WIN PUTS CASH ON THE LINE : He Reluctantly Becomes Public Figure

<i> Special to The Times </i>

The cameras honed in on Pat Cash, following his journey into the stands and over a scoreboard roof at Wimbledon, to watch him celebrate victory with his family and friends.

Less than a month later--in tennis terms, make that one Wimbledon title and two Davis Cup singles victories later--the cameras are still following Cash, readied for his first U.S. appearance since that now-famous day at the All England Club.

They shine lights in his face, and the questions start coming.

“You name it, it’s happening,” said Cash, his answer punctuated by the clicking of the cameras. “Everything. My father in Australia, he’s my manager, and he’s had requests for all sorts of things. Everything. It just gets too much sometimes.”


They are all in the pursuit of this year’s star. Down Under, they’ve expected great things from Patrick Cash for years. And now, with its appetite whetted by his dominance at Wimbledon, the world is curious about him.

Which brings us to the crux of the problem: Cash is a reluctant star.

In a sense, Cash views the media and public almost as obstacles, stumbling blocks, if you will, in the way of his progress.

And, like opponents on the court, these obstacles must be defeated for him to succeed.


“The number one thing for me is to play tennis and I’ve got to try to keep it that way,” said Cash, who was in Newport Beach for an exhibition last weekend. “When things start interfering with that, that’s when I have to have a second look at what I’m doing. And things are already starting to do that. They haven’t put me off my tennis yet, but I’m going to keep it under control.”

So, obviously, Just Say No is the theme around Cash these days. So far, Cash’s handlers have followed that credo well, taking their cue from Boris Becker’s manager, Ion Tiriac. For every one of you, there are 10 more.

For now, the only departure from this philosophy has been an appearance on the “Tonight” show with Johnny Carson, and just maybe, a pre-U.S. Open interview with CBS. Maybe.

Many times, Cash has openly wondered why players outside the top five in the world don’t get much attention, pointing out that there are lots of other candidates worth noticing. And he recalls feeling irritated when a television commentator recently singled out Becker and Yannick Noah as being the “greatest two athletes in the game,” seemingly neglecting many others, in his opinion.

So the irony is inescapable here. Just when Cash has the opportunity to collect on the Wimbledon victory and heartfelt dash to the stands, really, a chance to help shape his still-fuzzy image in the United States, he seems almost offended by the process.

“He’s only hurting himself,” said a publicist for the men’s tour.

Although he started out well at Newport Beach with the media, by Saturday Cash had become exasperated and annoyed. In his eyes, a small group of reporters at an unimportant exhibition suddenly took on the attributes of those conducting a Grand Inquisition.

Even an innocent query--Are you having fun here?--managed to be taken the wrong way. “I do have other things to do,” Cash snapped as he brought the press conference to an abrupt end.


Another one of those things out of the way.

Are we having fun yet?

Yet, Pat Cash defies a simple explanation. Somewhat like another ornery, temperamental player by the name of John McEnroe.

They are aggressive players by nature and sometimes just as aggressive off the court. Cash hit a television cameraman just before last year’s Davis Cup final in Melbourne. And McEnroe, too, once took a shot at another unfortunate photographer on the eve of ’85 Australian Open.

Both embrace the honor of representing their countries in Davis Cup, they wear a diamond stud in their ear, and they share a fondness for strumming the electric guitar . . . although McEnroe hasn’t come out with his endorsement for AC/DC.

Just as McEnroe has his defenders, Cash has his share, too. His longtime coach, Ian Barclay, has often called Cash “the most generous boy I’ve ever known.” Davis Cup team member and close friend Wally Masur depicts Cash as loyal to a fault, a mate who sticks close to his fellow Aussies on the tour and genuinely cares about their progress.

“That’s been the case with all the Aussies,” Masur said. “And he’s no different. I think one of the reasons we’ve done so well in Davis Cup is because we’re all so close. “

The Australian players may be close off the court but, when it comes to playing tennis, Cash more or less stands alone. At No. 7 in the world, he is the only Aussie in the top 10. And there’s only one other, Masur, in the top 30.


This has been Cash’s lot and burden, which has stuck with him since he began recording strong results in international competition at 15. Before his Wimbledon victory, there hadn’t been an Australian male singles champion there since John Newcombe won it in 1971.

“It makes it even tougher if you’ve got somebody underneath you, pushing you and taking some of the pressure off you,” Barclay said. “Then, it’s not so bad. But he’s sort of been the one out, so to speak.

“It’s so different compared to the Swedish boys. There’s not pressure on one of them singularly by their country. They’ve got eight boys who are fabulous tennis players. It’s embarrassing when they pick their Davis Cup squad, who they have to leave out.”

In Australia, the problem was finding someone to play with Cash. Last December, he and John Fitzgerald defeated Masters doubles champions Stefan Edberg and Anders Jarryd during the Davis Cup final. And in a supreme effort, Cash defeated Edberg in three, tight sets and rallied from a two-set deficit to beat Mikael Pernfors.

Thus, the burden weighs heavily on Cash’s shoulders on the court and off it. Australian tennis seems to travel a roller-coaster route with Cash, rising when he wins and dropping when he falters.

So, if anything, the years of rapt attention from his country should steel Cash for the upcoming challenges from the media and public, which will only increase from now until the U.S. Open later this month.

“I can tell you, it’s the contest between him and (actor) Paul Hogan to see who’s going to be No. 1,” said veteran Australian tennis pro Brad Drewett.

This, of course, will give Aussies a new choice of leisure activities: Throw another shrimp on the barby . . . or another Motley Crue album on the turntable.

Where does this leave Greg Norman?

“He’s kind of dropped off,” Drewett reports. “Tennis is far bigger than golf in Australia. More people play tennis and can relate to it. To win Wimbledon, for Australians, is greater than winning the Masters in golf.”

The trials and tribulations of 22-year-old Patrick Cash were recorded in great detail long before the Shark came to prominence.

“Believe it or not, I think I’ve had more years of people looking at me than Greg has,” Cash said. “Since I was 15, every tennis person, every media person in Australia, has been looking at me. I’ve had a lot of people rubbish me, probably more people rubbishing me than helping me. For some reason, it’s an Australian trait to do that, to rubbish a sportsman.

“Just basically saying I’m not good and that I won’t make it. You know, other things, too. So I’ve gotten used to it in a way.”

Obviously, those wounds from rubbishing (American translation: trashing someone) never completely heal, leaving an explanation for Cash’s reluctance to enlighten the curious.

Still, Cash has come a long way from his young, hostile days when he regularly skirmished with the Australian press. The people closest to him, 1-year-old son Daniel and girlfriend Anne-Britt, have helped immensely. Also, his struggle with injuries, including a career-threatening back injury during which his ranking dropped to No. 413, sobered Cash and matured him.

There are times now where Cash can even joke, and tell funny stories about the great expectations they have for him Down Under these days.

“In the last match I played against Mexico in the Davis Cup dead rubber, I won my first serve at love,” he said. “I didn’t lose a point. Then the opposition hit a great serve and I just got my racket on the ball and it tipped away.

“And some little girl, yells out from the crowd, ‘Come on, Pat! Why did you lose the point?’

Cash shrugged and laughed. “Give me a break . . . what could I do?”

There seems little that Pat Cash can possibly do wrong in Australia. His determined, attacking tennis at Wimbledon--he dropped only one set in seven matches--won over the purists. Then, his determined, inspired effort, the dash into the stands, captured the others.

Masur and Drewett were watching Cash play Ivan Lendl in the Wimbledon final on television when they were at a tournament in Newport, R.I.

“Brad Drewett turned to me and said, ‘You know, I think Cashie will do something different if he wins,’ ” Masur said. “And sure enough, he did.

“It was a bit of a shock. We didn’t know what the hell he was doing. It was kind of odd, but he wanted to get to the people who made it possible.

“He’s never been a conformist.”

Before Pat Cash, there was Pat Cash, Sr., who was a good sportsman in his own right, excelling in Australian Rules football. Long before the senior Pat Cash, however, was a much more colorful relative who was a nonconformist in the truest sense.

Cash recently relayed a story about his great, great, great uncle, Martin Cash, who came from Ireland to Australia.

“He shot his girlfriend’s lover in Ireland and was sent to Port Arthur, which was a prison in Tasmania,” Cash told International Tennis Weekly, the men’s tour newspaper. “He then became the only man to ever escape from Port Arthur. That was the Cash highlight until I came along.

“He (Martin) was evidently very popular with the ladies . . . a superstar, so to speak. The mayor or governor’s wife became very fond of him and arranged for a pardon, as they were going to kill him. He lived a pretty quiet life after that.”

Barclay, who has coached Cash for 11 years, says that the moxie and strong will his player has comes from his mother, Dorothy.

“His mother is a pretty strong lady,” Barclay said. “She’s a strong-willed woman who is pretty single-minded. She’s an American lady who was born in Chicago.”

Pat Cash Sr., introduced tennis to his 11-year-old son through Barclay. Less than four years later, Cash and Barclay watched a friend of Cash’s win the world 16-and-under singles title in 1980. Even though Cash won the doubles, he wasn’t satisfied.

“Pat turned around to me and said something like, ‘Don’t worry, Mr. B, next year I’ll come back here and I’ll win the title,’ ” Barclay said. “And he came back and won the title, beat Stefan Edberg in the final.”

Six years later, Cash stood in front of a cheering crowd at Wimbledon, having ascended to one of the highest honors, if not the highest, for a tennis player. Even now, almost a month later, Cash and Barclay almost get misty-eyed when recounting what happened after Cash won the final point.

“I think what I really wanted to say then, more than anything else, that it just wasn’t me on the court that won Wimbledon,” Cash said. “It was a combination of people that helped me. It was only a year ago after Wimbledon, almost to the date, that I started to make my comeback.

“One year, I was ranked 470 in the world and a year later I’m the Wimbledon champion. I wanted to say, ‘Look, these are the people here that helped me. It’s really a team effort.’ ”

For Barclay, it was vindication. During his years with Cash, he spent more time than he wanted listening to people who said they could never do it.

“They say when you die, your past flashes past you,” Barclay said. “After the last point, there were all these things flashing in my mind. All the things he said to me when he was a little boy. When he was a little fella, he’d say, ‘Mr. B, do you think I could make it to the top?’ I’d always tell them all, you only get out of it what you put into it.

“A lot went through my mind. The people who said he couldn’t make it and the people who said I couldn’t make it and the people who said I couldn’t make him into a tennis player. All the trials and tribulations as far as we’ve had with the blasted injuries. And all the successes he’s had.”

For someone so young, Cash has lived a tumultuous life. He’s had the weight of the Australian tennis world on his back since his mid-teens. At 21, basically still a youngster, he and Anne-Britt had a child. He played the 1986 Wimbledon just three weeks after undergoing an emergency appendectomy and reached the quarterfinals.

Cash has led Australia to two Davis Cup victories, and now has a Grand Slam title to his credit. At 22, a long successful career is possible, barring injury. And there’s no telling what Cash will be able to do if his hard-court game comes anything close to his prowess on grass courts.

Just as there’s no telling Pat Cash what he should and should not do. For him, one who has made his name by conquering obstacles against severe odds, the distractions brought on by his increasing new-found fame only have become just that . . . more obstacles.