home in Melbourne, holding down the fort.
“Jeff was very good, because Pat loved his guitar and music,” remembers Barclay. “Jeff played guitar and sang. He wasn’t a demanding person as I was, but he helped Pat focus his mind. Everybody ensured that Pat always went onto court confidently. There were no negatives, if he started to venture down that road at all, I told him to ‘Remember who you are, what you have achieved and done in junior tennis. Not many people have done that.’”