published Saturday, October 12th, 2013

Cash wins singles, doubles national titles

Wesley Cash
Wesley Cash
Photo by Dan Henry.

On his way to a second doubles golden slam in a row, Chattanooga tennis professional Wesley Cash had a doubly golden week in Savannah, Ga.

It culminated Friday at The Landing Club with a 6-1, 6-2 victory with Mark Vines of Lynchburg, Va., in the USTA National Men's 55 Clay Court Championships doubles final. That was Cash's seventh consecutive national 55s doubles title in two years, with the 2013 hard courts still to go early next month in Indian Wells, Calif.

The big news for Cash this time was that earlier Friday he won the singles final. A 9 seed, he rallied for a 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 victory over Mats Ljungman of Ann Arbor, Mich.

Cash has been part of national championship teams before, not only with Vines last year and with Mike Tammen of Portland, Ore., in the first two parts of the slam this year but in a 45s golden slam 11 years ago -- two of the four legs with local legend Zan Guerry, still a regular practice partner for the Manker Patten pro. And Cash played No. 1 on Southeastern Conference championship teams at Georgia in the late 1970s, but this was his first singles national title.

"I've just had a wonderful day," he said by cell phone Friday evening on the drive from Savannah to Macon. "Going for my first national championship, there was some stress, but as my coach at Georgia (Dan Magill) would say, 'It's fun when you win,' and it was a lot of fun today. This really was a dream come true."

In his previous USTA national tournament, the grass courts in mid-September, Cash finished third in singles. In the clay event this week, his toughest win before the final was 6-3, 6-4 in the round of 32; he beat the fourth seed 6-1, 6-1 in the semifinals.

"I've had a chance to play more singles recently, and I've got enough matches under my belt to rediscover my style of play," said Cash, who has been unable to play five of the last 10 years because of problems with his left knee. "I'm thrilled with the recent success I've had, especially when a few years ago I was wondering if I ever was going to play again."

His serve-and-volley style is unconventional for clay play, he acknowledged, but it was "disruptive" for his opponents this week.

"I tried to control the rhythm of the match," Cash said. "Even though I lost the first set today, I felt I controlled the rhythm, so I pretty much stayed the course. Then when there was a chink in the armor, things swung my way. In the first game of the second set he held serve, but then I ran off seven games in a row."

Since a second cartilage-replenishment "Star Trek" surgery in August 2009 and its nearly two-year recovery time, Cash has been able to do increasingly more, but he is holding to his preseason decision to avoid singles on hard courts. He will be focusing solely on completing a second consecutive season slam in doubles at Indian Wells. He'll be playing again with Vines, who had to miss this year's indoor nationals because of his son's graduation from college and preferred not to play in the grass tournament.

"Mike Tammen is going to play with somebody else, so he could wreck my slam, but if he does that's the way it goes," Cash said. "Other guys could wreck it too, of course. But I've got to play tennis with two of the best [55s] players in the world these last two years, and that's kind of fun."

Vines aggravated an old buttocks-muscle injury at Savannah and dropped out of singles, but he was able to continue in doubles at "about 80 percent of what he can do," Cash said. "In singles it would have been 20 percent. But he's just so good, it's a pleasure to play with him. He won the Paris Indoor [singles title] one year, and he won a couple of rounds in the U.S. Open before losing in four sets to Ivan Lendl. That guy knows how to play."

Cash lives by the philosophy he teaches, that "if I played hard and played to the best of my ability, I was going to be successful -- even if I didn't win the match. I did very much want to win a national championship, but winning is a byproduct of how you compete. If you think about winning, winning, winning, that's counterproductive. If I'm authentic to myself on the court, then OK."

Citing the message from the movie "Miracle" that "great moments come from great opportunity," Cash added that "when the opportunity comes you do the best you can."

He maximized his opportunity this week -- doubly so.

Contact Ron Bush at rbush@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6291.

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