from Il Tennis Italiano (issue of February 1987)
by Ettore Ferreri
contributed by Alexia Amaricci
translated into English by Mauro Cappiello
Thanks to the amazing performance by their number one, Australia beat Sweden, winning the "Davis" for the twenty-sixth time. The kangaroos will always play the prestigious cup on grass.
Pat Cash and Stefan Edberg during the 1986 Davis Cup final played at Kooyong
After this twenty-sixth success, it is certain that Australians will not let their grass down, on which they built many victories. There will surely be a new modern tennis center, probably with hard courts, but for the Davis Cup, you can be sure that the Australians will keep on playing with their fifth man: grasscourts, either in Melbourne or Sydney.
For the twenty-sixth time, therefore, the Australians were able, thanks to the home factor primarily intended as grasscourts, but also because of their undoubted agonism, to overthrow the prediction that saw them clearly disadvantaged against the Cup holders, the Swedish dream team. So in Melbourne the result of 1983 was repeated, when the Australian kangaroos won 3-2 against the Swedes led by Mats Wilander, but with a decidedly negative Joakim Nystrom.
The main architect of the Australian success was the revived twenty-one year old Pat Cash, an all-muscle boy that international tennis had lost along his way because of a serious backbone injury. After being an excellent junior, Cash exploded in 1984 when, little older than nineteen, he reached the semi-finals in Wimbledon and Flushing Meadows, results that led him to the eighth place of the world rankings. Then, in 1985, the previously mentioned backbone ailments and the inevitable fall to the lowest rungs of the ATP rankings, as down as the 300th place. A real blow to Pat Cash and Australia itself, which saw him as the great Rosewall's and Laver's heir.
But Pat Cash has shown a remarkable will strength, he found the energy to react to bad luck, and, in 1986, step by step, he was able to find himself right in the Davis Cup in October, during the semi-final against United States and especially the final against favorite Sweden.
As often happened in the past, even in this case only one player has decided the Davis Cup outcome. Cash was technically superb in the first match against Stefan Edberg (who was reigning champion of the Australian Open played on the same grass court in the Kooyong Stadium, venue for the final) and in doubles, where he teamed up with the talented John Fitzgerald, but he was even more so for his agonism in the decisive encounter against Michael Pernfors, when he managed to come back from two sets down.
In their success, Cash and company enjoyed two very obvious advantages: the unexpected, disappointing performance by the Swede number one Stefan Edberg (disastrous especially in the doubles match) and, as already mentioned, the home-court factor. The grass in Melbourne in fact played a key role in the tie outcome, which would have been very different if the match had been played on any other surface. Only this way we can explain how a nation who is going through one of the deepest crises in its tennis history managed to beat what is now unanimously considered the strongest team in the world. Besides Pat Cash (24th in the world rankings), Australia fielded Paul McNamee (45th) and John Fitzgerald (101st). On their side, Swedes, though lacking Wilander (3), busy with his marriage preparations, could count on Edberg (5th), Nystrom (7th), Pernfors (11th) and Jarryd (19th).
Yet the kangaroos won, proving once again that the result of the Davis Cup is too often tied with the surface on which it's played. On the other hand, also the Italians have expeerienced this matter of fact, losing at least three of their five finals because they were forced to play them away and on disliked surfaces (three times on the Australian grass, one on San Francisco's carpets and one on Prague's). I did not attend the Australian Challenge Round of 1960 and '61 (when Pietrangeli and Sirola were beaten 4-1 and 5-0), but I was in Sydney in 1977 (the year after our success in Chile), in San Francisco in 1979 and in Prague in 1980 and I firmly believe that the finals would have had a different result if Panatta, Barazzutti, Bertolucci and Zugarelli could have played them at home on clay.
But those where the glory days for our tennis. Today, unfortunately, with the team we have, there can be no surface factor argument. In March, for the first round of the '87 draw, we will host Sweden, decided to redeem the Melbourne overthrow. For us, the prediction is definitely closed, even if the Swedes should give Wilander and Edberg a rest. But once again Lady Luck gave us a hand and, although defeated, we'll also have the chance of staying in the Davis World Group, having to meet South Korea in the playoff, one of the few poorer tennis nations than we are. But how longer can we rely on good luck?
- Edberg: "It was like the script for a movie"
- “If there’s anyone who can do it, it's Roger”
- Serve-and-volley tennis rises from the dust in Melbourne
- ATP corrects huge mistake in Stefan Edberg bio thanks to STE...fans
- Fans don't like the new Australian Open logo
- Force 5 Sweden!
- Edberg the punisher
- Professors smashed
- Edberg beats Mecir and gives Sweden semifinal pass
- This time Edberg doesn't pair
- Is Cash enough for the Davis?
- The team in blond
- For a day Becker is enough
- Sweden Beats US in Doubles and Wins Davis Cup