WIMBLEDON, England — He had just won Wimbledon, no worries, mate, and now he jumped into the stands and started running up the steps. Never mind that the Duke and Duchess of Kent were waiting at midcourt, that all the pomp and circumstance of this tournament was waiting, that the guy he had beaten, Ivan Lendl, was alone at the net, fuming. Does he care? Naw. Hold your water, yobbos. He’s gotta hug somebody. Pat Cash wins Wimbledon. Pat Cash runs up steps. Pat Cash steps on man’s head, jumps into the box, hugs dad, hugs coach, kisses girlfriend, removes headband, waves — then searches for a way to get back onto the court. Australia waited 16 years for this. Let the Duke hold the trophy for a minute.
“To be honest, the whole time I was posing with it for photographers I just wanted to get off the court,” said Cash, 22, after squishing Lendl in straight sets, 7-6, 6-2, 7-5, to win the first Grand Slam title of his career.
“I just wanted to be with the people who meant the most to me, that’s all.”
Good day for G’day. Cash In. The latest thunder from Down Under is a precision server with a Mel Gibson face who boasts an earring, a bandana and a post-tennis ambition to “go to the pub with the boys and be a real yobbo” — which is sort of Australia’s answer to Billy Carter.
“Were the yobbos back home watching at the pub today?” he was asked.
“I bloody hope so,” he said.
Well, this is what they saw this hot afternoon: Cash all over. He was magnificent against Lendl, like Zorro minus the cape. Cash slamming from overhead. Hah! Cash diving for a backhand. Hah! Cash stretched like gum near the net, returning the ball with a glorious boink. Hah! Hah-Hah! Die, you dog!
Which brings us to Lendl, once nicknamed “The Choking Dog.” Oooh. This has to hurt. Even the staid British TV commentators suggested the No. 1-ranked player in the world swallowed it out there. That is hard to back up — although he did lead, 5-2, in the third set. But he has never won Wimbledon. He has never won anything on grass. The bet here is he returns to his Connecticut mansion and puts in a rock lawn.
Besides, even Mercury might have had trouble with Pat Cash on Sunday. His serve was a laser, and if you can’t return a serve you can’t win too many games, unless the other guy dies or something.
Consider this: The first game Sunday, which Cash served, took two minutes.
The next game, which Lendl served, took 12. The third game, which Cash served, took two.
Get the idea?
“He places it so well,” said Lendl afterward, shaking his head at the man who won 20 straight points on his serve. “And he mixes it up. I hardly knew where it was going to go. . . .
“I said to myself before the match, ‘No matter what happens, just keep fighting. You can come back from anything.’
Nice thought. Dead wrong. Only in that third set, after slashing Lendl to cold cuts for two solid hours, did Cash finally lower his gloves. He played a few sloppy games, and Lendl was suddenly serving for the set at 5-3. If there was ever a moment for him to take control, that was it.
Instead, Lendl lost by double-faulting. He never won another game. He barely won another point.
Next thing he knew he was shaking hands with yet another Wimbledon champion (he lost last year’s final to Boris Becker) and watching as this one jumped the rail and did a Crocodile Dundee impression — stepping on people’s heads into the arms of his loved ones.
“What did he say to you?” someone asked Ian Barclay, Cash’s coach of 11 years, whom Cash hugged tightly in the impromptu guest box celebration.
“I can’t say,” Barclay answered, smiling.
“Can you hint?”
“Well, all right. I’ll leave out the expletive. He said ‘We —- showed them.’ Get the drift?”
Of course. We’re not all yabbos, you know.
Besides, leaving out expletives is standard practice when dealing with Pat Cash. He was at his charming best Sunday — would you be in a bad mood after winning Wimbledon? — but the record shows Cash has been an Aussie terror for years. He was recently fined $8,000 in Dusseldorf, West Germany, for obscenities, both visual and audible. Three years ago, after losing to Lendl at the U.S. Open semifinals, he threw his racket into the stands and hit a guy in the head.
Even the Australian journalists are cautious about interviewing him, because his tone can quickly go arrogant or aloof. “He won’t deny he has a temper,” Barclay admitted, “but that’s part of his competitiveness. That’s what enables him to win.”
That’s no excuse. But face it. How long can you knock a guy who tells the British to stuff their ceremony while he hugs his dad?
“Was winning Wimbledon the greatest moment of your life?” he was asked.
“No way. The greatest moment in my life is when my son was born.”
Aw. No fair.
So will the real Pat Cash please stand up? Sure. Now that his back is OK. Remember that Cash missed most of the 1985 season with back injuries, then needed an emergency appendectomy before Wimbledon last year, just five days after his son was born — are you keeping up with this? — and yet he played, and made the quarterfinals, despite a world ranking of No. 413.
We should have suspected something then. He obviously had the flair — he threw headbands and wristbands to the screaming girls in the crowd — and he clearly had the strokes. This is a gifted athlete: fast, fluid, instinctive. Compared to Cash, Lendl moved like a man dodging spears.
“I’ve had a few ups and downs in my career,” Cash said, sipping a glass of champagne during his post-match interviews, “and the downs were pretty steep. A lot of people haven’t really helped me in my career, so I have always said my fans are the most important people to me. That’s why I’ve started the fan club in Australia and London.”
No one asked him why he started the fan clubs. Isn’t that usually someone else’s job?
Whatever. Here is a new joke: How much does it cost to join the Pat Cash fan club?
I don’t know. But they take Czechs.
So Wimbledon ends, with Pat Cash finishing for Australia what Peter Doohan began when he upset Becker, the defending champion, in the second round. The Aussies have waited since John Newcombe in 1971 to hear that familiar accent in this winner’s circle. The yabbos must have done a lot of Foster pounding Sunday night. Or this morning. Or whatever time it is down there.
So be it. Here was a Wimbledon that began with rain and ended in sun, that featured a Jimmy Connors comeback and a Steffi Graf arrival. It saw Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova give us one for the ages, and Stefan Edberg, 21, Gabriela Sabatini, 17, and Natalie Zvereva, 16, warn us that the ages may have nothing to do with it.
And it all ended with this: a final precision serve by Cash, a volley, and Lendl sending his fondest wish into the net yet again, losing Wimbledon, while the newest heartthrob champion took off for the seats.
“Well done, Pat,” a BBC-TV man said in the closing interview, “and now, go have a drink (he needs to tell him that?), enjoy yourself, celebrate, but before you go, sum up in one word how you feel right at this moment!”
Cash looked straight ahead, champagne in hand, the title in his pocket, the country at his feet, and smiled.
“Stuffed,” he said. CUTLINE Pat Cash stretches Sunday to return a shot by Ivan Lendl. Pat Cash rushes to his dad, Pat Sr. (with cap), and sister Renee (top left).