WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — It's been said that the Stakes Match is turning the tennis world upside down, but this is ridiculous.
Saturday, one of the winners went one step further and turned over a table in front of a group of reporters in the interview room. Two of the losers said, in effect, that they were glad they lost because they might end up making more money than one of players in today's final. And, essentially, the first Stakes Match is starting to shape up as the Ivan Lendl Invitational.
What can you say about a day on which Pat Cash lost three matches and ended up winning a spot in the final?
The second day of the three-day competition at the Palm Beach Polo and Country Club started off routinely enough with a John McEnroe tantrum and subsequent fine, and took a sharp turn toward the bizarre before it was over.
But Cash topped it all with his actions in his, well, brief visit with the media. He walked in, stepped on the platform and sat down behind a table. However, the chair was partially off the platform, and he started to slip back. Cash saved himself from falling over by clutching the table. But then, in anger, he pushed the table over.
That sent a pot of flowers flying, along with some radio equipment, nearly hitting some reporters in the front row.
"Sorry," Cash said sarcastically as he exited.
Which left everyone wondering what had happened. Maybe some ghosts, the ones Cash thought were after him in Australia, had followed him to South Florida.
Possibly, after the way he performed Saturday--losing $100,000--the pressure of losing all of his stake against Lendl in today's final was getting to Cash, even though he denied it.
McEnroe, for one, was glad he wouldn't have to face Lendl in best-of-five, 21-point matches, starting at $30,000 and increasing by $30,000 each game. Also, rally points increase from $200 to $400 for the final. So, if Lendl and Cash have a five-shot rally and Lendl wins it, he receives $2,000 of Cash's money.
"The way it is set up now, it's almost better for the guy in third than the guy in second place," said McEnroe, who finished fourth with only $182,000.
"Like, for example, if Cash continues the same thing . . . He was the favorite and suddenly he's playing poorly and it doesn't look like he's as confident . . . If he loses the match in straight sets or if Cash wins the first and loses the next three, he's going to lose a lot of his money. He'll come in last. He'll wind up with less money than everyone else."
Potentially, without counting rally points, Cash could lose $180,000 if Lendl beats him in straight sets. Or if it went to Lendl in four, with Cash winning the first set, Cash might drop $240,000.
Stefan Edberg, who won three matches Saturday and finished with $234,800, said:
"It turned out to be pretty good. I didn't do well yesterday. It looked like I was going to end up with nothing. It's very different; tomorrow the second guy may lose everything."
And the way Lendl is playing, it could happen. The world's top-ranked player started slowly, losing his opening match to Edberg, 15-4. But he came back with victories over Cash and McEnroe, eliminating McEnroe from the competition.
The McEnroe-Lendl match was the final one of the day, and McEnroe needed to win $32,700 in order to surpass Cash.
He stayed close until 8-8. Then, Lendl hit an ace with his second serve--winning $2,000--and that was really it for McEnroe.
"I knew I finished him off when I hit the ace," said Lendl, who is leading with $332,600 to Cash's $250,600.
The prospect of losing a lot of money today doesn't seem to bother Lendl, who signed up for this adventure because he enjoys playing Skins in golf.
"I could fall back into fourth place," he said. "Everybody knows the risk. If you want to win big, you have to take the chances."