Pat Cash came to the tennis world's attention in the 1980s when he turned professional and won his first senior title in Melbourne. Cash established a reputation on tour as a hard-fighting serve-and-volleyer, he became the youngest player to play in a Davis Cup final winning and claiming the cup for Australia. The crowning moment of Cash's career came when he won Wimbledon in 1987. He has now opened a fabulous tennis academy in the Caribbean at Buccament Bay and also works as a TV commentator primarily for the BBC and CNN.
Interview with an ex-professional tennis player
Tell us about your academy at Buccament Bay, how it started, and where you'd like to see it going in the future?
We got the academy up and running in 2011 with the Phase One courts, and it's been going well. We are lucky to have one of the greatest locations to relax, play sport and recharge. As the sports facilities including the remainder of the courts and complex are completed, Buccament Bay will be one of the world's best places to visit and learn to play tennis, and other sports and activities as well.
What are the most important attributes that a tennis player needs?
Tennis is a tough sport because you need so many things to play at a top level. Firstly you need to perfect all the technical areas of each shot; then there's the physical attributes of speed, agility and endurance topped with balance and timing. You need mental strength too: there's no clock to run out, so every point is important and it becomes a great mental battle.
What do you feel are the best exercises for tennis?
For the beginner, I think general hand/eye coordination. James Droy (the resident coach) and I have fun games for the younger kids, and tougher movement and agility exercises for the older kids and adults, but in the end you need a bit of everything.
Pat Cash playing at Buccament Bay
What are the most common pitfalls of an average player's game?
Usually technique issues hold players back as most people have been taught poorly. Sometimes it's better not to have had any coaching at all than poor coaching as some habits are hard to break. An understanding of body movement will help, which James and I are happy to explain.
During your tennis career, who did you find as the most challenging player to play against, and what aspect of their game made it difficult for you?
I was lucky and unlucky to be playing in such an amazing era of tennis. The mid-80's to mid-90's were very special with so many different styles and personalities to combat. Players like Becker and Lendl had power, control and variety; Wilander Connors and others never seemed to miss; and McEnroe, Noah and Edberg were precision attackers. All were great players and very different.
What do you find are the health benefits of playing tennis?
It's a total body workout and great for your fitness. It is one of the toughest sports in the world at the top level.
What top tips do you have for somebody who wants to instantly raise their game?
I think it's important to understand the best area to contact the ball. If the ball is too far away, you lose control and balance; if it's too close, you can't swing correctly. Getting the correct place to contact the ball will enable you to hit through the ball better.
How do you choose a suitable racket for, say, an intermediate player?
Rackets are very personal but the main thing is to get a decent set of strings with a decent tension - that will make a huge difference.
How fit does someone need to be to play tennis, and are you ever too old to give up?
I had a chat with an 83 year old the other day who plays three times a week with his buddies. They have a great time and get all the joints moving and muscles working. As long as you can shuffle around, you should find someone to play with.
Which tennis tournament is your favourite and why?
I think all of the Grand Slams are very special and very different in many ways, but sometimes the smaller events are more fun, like the ATP event in Baastad, Sweden, or Delray Beach in Florida. Also I'm fortunate to play in the legends events these days, which are really relaxed and fun so I enjoy every event.
What aspect of combining travel and tennis do you enjoy the most?
Being an Aussie I have had to travel my whole life to get around the world. I hear many ex pro players don't like to travel anymore and I understand that, after 15 years of hotels, airports and tennis courts, travelling becomes far less appealing to some, but I can't stand still for very long. When I first travelled, there were no iPods, mobile phones or internet, so these things make travelling and waiting at airports kinda fun.
For more information about the Pat Cash tennis academy, visit Buccament Bay
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