After going 4-for-4 in United States tennis championships in 2012, Chattanooga's Wesley Cash now gets a chance to win a world title for the USA.
Cash and Mark Vines of Lynchburg, Va., will be playing doubles in the Austria Cup competition -- the name given the men's 55-over age division -- at the ITF Seniors World Team Championships being held March 19-23 in Antalya, Turkey. They will stay for the ITF Senior World Individual Championships the next week.
"That's one of the most beautiful places I've ever played, and probably the nicest setup with the hotel and the courts and places to go," Cash said last week said about the seacoast city on the Mediterranean.
The Manker Patten teaching professional was there also for the ITF Senior Worlds in 2008, when the U.S. finished third in his age group -- as it did in his first such competition in 2003 in Germany, when he was playing 45s. But in 2008 Cash was 30 pounds heavier than he is now and playing on a messed-up left knee, which led to his second cartilage-refill surgery by Dr. David Moore of Elite Sports Medicine in Nashville.
The procedure involved harvesting articular cartilage from the injured knee and shipping it to Boston to let it grow, then injecting it back into the joint. Then it had to set in the knee and continue to harden, and that takes a lot of time.
"You can't walk for six weeks, and then you progressively get to do a little more," Cash said. "They turn you loose to practice at 18 months. Then I could practice but couldn't play. Both times I had this done, it took a full two years."
Those were in November 2004 and August 2009.
"Both of what I call the Star Trek surgeries took over five hours," said Cash, who has had six operations on that knee. "The first time they had to break my leg and elevate my kneecap. I hurt my knee that time playing tennis. The second time I was teaching and making a repetitive move. I knew I hurt it, but I felt I could repair it and come back.
"Eventually I had to decide to do the surgery again if I wanted to keep playing. I'm kind of the poster boy for this cartilage replacement, and my doctor has treated me like the president of the United States."
And what a poster he's made. In his first tournament back after the 2009 operation, he and fellow Chattanoogan Jack Webb won the Southern 50s doubles title in November 2011. And then Cash and Vines pulled off the USTA's only "golden slam" in any age group last year with national 55s doubles titles indoors and on grass, clay and hardcourts.
They won every match in those tournaments in straight sets; in fact, a 6-3 win in their first set of the year was the closest margin they had.
Vines almost had another slam, winning three of the 55s singles titles -- after winning the World Individual singles championship in San Diego.
"He's very good," said Cash, who also won a golden slam in 45s in 2002. Two of those championships were with Zan Guerry, the Chattem chairman and CEO who regularly practices with Cash and helped him greatly in his most recent surgery recovery.
"I absolutely wouldn't be where I am today without my doctor and without Zan to hit balls with me," Cash said. "He could hit it where I didn't have to move more than a step."
Cash, a deuce-court specialist long known for strong doubles play, won his USTA 45s indoor and hardcourts titles in 2002 with 6-foot-9 Brad Rowe.
He and Vines recently won a Category II tournament together as a warmup for the Worlds, making them 6-for-6 in titles as a tandem.
"I've known Mark since our junior days, and my lifelong friend Pem Guerry was roommates with him at SMU," said Cash, who played No. 1 singles and doubles for Georgia's SEC championship teams of the late 1970s. "Mark and I have had a nice friendship since I started coming back to play, and we have a ball together.
"We're having fun before we walk on the court, while we're on the court and after we walk off the court. Both of us are intense, but it's a self-directed intensity. If you look up 'tenacious' in the dictionary, you'll see his picture, and I try to adhere to that as well."
Vines also is an imaginative player.
"He has insights into the game, and more frequently we use them than we don't," Cash said. "He's definitely a thinker on the court."
Joining that duo for the USA's 55s team in Turkey who will be Texans Sal Castillo, who gave Vines his only loss last year, and Peter Markes.
"We can win the team. We can win the individuals," Cash said. "We could, but will we? These are the best players [in our age group] in the world."
He admits that he wants to win, but his true measure of success is playing well in combining the tactical, mechanical, psychological and physical components of the game with enjoyment. Then if someone beats them, as opposed to feeling they beat themselves, it will have been a good trip.