Pat Cash: my 1987 celebration

Excerpts from my Autobiography Pat Cash Uncovered

Everyone is supposed to have his or her one defining moment. Some people’s come in total isolation, some in the privacy of their own home and some in just the presence of a few closed loved ones. Me? I just happened to have the company of 12,433 spectators crammed around one of the most hallowed lawns ever mown. And for good measure, you can add millions of television viewers around the world to that figure.

Strangely I was totally oblivious to all of them for a few moments. I had something else on my mind. Something I had been thinking about and planning for months. Elation does strange things to you but winning the one all-important prize I had always set my heart on wasn’t paramount in my thoughts. Maybe people actually on the court were talking to me but I didn’t take in a word they were saying. Looking into the crowd I could see thousands of waving arms and pumping fists but I was cut off from them. Somehow isolated but now I was desperate for that feeling to come to an end.

I had always played my tennis as if I was locked in a cage, a segregated animal at zoo with people looking in but not able to get too close. Lay me down on the psychiatrist’s couch and you’ll find it was a defence mechanism, and to me there was no grander enclosure than Wimbledon’s Centre Court. For a long time I had pictured myself triumphantly breaking through the bars. I had always wanted to get through that invisible barrier and planned to do it in my finest hour. Now was the time but for a second or two I felt something holding me back. I wondered whether it was the right thing to do.

Champions of the past had celebrated their wins in time-honoured fashion. Most used to jump the net and run up to commiserate with the person they had just beaten; it was the method of the great Australians like Laver, Emerson, Hoad and Fraser. No way was I going to do that with Ivan Lendl. I didn’t like the guy at all and wasn’t about to sympathise with him.

The fact Lendl had again been denied the elusive title he so craved had made me even happier. I had a few scores to settle and this was a good way to start. I remember Jimmy Connors rushing over to kiss his wife, or was it girlfriend, in the front row but I had always planned to take things considerably further.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a great lover of Wimbledon’s traditions and everything they stand for but I wanted to go where no champion had ever gone before. Suddenly there was nothing or nobody who was going to stop me. I looked up to the players box and so many people who meant so much to me were there. My coach Ian Barclay, my girlfriend Anne Britt, my dad, my sister Renee, my uncle Brian and the woman who had helped me become one of the fittest players ever to walk on a tennis court, Ann Quinn. I had to be up there with them. I was going to show my gratitude and climb up to them.

Why did I do it? Growing up I’d always seen myself as just a normal Aussie kid who liked rock and roll music, football and girls but I suppose I was just a little bit left of centre. I was kind of crazy and always tried to be a little bit different. My family upbringing had never involved a lot of hugging but I had it in my head that if I ever won Wimbledon I would show the world how much I actually felt for those people. I wanted to be with them in the most memorable minutes of my life and the most public way of showing my thanks was to do it in this greatest arena in tennis. So off I went.

I don’t know if anyone tried to stop me. If they did, too bad. Through that invisible cage and over the little green wall which surrounds the court before then tripping over the first seat. Barging my way between the mass of fans which then stood on the old terraces which but are now are fully seated.

The film Crocodile Dundee had done the rounds of the world’s movie theatres a couple of months previously and there’s a scene near the end where Paul Hogan walks over the top of the crowd. We both might have been Australians but I can honestly say the similarity of our actions never entered my head at the time. I had more important things to worry about.

Contrary to what I have always said in the years since, I had always planned the climb. Not too well though because I figured too much thinking about it might jinx me. Getting higher I realised suddenly there was a ten foot climb to overcome. I wasn’t quite sure how to get up there to the box but I wasn’t about to stop. Millions were watching and an admission of failure would have been too embarrassing. I can remember standing on the shoulder of somebody dressed as a priest; quite apt for a kid brought up as a God fearing Catholic you might say. As it turned out he was only wearing fancy dress, a strange decision of attire on afternoon when temperatures were sweltering. But he served the purpose and, as many of us are aware, the good Lord works in mysterious ways.

Next problem was climbing onto the commentary box roof. I really wasn’t too sure whether it would take my weight although more modern victory celebrations of proved I had no need to be concerned. A couple of years ago Richard Williams used it as his own personal dance stage to celebrate his daughter Venus’ victory over Lindsay Davenport. Then of course there was Goran Ivanisevic in the greatest demonstration of unbridled joy and sheer relief that our sport had ever seen and Rafa Nadal did an even better climb to his team and then on towards the Spanish king. But back then I was breaking new ground, in 101 years no champion had even contemplated what I was doing . So the thought of crashing through the roof onto the head of a broadcasting legend like Dan Maskell or Tony Trabert would certainly have spoiled a good show.

In the end I risked it. I kept looking up and seeing more and more people who meant so much to me. Jeff Bond, the psychologist who made the whole process of going out and winning a Wimbledon final so clear and straightforward in my mind. Alongside there was Gerry Moran, the surgeon who had carried out a couple of operations on me. I spotted a childhood mate of mine from Melbourne called Richard Caston as well as my best English friend Geoff Lamb, a huge guy who was strong as an ox and used to tell everyone he was my bodyguard. He wasn’t but it was good for the image.

Behind the box was Paul McNamee, Australian tennis player, great mate, Davis Cup colleague, doubles partner and probably the most helpful figure amongst my peers so consequently god-father to my son Daniel.

I heard my Dad shouting to me. Something which was also kind of apt because the sound of his voice reverberates throughout my career. Sometimes for the right reasons. Sometimes, in my opinion, for the wrong . He’s never been much of a style guru, my father, but I remember that day he was bedecked in a huge white cap he used to wear to the footy back home. Things had obviously got a bit rough up there and it had been knocked to an even more comical angle as the celebrations took hold.

Finally I made it, I reached the summit. I gave Dad that hug I’d always wanted to give him and wished we’d done many times previously. Next I went for my second father, my coach Barkers. I would not have won that day but for him, I probably wouldn’t even have been playing the tournament. Without doubt he was the most important contributor to my career.

Royalty was in the proximity. Princess Diana was only a few feet away but I don’t think she heard. If she did, she couldn’t have minded that much because we became friendly years later. I shouted at the top of my voice ‘We fucking did it Barkers, we fucking did it’. I didn’t really care who overheard. Winning that title was really like a team effort and that was the way I wanted to treat everyone in that box. I was the car and they were the mechanics, I was just the tool who drove it all. Nearby sister Renee was in hysterics and Uncle Brian, one of Melbourne’s most eminent criminal lawyers - now there is a character who merits a book all of his own - decided to steal my black and white chequered headband for a momento.

I didn’t know the headband had gone but if I had, I really couldn’t have cared less. I was on a complete high and I have no idea how long I stayed up there. It was probably quite a while but it felt like a couple of minutes. Then I was struck with the realisation I had to get back down on court. There was the small matter of the trophy to collect from the Duke and Duchess of Kent. Deciding it probably wasn’t a good idea to back down the way I came up, I nipped down the stairs by the players’ box, through a couple of doors, back past the words of Rudyard Kipling which frankly didn’t mean a whole lot to me and out onto the Centre Court where everybody was waiting.

Pat Cash

Pat won the Men's Singles title at Wimbledon in 1987 and won 6 titles during a career that saw him ranked Number 4 in the World in 1988.

Follow Pat on Twitter @TheRealPatCash

To visit Pat's website please click here

Memory added on March 29, 2013


1 of Australia's GREATEST Sporting Moments, Which I still Vividly Remember Watching & Enjoying, So Much. A WONDERFUL Era in Australian Tennis also, with the "2 Mack's". Pat Cash is Still My Favourite AUSSIE Tennis Player, & to Hear Pat Relive this Historic Moment in His Own Words - "Simply - "THE BEST". :-)

– Aussie Tari., June 12 2014 at 11:15

1 of Australia's GREATEST Sporting Moments, Which I still Vividly Remember Watching & Enjoying, So Much. A WONDERFUL Era in Australian Tennis also, with the "2 Mack's". Pat Cash is Still My Favourite AUSSIE Tennis Player, & to Hear Pat Relive this Historic Moment in His Own Words - "Simply - "THE BEST". :-)

– Aussie Tari., June 12 2014 at 11:16

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