Pat Cash... Remembering 1987 Wimbledon (Part 4)

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 recounts how the Australian lifted the Wimbledon trophy

March 10, 2017
On Sunday, 5 July 1987, Pat Cash beat World No. 1 Ivan Lendl for the title at The Championships, Wimbledon.
Getty Images/ATP
On Sunday, 5 July 1987, Pat Cash beat World No. 1 Ivan Lendl for the title at The Championships, Wimbledon. By James Buddell

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Pat Cash didn’t have a great night’s sleep, but who does before a Wimbledon final? “This was a fortnight when he was super tough and fit,” says Ian Barclay. “I always said, ‘You’re not only the best player, but you’re also the fittest.’ Pat would just smile.” Cash and Darren Cahill warmed up on Court No. 6, directly behind the graveyard Court No. 2. Cash pulled out his AFL Hawthorn's football jumper, while Cahill wore his Collingwood jumper. “It lasted 10 minutes, until an eagle-eyed official asked us to remove them and reminded us of the all-white rule,” recalls Cahill. “We lasted nine minutes longer than we thought we’d last. But it was a big win for us.

“I remember Barkers [Ian Barclay] roaming around the court whispering messages to me about how he wanted me to play. ‘Killer, serve and volley as that’s what Rochey [Tony Roche] has Ivan doing… Killer, hit the forehand flatter and harder.’ Barkers was normally quite hyperactive but even he seemed chilled and confident. I guess he knew his boy was primed to win the final.” Barclay remembers the final plan, “I said, ‘You don’t have to be the greatest returner in the world, but you’ve got to make him volley.’ Pat did it to perfection in the final, the first set was crucial. Pat answered every question that was thrown at him.”

Lendl’s first service game lasted 13 minute, although Cash could not convert his five break point opportunities. Lendl, the 1986 finalist, served an ace to save a set point at 4-5, then recovered from 1/6 to 5/6 in tie-break. Cash was nervous, but finally got the job done with a service winner. “I was very happy when he missed a backhand return,” says Cash. “We had two game plans, it was pretty simple: hit as many returns as possible and make him hit as many volleys as possible. The second was to win the first set.” It wasn’t until the third set that Cash had a lapse in concentration, dropping to a 1-3 deficit. Lendl served for the third set at 5-3, but Cash spoiled those hopes by hitting two service return winners, which made his Czech opponent feel the heat again. Facing break point, Lendl double-faulted for the sixth time in the match.

Quinn recalls, “I used to sit next to Ian, and Ian would be whispering, ‘Right, he needs to serve to the backhand, come in and punch the volley away.’ And Pat would do it. Because they had been together so long, I asked Ian, ‘Have you got something in his ear?’ The way Pat played and he executed the points was through years of training, so many points. He knew what to do. It was a combination of everything coming together.”

At 6-5, Cash rose from his chair knowing he was serving for the ultimate prize. “Standing up from your chair, the crowd roaring and knowing you’re serving for the Wimbledon title is a pretty nerve-wracking moment. I didn’t have one of those serves where I knew I could serve three aces, I had to place it and get in. I always backed myself on the volley, knowing I would get a volley, and I wasn’t scared to do it. It really was back to basics, get the first serve in and run to the net quickly. It would then be a complete reflex, all the thousands of hours of training make it automatic.”

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Cash walks to the baseline, visualising his destiny. Marvellously effective at the net throughout the final, his clinical volleying and athletic net play has given Lendl scant reward. At 40/0, Cash takes his time over bouncing the ball, determined to get a first delivery into court. He springs into the ball and attacks the net, first punching a forehand volley to Lendl’s backhand, then another forehand — now a winner — into the open deuce court. Tilting his upper body back a little bit, Cash double fist pumps in celebration, then turns to his team in the players' box and fist pumps once more. The dream has been fulfilled.

With victory secured, tears rolled down the cheeks of Barclay. Anne-Britt, Quinn, Bond, sister, Renee, and his uncle, Brian, looked on in disbelief; Cash’s father, Patrick Sr., holds his arms aloft. “My daughter was at home, with a big roaring fire going and all of Pat’s mates there and the beer flowing,” says Barclay. “Every time Pat won a point, the neighbourhood erupted. Otherwise it was silent, no one was on the streets. Later, my daughter called me and said, ‘Dad, you shed a few tears’, and I said, ‘Wouldn’t you, after 11 years together about dreaming about this.’ Not only for Pat, but for me also. It was the most exciting day of my life.”

Cash still can’t watch his climb up to his father, even 30 years on. It’s too emotional, as his father passed away in 2008 - forever his father’s son. “They were very close,” says Quinn. “I was very close to his father too. Wherever Pat was in the world, he’d always ring through the results to his father or Ian would relay the information. Often a lot of things he wanted to tell Pat, he’d tell me and I’d pass onto Pat. Pat Sr. was a great influence and did everything for Pat, his best interests at heart, always quietly in the background.”

Once with those he loved, Cash remembers, “Barkers said to me, ‘We did it. We f@#$%&* did it!’ The officials didn’t have an idea what I was doing, but I climbed up because it was a team effort. Sure, I’m the car, but they are the mechanics and put everything together. They had put me here, and through hard work and sheer dedication, countless tears, the Wimbledon trophy was for them.”

After the climb, after the Champions’ Ball, where he stood beside Martina Navratilova with the trophies, and his Uncle Brian had drunk a little too much, Cash invited all the Australian players who remained at The Championships — including Paul McNamee and Darren Cahill — back to his house in Fulham. Fosters laid on some beer, all the Australian journalists arrived and the party went on. At one point Cash went upstairs to put Daniel back to sleep. He fell asleep. “Pat was completely shattered,” remembers Barclay. “Everyone was celebrating more than me,” says Cash. “I remember going upstairs as Daniel was crying with all the noise in the house. I went up and settled him back in the main bed. Then I fell asleep with him for 10 minutes. I was exhausted. They had to come and get me, saying, ‘The party's still going.’ I remember sitting on the sofa in a daze.”

Cash would soon travel with Anne-Britt and Daniel for a few days in Norway, then onto Melbourne where London flights arrive at 5 a.m. each day. “Upon arriving, Pat knocked on my front door at 7:30 a.m. asking to train again,” remembers Quinn. “I told him he hadn’t seen his Mum, his brothers and other family members for months. 'Take time out and savour winning Wimbledon, Pat. Training can wait!'” Although he did use some of the £155,000 prize money to buy his first car, a Mercedes, Cash’s mind never rested. The satisfaction of victory was fleeting.

Soon the injuries mounted and Cash sought experts all over the world — determined to keep fighting, just as his hard work had won him the Wimbledon trophy. “Most people would have given up many times,” says Quinn. “It was tough and it wasn’t easy, but the commitment he gave was incredible.” Cash may only have won six singles titles in his 15-season pro career, but as he reunites with Barclay, Quinn and family members at The Championships this week, no one can deny that the gritty Australian thoroughly earned the sport’s ultimate prize — one so many crave, but only the rarest of competitor ever seize.

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