A Bygone Era…

Jan 29, 2009

21 years ago Mats Wilander and Pat Cash played an epic final in the first Australian Open to be held at the current venue. Wilander won that match 8-6 in the fifth and it is rated to this day as one of the classic matches of that era.

Tonight these two great champions of the game returned to Melbourne Park to relive that historic encounter, and on this occasion Cash was able to exact some revenge in a good natured match between two friends who set about entertaining a tennis loving crowd.

It got me to thinking about how much the game has changed in twenty one years. A perfect example of this came with Cash, on the wrong side of forty at this stage, sending down some thunderbolts on his serve, with his fastest of the night clocking in at 208kph – pretty quick by anyone’s standards.

I doubt in his heyday he would have been sending down serves of this speed too often, but with the racquet and string technology today, a faster paced game predominates.

What was also great to see once more was the serve-volley play that was the trademark of players such as Cash and Edberg when they were winning championships. Unless there are some major changes to equipment, and a move back to more tournaments on grass, we have sadly seen the last of this style of play.

In a way it was almost poetic that this game was played straight after the semi-final win of Roger Federer, who is one of very few players on tour who would not have looked out of place playing in a bygone era. His classic backhand and ability to come to the net would have served him well if he’d have had a wooden racquet in hand and was facing McEnroe or Borg on the grass in London.

Instead we now have players such as Nadal and Verdasco – baseliners who whip their shots with massive amounts of spin. These two will play off tomorrow for the chance to meet Federer on Sunday. This would be the first time Federer and Nadal have met in a grand slam outside of London and Paris. In a way this is a neutral surface and I think all the tennis world are hoping for Nadal to get through.

It would set up a final that in twenty one years time we may look back on, and recall with fond memories an unforgettable encounter, just as we did today.

Written by: Crooksy

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