Australian Open Tennis : Woodforde Scores 1 for Aussies, Upsets Noah

Times Staff Writer

As the second day of the Ford Australian Open crept into night, Pat Cash and Mark Woodforde struck a blow for the home team.

Actually, Woodforde struck a lot more than Australian countryman Cash, who breezed past Brett Custer, 6-3, 6-1, 6-1, in 88 minutes Tuesday night on Center court.

Woodforde also won his first-round match, but it was a 3-hour 54-minute, 5-set struggle with Yannick Noah of France.

Woodforde eliminated the eighth-seeded Noah, 6-4, 6-7, 6-2, 6-7, 6-4. The unseeded Woodforde actually could have won in straight sets when he had a 5-1 lead in the second set tiebreaker. Instead, Noah won 6 straight points to keep it going.


Cash’s victory was not unexpected, but there had been concern that Cash’s right arm was too sore for him to be effective.

Cash, who has recently altered his service motion for more of a whipping motion, was forced to withdraw from the Rio Challenge exhibition last weekend because his arm was sore.

Here, though, the 13th-seeded Cash did not seem to be at all affected by an arm injury.

“It didn’t bother me at all, not once,” Cash said.

Before the Australians took over, bad weather and John McEnroe hit the tournament at about the same time.

Coincidence? Maybe, but McEnroe was making his first appearance in the Australian Open since his stormy exit in the 1985 quarterfinals when he lost to Slobodan Zivojinovic and shouted across the net: “I’ll get you for this.”

Well, Mac is back. And on a dreary, day beneath the closed retractable roof of Center Court, McEnroe defeated Michael Westphal, 6-4, 2-6, 7-5, 6-2, in a first-round match.

Westphal fought off 2 match points before McEnroe closed out the match, a position he put himself in after breaking Westphal in the seventh game.

When the match ended, McEnroe hit a ball into the stands. What did that signify? Relief? Joy?

“Not really, I just wanted to give someone in the stands a ball,” McEnroe said. “There’s not anything too psychologically deep in that.”

McEnroe said he was happy with the way he played. Since it is so early in the year, he had no idea what shape his game would be in. But with McEnroe, his head, not his game, is his main concern.

“Just being here is the main thing,” he said. “The farther I get, the more it will help me later on. I just want to get better than I was and if I do that, I’m going to win some big events. I’m getting closer and closer.

“Mentally, I don’t feel as tough. I don’t dig in quite as much. It’s hard to say if that will return or not. I just have to remain positive and hope.”

Besides the seventh-seeded McEnroe, second-seeded Ivan Lendl and fourth-seeded Stefan Edberg also advanced with victories.

Lendl, who dispatched West German Alexander Mronz, 6-0, 6-1, 6-3, had more trouble with the tennis balls than Mronz.

Nassau brand tennis balls, used for the first time at last year’s Australian Open, are once again being used, much to the dismay of Lendl, who complained that they are too soft, among other things.

“I could hit a hockey puck harder than those balls,” Lendl said. “More accurate, too.”

He said the balls react differently when they are struck on the stenciled letters or when they bounce on the writing.

“They either bounce fine or skip through,” he said. “Look at the marks on the court. There are either little green ones with little fuzz marks or black ones.”

Apparently, Gabriella Sabatini failed to notice. Maybe she had no time while overwhelming Cecilia Dahlman of Sweden with a powerful service game, 6-0, 6-1.

“I didn’t have any problems with the balls,” Sabatini said.

McEnroe said the balls seemed heavy and tended to fly.

Looking tanned after playing in an exhibition at Tony Roche’s camp at Salamander Bay north of Sydney, Lendl actually appeared relaxed. He even went so far as to joke with Mronz during the third set, which is about as un-Lendl-like as it gets.

When he had shoulder surgery in September, Lendl took 2 1/2 months off from tournament play and the result is that he feels more relaxed mentally.

More than regaining his No. 1 ranking from Wilander, winning the Australian and Wimbledon are Lendl’s new goals.

“I don’t want to say I’d rather be No. 2 than No. 1, but if you win Grand Slam events, you’ll be No. 1 in the end, or at least that’s the way it usually works,” he said.

“And I’m not going to say I’m not going to try for No. 1, but that’s not my main goal,” Lendl said.

Edberg got through to the second round with a 6-4, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory over Roger Smith.

Martina Navratilova, seeded No. 2 behind Steffi Graf, had an easy first-round match, defeating Andrea Betzner of West Germany, 6-0, 6-1.

However, Hana Mandlikova had a difficult time before defeating Clare Wood of Great Britain, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. Ninth-seeded Lori McNeil was the day’s biggest upset loser. McNeil, No. 13 in the world, lost to Yuki Koizumi of Japan, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.

Koizumi, No. 202 in the world, is ranked No. 8 in Japan.