Utilizing a powerful serve-and-volley game, Kevin Curren defeated Wimbledon champion Pat Cash, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, in the final of the Hartmarx tennis tournament in front of an estimated 1,800 at the John Wayne Tennis Club Sunday.
Curren, who in 1983 served 33 aces and 70 service winners to eliminate Jimmy Connors in the quarterfinals of Wimbledon, served 10 aces and 12 service winners Sunday against Cash.
But Curren's game offered much more than good service. Namely, his aggressive stance at the net, batting winners aside at every opportunity and filling the backcourt with deep topspinning forehands.
"My aim was to keep him back," Curren said. "He stayed back and I made him hit the winners. I'm surprised he didn't serve and volley more."
Cash might have, if he hadn't opted for a change of strategy.
"The key was he served better than I did," said Cash, playing in his first tournament since Wimbledon. "But it was really touch and go the whole way. I didn't play my normal game out there today, though. I went out there to work on some things on my game."
In the first set, that meant just getting the ball over the net.
With one game apiece, Cash double-faulted, missed a passing shot, and hit two backhands into the net to allow Curren the first break and a 2-1 lead.
Cash began sending deep passing shots to Curren's forehand, sneaking in slices and volleys whenever possible.
Both players held serve through 5-4, but, at Curren's set point, a deep crosscourt rally ended with Cash floating a forehand into the net.
In the second set, Curren became more aggressive, sprinting to the net after serving and returning. Many times, Curren's rush broke Cash's concentration, forcing Cash just inches long or wide or into the net.
But Cash caught on, answering Curren's quick moves with tricky lobs and passing shots. Both players continued to hold serve, though Cash had to fight for every point, including a five-deuce game that he finally won when Curren pushed an easy forehand into the net.
At 5-5, Cash served, losing three straight points with bad forehands before volleying his way back to deuce. Cash double-faulted, giving Curren the advantage, but struck back with an ace and a backhand slice to gain a 6-5 lead.
In the next game, Cash stretched to grab two defensive backhands in a row, sending both down the line for winners. When Curren sent an easy volley into the net, Cash gained the break and the set, 7-5.
Predictably, the third set brought out the best in each player. Cash challenged Curren at the net, showing keen anticipation and patience. Curren continued to fire winning serves, but with more consistency followed by more accurate volleying.
At 1-1, Curren broke Cash to take a 2-1 lead. Cash held his next serve with an ace, a drop volley, and a line-skimming down-the-line shot.
At 4-3, Curren's serve failed him to 0-40, but Cash couldn't manage the break. Curren sliced and volleyed back to deuce, then took a 5-3 lead with an ace. Cash came back with tremendous net play to hold serve at 5-4, leaving Curren the final serve.
Which, if you're Cash, Connors, or anyone facing Curren's ability to toss up an ace, isn't a fun spot to be in. Especially at 5-4 in the third.
But Cash, using two backhand saves, a volley, and a passing shot, held Curren off to 40-30, match point. After a quick midcourt rally, a soft forehand by Cash fell four inches wide of the sideline for the loss.
"I don't think he (Cash) is quite comfortable with hardcourts yet," said Curren, 29. "But I think I'm capable of beating the bigger players. I'm just getting my motivation back, and this certainly was a good confidence builder."
Said Cash: "It was a good match. But like I said, I came here to work on things that will make me a better player hopefully by the end of the year."
And which things might those be?
"They're secrets," Cash said.