Pat Cash is one of the legends of Australian Tennis, an icon through the 80’s and 90’s and led the second coming of Australian Stars after a golden period of tennis which included the likes of Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall, Tony Roche, Neil Fraser, John Newcombe & Roy Emerson.
While Pat didn’t enjoy the greatest relationship with the media, the fans loved him. From the trademark cheque headband and jewellery, Pat was trend setter of the time and could back it up with a supreme serve and volley game not many could match.
After turning pro in 1982, he would win his first major in 1987 at Wimbledon, however he also led Australia to come from the dead victories in the 1983 and 1986 Davis Cups against Sweden to mark himself as an Icon of Australian Tennis.
I had the honour of hosting Pat to mark the 50th episode of my podcast. Growing up as a tennis player and lover, Pat and Stefan Edberg were my idols. Both were so slick and fearless. In a sport that didn’t have physical contact the battle between a premier serve volleyer and base line player was one to watch. It was all out war, the volleyer looking for position on the net to kill the point quickly while the base liner patient to rally it out and use their strengths to close to points.
Listen to the entire episode below or continue for my key takeaways and stories from our powerful chat.
THE EVOLVING 80’S
“It was an interesting time the 80’s everything was changing, not only the hair do's and clothes ridiculous, the technology was coming in, the wooden rackets were coming out, graphite, aluminium and magnesium rackets, the grips were changing, new strings were coming on the market which change the game of tennis enormously more than anything I think. Different surfaces they were trying different indoor courts, hard courts, rebound ace an Australian invention and also of course nutrition which was carb loading which I heard that first from Ivan Lendl one of my rivals. But I was friendly with him as a young guy and Martina Navratilova did it was well. So I snooped about that and thought I could get an advantage here and things are always changing. It was an exciting times the 80’s we just had to adjust”
“I felt like I needed to get an edge, I know you look back 30 years ago and you think its forever, as I said everything was changing and everything was becoming really professional. If you lost in the first or second round you basically didn’t have enough money to get to the next tournament. I came off the back off that and had a very serious hard work ethic and that was installed by to all Australians”
“I think it's really important as a person in general just living a daily life to analyse yourself regularly. We do that with New Year’s resolutions but as an athlete or if you have a business you got to do it all the time. You got to have confidence in your inner circle and they were absolutely crucial to me, I wanted to be the best I could possibly be and I thought I was lucky enough to find a very good people to help me be better. Any one that knows me knows I used to be pretty competitive and fiery and sometimes very rarely but occasionally let my emotions or a bad line call get to me. I analyse myself regularly. Things like how can I be a better dad and that's the most important thing you know. We just talked about diet, what's a better diet to help me here. I’ve just become a grandfather for the third time and I’m going to go visit my Daughter in Oslo and that’s an important thing in the world for me”
“Neil Fraser the legendary Davis Cup captain who captained me for many years, I remember the conversation really clearly because Wally Masur was there as well and he said you know what guys we were better players than you guys and we all kind of laughed. And he said I’ll tell you why were better than you because at the end of every year we went to a training camp for 3 months and made our shots better and you guys don't spend more than a week doing that before you back on the circuit again. So that's why we were better because we worked on our game and we all went ow his got a point there and his right we don’t have much time as a player or coach to work on the game. By the time players get on tour now they have to be a fully-fledged & technically perfect players with minor things to fix up. Then they have to work at it and work at it till they become tough. So players like Kyrgios and Zverev they have very few weakness they just have to be mentally and physically tougher”
“It’s an elusive thing, so how do you get into the zone? And there's no doubt that the zone is a stress-free and so you need to be an in a stressless situation with time almost stops and you’re floating around. I’ve only been in it once in my career and that was in Johannesburg in 87 and I had to qualify for the Masters, the ATP finals. I was number 9 in the world despite winning Wimbledon and Brad Gilbert the American was number 8 and it was a top 8 qualifier. We ended up playing in the final and the whole year came down to one match. I was so determined to win, I won the first set and then lost the next two sets and I was so frustrated. I had just about given up, not to stop trying but the frustration was just beyond, my head was steaming. I sat down then I walked out there and don’t remember anything but the last game, I won 11 straight games it was 6 love, 5 love then I remember snapping out of it, Gilbert won one game then I served it out”
“It’s funny how we are day to day we say once my life gets organised then I’ll start to meditate or relax but it’s the other way around, once you start to mediate and relax everything will fall into place. It a fine balance as an athlete to find that but as a non-athlete now I find I can drop into that and I’m a much happier person and everything seems to flow, I don’t worry about money or anything, I have no goals because I have a true confidence that a higher power is in control of my life”
BECOMING A SERVE VOLLEYER
“It was the law in those days, as an Australian you had to do it, ha-ha. Most Australians in my era grew up as attacking players and had to learn all the shots and the net shots were hard. I grew up in Melbourne on the clay courts there and I was primarily a base line player and the kids used to laugh, the tactic was to try and get me to the net and I wasn’t very good at that. But my coach Ian Barclay was very good and he made me play a lot of doubles, lots of grass court and country tournaments where ever I could I just got into the net and he literally told me your serve volleying first and second serve no if’s or but’s you’re doing it. He taught us how to win and develop your whole game"
THE FAMOUS HEADBAND
“I sweat a lot so I need to have a head band. The check head band funny enough one year before Wimbledon a girl sent me one white bandana it looked like a dressing gown and she cut it in half and gave it to me. Being a bit of a rock n roller I thought that’s a bit of guns n roses and the black white came from Cheap Trick the rock and roll band that was the first band I followed and even wrote to them and never got a letter back but the guitarist had black and white checkers everywhere so that where it came from and I met him many years later and interviewed him for radio and he gave me his checkered guitar strap"
So many great gems in this chat with Pat. As I grew up the mid 80’s he certainly was the first of the era to step up for Australian tennis and set the path for the likes of the Woodies, Pat Rafter, Mark Philippoussis and Lleyton Hewitt to follow successfully after.
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