CHENNAI: It would not be an exaggeration to say that Pat Cash’s witty responses are as good as his classics from the title-winning Wimbledon campaign way back in 1987.
Unfortunately, some of them were said off the record and will remain within the four walls of the lounge at the SDAT Tennis Stadium in Nungambakkam here.
But, when Cash – coach of Qiang Wang who is competing in the inaugural WTA Chennai Open 250 that begins on Monday – spoke on the record, the 57-year-old Australian did not mince his words.
On his visit to Chennai It is nice to come back here.
I have been here a couple of times. I first came here when I played in 1997. I remember the heat, which used to be an absolute killer. I was coming back from injury; I was not 100 per cent fit. I then came back here to do commentary. I have always liked Chennai. My friend Vijay Amritraj, of course, talks highly about his home town. I asked him a few things at the tournament party on Saturday night. Hopefully, I have the opportunity to go to the Church of St. Thomas (St. Thomas Cathedral Basilica), which is fascinating to me. I love history, but I failed in school because I could not remember dates (laughs). My son’s middle name is Thomas, so there is an interest for me. My goal is to go to the beach and have a look at it. The food is very spicy here. I coach a Chinese player (Qiang Wang) who loves spicy food. She said: “It is too spicy for me.” So, you can imagine what I am thinking. We have had a great time so far.
On the favourites to win the WTA Chennai Open crown
I do not think there is any favourite. We have seen on the women’s Tour that anybody can win a tournament. Any person who is in this tournament can win it. That is what makes it exciting. You expect the top seeds to do well, but there is absolutely no guarantee that they are going to do well. It is going to be very interesting. The conditions are going to be tricky. Hopefully, my player (Wang) wins the tournament.
On Serena Williams’s legacy
I think that Serena certainly changed the game (sport); Serena and Venus Williams changed it. They brought in the power element. They are superb athletes; they forced everybody to up their level. There have been a lot of good players. But quickly after they (Serena and Venus) became dominant, you saw other players work harder and become better athletes. In terms of power, the racquets kind of helped the others stay in touch with the Williams sisters. They are good doubles players too.
On where tennis is heading (Serena has retired while the legends of men’s tennis are in the twilight of their careers)
On the women’s Tour, the standard has continued to improve. Serena set the benchmark for women while Roger Federer did it for men. We have seen some young players come through and overpower Serena. There are a lot of girls who play like Serena now. You can say the same thing about Roger as well and Rafael Nadal to a certain extent. Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray had to catch up. They have caught up and have been good, if not better than some of the great players. The great players retiring in a group.. which I imagine is going to happen in a couple of years in men’s tennis. Rafa may keep going for a little bit longer, but he has had quite a lot of injuries. At some stage, he has to stop. Novak may continue even longer since he has been having unfortunate breaks. Roger will not play for much longer; same is the case with Andy. When a group of players retire, there is going to be a gap. There will be opportunities for other players to come through. We are missing a few legends, but the US Open has shown the changing of the guard. Would the young guys beat Federer and Nadal at their peak? Of course, they would not. But, they are catching up very quickly. It is going to be interesting to see what happens.
On Roger Federer’s return
There is no chance that he can be as good as he was. He deserves at least a farewell from us. But, I do not think he will play just for the sake of showing up and waving to the crowd. He looks fit. I saw him at Wimbledon; he has not put an ounce of weight on. It will be exciting to see him play a few matches at Wimbledon. Nobody likes to see their name next to Roger [on the scorecard], does not matter who the player is. Like Serena and Venus, Roger and Rafa are ground breakers in many ways.
On his friendship with the late Shane Warne
It is still sad. I was thinking about him the other day. I know how popular he was here. Shane was a superstar athlete. We played tennis a couple of times over the years. He was a very good junior tennis player. He was one of the best in Victoria. He did not have control because he did not play much, but boy could he hit the ball hard! Shane and I used to catch up whenever we could, usually around the time of Australian Open and Wimbledon. Ironically, I got a text from him not long before he died, which was really sad. He was my mate and I was proud of him… I go to YouTube and watch ‘Shane Warne’s best balls or wickets’. I have done that a few times since his death.