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Cash Is Short at Open--Give Lundgren Credit

September 03, 1987|LISA DILLMAN | Special to The Times

NEW YORK — There's one notable bit of history that the Aussies seem to have a stranglehold on here at the U.S. Open.

The last time the Wimbledon champion lost in the first round of the Open was in 1971, when Australia's John Newcombe was beaten by Jan Kodes of Czechoslovakia, 2-6, 7-6, 7-6, 6-3.

Early this morning, Pat Cash relieved Newcombe of the embarrassment of holding such a spot in tennis folklore but kept the ignominy centered on the Aussies.

Cash, the mate who thrilled his countrymen by winning at the All England Club in July, said, "G'day," at Flushing Meadow at 12:44 a.m. EDT, losing, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, to Peter Lundgren of Sweden.

While Cash wasn't seeded No. 1 as Newcombe was in 1971, the premature exit certainly raises more than a few questions about his staying power at the top of men's tennis.

In a sense, the victory by Lundgren really shouldn't be a huge surprise as he had just beaten Cash in straight sets last month at Montreal. Lundgren, ranked No. 47, used the victory as a springboard, losing a tough three-setter to Boris Becker in the quarterfinals. A week later, he played superbly in knocking off No. 3-ranked Mats Wilander, 6-1, 6-4, at Cincinnati.

Then, Lundgren continued his strong play as he won a small tuneup tournament in New York last Sunday. There, Lundgren was quoted as saying he felt he could beat Cash again, pointing out that the Wimbledon champion would surely remember the Montreal match.

If anything, the Wimbledon title has seemingly burdened Cash far more than it has benefited him.

For example, even during an insignificant exhibition in Southern California in early August, his first U.S. appearance after winning the Grand Slam tournament, Cash was tight on and off the court. He grew annoyed by the crowd, became irritated with his inconsistent play and snapped at reporters.

Nothing new, of course. Cash has always had a tenuous relationship with the media, and as for his own play, he's often harder on himself than anyone else.

He had hoped adjustment to the hard courts, after a year of mostly playing on grass, might come with subsequent tournaments at Stratton Mountain, Vt., and Montreal. Instead, he made teen-ager Andre Agassi and Lundgren heroes for a day by losing to them in the second and third rounds, respectively.

Still, many thought Cash might be able to raise his game to a higher level in a Grand Slam event. And he has fared well at the Open before, reaching the semifinals in 1984.

Instead, Lundgren kept him on the defensive most of the match. Cash didn't help his own cause by making 51 unforced errors to Lundgren's 31.

"I felt that I was in the match all the time right up until the last point," said Cash, who was seeded seventh in the Open. "I should have won my service game when I was up 40-love at 4-5, but that's been the situation the whole summer."

Lundgren fought back to deuce in that 10th game of the fourth set. Cash then hit a forehand passing shot into the net off Lundgren's approach, giving the Swede his first match point. He needed only one, as Cash floated a backhand passing shot long when Lundgren approached the net again. After 2 hours 43 minutes, he had pulled off the tournament's most significant upset.

From the start, Lundgren looked as though he had a chance. He broke Cash in the 10th game at 15 to win the first set. Again, he came up with breaks in the 10th game in the third and final sets.

"I played the same match as I did in Montreal," said Lundgren, who has gone from No. 112 to his current ranking of No. 47 in three weeks. "I was serving well, and I knew I had a chance to win the match if I played well."

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