from Sport Expressen
by Linus Sunnervik
translated into English by Mauro Cappiello
Tennis Legend Pat Cash is always associated with Swedish successes and falls. For Sport Expressen the Australian tells about his fascination for the Swedish tennis miracle, his criticism of Roger Federer and his own tennis federation and how he hated to face the Swedes. - They always made my life a pain, says Cash.
Sweden's tennis dominance in the 1980s has become famous as the Swedish tennis miracle. With Stefan Edberg, Mats Wilander, Anders Järryd and Joakim Nystrom the Vikings salvaged three Davis Cup wins. However, Sweden also collected two finals losses, in 1983 and 1986. Both times Sweden fell against Australia in a fifth and decisive match. Both times it was Pat Cash on the other side of the net.
"The Swedes were a problem"
The now 49-year-old Australian has not forgotten. But he remembers the Swedes as much for his two final losses at home at the Australian Open in 1987 against Stefan Edberg and in 1988 against Mats Wilander.
Cash now lives in London and works regularly for CNN. For the channel he has produced a documentary about the Swedish tennis miracle.
- The 80s were amazing years for Swedish tennis. I think that it began with Björn Borg's success, and his influence on young people. The Swedish style of play was special, most of the players played safe tennis with double-handed backhand from the baseline. It was very tough to get some easy points from the Swedes. They always made my life hard, he told Sport Expressen.
- I remember I met Stefan Edberg when he was 15 years old. He played just like any other with two-handed backhand. Then he changed his style completely, in an amazing way, and became one of the world's best players.
Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg had already won titles on grass in Australia, when Melbourne Park was built in the mid-1980s and the stadium's surface would be changed to the hardcourt. Cash explains that the Australians were skeptical about switching surface to make the rebound regular: the Swedes could benefit even more from a slower game plan.
- One of our biggest problems was that the Swedes came and stole everything. They wanted a surface that was smooth for everyone - whether you were baseline player or net player. We went together with our coach and said: "We do not want Swedes to come and win everything." We did not want to make it as easy for them. Our courts were always good for offensive players before, but that did not happen anymore. Now players from all nations have an equal chance, says Cash.
Just like Sweden, Australia has no longer an esteemed position in the world of tennis. Can you see any similarities in the stagnation of the two Nations?
- I can speak for Australian tennis. The biggest reason is that it has established among the common people, and young people, while it was great. Even now that tennis is growing again we are missing a good system for getting the young people to the clubs. The success we have had with Lleyton Hewitt and Mark Philippoussis should have lifted tennis - but instead we have had the opposite effect. It goes backwards. People love tennis in Australia, but do not play themselves. It has been and still is a big problem.
- It is the same in England. After the London Olympics, when Andy Murray won, it was believed that tennis would grow - instead, it was just the opposite. There is statistical evidence that Murray's success has had an opposite effect on tennis interest. Can you imagine? I suspect the same in the US and Sweden.
Are you worried about tennis development?
- Not directly. In Australia, many work hard and at least we haven't got financial problems, thanks to the Australian Open. But one must engage young people. It's about being able to offer free tennis lessons, and have some former major players involved. We must encourage children and young people to get to the courts and get the parents on the train.
No free rein
Australian tennis is slowly on the rise: the nation has two of the tennis world's greatest talents in Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis. Cash has worked sporadically with the two talents, but is critical to the Australian Federation that does not let them get more free rein.
- The truth is that they are rather controlled by the union. And it is not a healthy system. I live in London and Australia and had gladly helped them. But they are not particularly interested in the use of anyone outside their own system. They put a lot of pressure on the players. And I think it's a big, big mistake. They should be working with players who have experience. If it's me or others it does not matter. They would clearly benefit from experienced coaches, says Cash.
Last week, it was clear that half of the world's top ten players will miss the Davis Cup as it kicks off this weekend. Defending champions of Switzerland will be without Stan Wawrinka and Roger Federer - and for this cause also Tomas Berdych declined. Sweden's national coach Fidde Rosengren is critical that players do not prioritize their national team. Cash agrees.
- Sure, if a nation does not line up their best team they give another nation a great chance. But I do not like that the big names can choose exactly when to play. It is such a great honor to play for your own country. I don't understand this. Even in the case of smaller nations, when you can not win - you play for your country. You learn from it. Federer is an... interesting case. There was a lot of talk last year that he saw his chance to win when Nadal and Djokovic did not play. Then he suddenly became very interested in playing, and it's absolutely true. I think he enjoyed it. But to say no now, as so many do... I do not understand it. There seems to be another generation of players.
From March 18 to 20 plays Pat Cash plays the Kings of Tennis at the Waterfront in Stockholm against Pete Sampras, Mats Wilander, Thomas Enqvist, Magnus Larsson and Xavier Malisse.
- Stefan Edberg & Tony Pickard Mr Class and his teacher
- "Federer should skip the claycourt season," says former coach Edberg
- "Federer is exceptional, but tennis needs a new name too"
- "I am a happy person"
- Federer criticizes young players: "I wish they volleyed more"
- Percy Rosberg in search of a new Björn Borg
- Edberg, the trees and the neighbors
- Sampras: "Loss to Edberg was my turning point"
- Stefan Edberg and the $100 trick
- Arvidsson seeks motivations at Edberg's Academy
- No Kings of Tennis for Edberg
- Chatting with the great Stefan Edberg
- 50 shades of Stefan Edberg for Barilla
- Stefan Edberg praises Australian teenagers
- Swedish Golden Age - Stefan Edberg