Some notes of my own on the match.
Lendl played 9 semifinals at the U.S. Open and lost only in 1991, to Stefan Edberg. The remaining ones took him to 8 straight U.S. Open finals from 1982-89. His defeated SF opponents were McEnroe, Arias, Cash, Connors twice, Edberg once, and Agassi two years in a row. He defeated them all in straight sets, except for the four-set wins against Agassi and this match against Cash. Had Cash won his match point, he would have prevented Lendl’s record run of consecutive USO finals.
I had never heard about any kind of controversy associated with the match and its result; I had always simply heard that it was a great match. But Cash may have been cheated of an ace that would have given him a second match point, on his serve, at 6-5 in the fifth. He was close to being enraged when his hard serve down the middle was called wide. He went on to lose the game on a rare miss off his backhand volley, a stroke that also failed him once during the tiebreak and again on the last point of the match. He was clearly still thinking about the call. He had shouted at the center service linesman upon losing his serve, clearly blaming the man for losing his chance to win.
CBS did not replay the serve, so it’s not easy to tell. But slowing it down by 7x on my DVD, the serve does appear like it could have landed wide. So I don’t think you can say that Cash was truly robbed of the match; the call was too close to say that. Even if he had been, he indisputably let his emotions get the better of him, and could not get the call out of his mind. He seemed afterwards no longer to be in the same efficient and deadly state of mind.
Lendl’s behavior was a great contrast, even compared against Lendl’s own general record. At one point in the second set, I think, he got a clearly bad call at the baseline. He took his time in thinking up a protest. Then he approached the chair and said that this was the second bad call from this linesman; he offered that Cash had gotten a bad call, too, and that keeping the linesman in the match would cause trouble one way or the other. It was golden behavior for Lendl, and maybe the most diplomatic and fair-minded protest I’ve ever seen from a player.
True, the stakes were nothing compared to the Cash controversy. But the contrast in temperament is worth mentioning, all the same – particularly because late in the fifth set, Lendl did again protest a call with great calmness.
The announcers noted that Lendl was more confident since his French Open win. Newk said he had never seen Lendl so emotionally fired up as in the final tiebreak.
Cash looks as good in this match as he did in 1987 in most respects, though I don't think his forehand volley was as good as in his Wimbledon victory.
He choked, I think, at break point on Lendl’s serve at 5-6 in the fourth set; Lendl did nothing really special to hold then. Lendl, at that point, was having his own problems on the mental side of the equation: the announcers thought that he was affected by the crowd’s turning against him.
Each of the first three sets had only one break, which is a testament to the quality of play. The fourth set had no breaks (though perhaps Cash should have broken Lendl at 5-6). The fifth opened with two consecutive service breaks and closed the same way.
From his opening service game of the match, Lendl held serve 19 consecutive times through the end of the fourth set. The only higher previous streak I know of is Wilander’s 20 straight holds against McEnroe in St. Louis – a match in which the absence of tiebreaks made for long sets in which you had to sustain your level of play, or else lose the set. This was different: Lendl sustained his level even immediately after the first, second, and third sets were over, playing with great consistency throughout. He finally lost his serve to open the fifth, throwing in two double-faults and looking, for the moment, genuinely vulnerable.
Last edited by krosero : 08-25-2008 at 08:06 PM.