A huge night for sport in Adelaide with tennis and cricket followers flocking to Memorial Drive as a host of international stars arrived in town.
Grudge matches abounded – Kevin Pietersen and Mitchell Johnson at the Oval while a hundred metres away Ivan Lendl and Pat Cash took top billing for the night.
The weather hadn’t promised much but the clouds cleared late in the afternoon as the crowds arrived as did a lengthy queue stretched along the back of the south stand as John McEnroe took his turn in the autograph signing booth.
The first winner of the night was Australia’s Marinko Matosevic, taking the second set against Ivan Ljubicic 10/3 in a long tie break. A close and engrossing match and a huge win for Matosevic against the world number 17.
Next and an enthralling encounter as the current players took over, Ryan Harrison facing perhaps the biggest task as he squared up against an in-form and very much at home, Michael Llodra.
Llodra took the opening set but Harrison, displaying great speed, persistence and a willing to challenge the umpire on several occasions, closed out the second set before going down by just two points in the long tie break. A star in the making against a star of the present, Llodra an understated but very capable and stylish athlete.
And then it got serious but for once the on-court McEnroe wasn’t involved as he and Henri Leconte were left to their own devices on court two, second billing to Pat Cash and Ivan and a repeat of the 1987 Wimbledon final, Cash’s as a player.
Twenty-four-years ago they didn’t each and it’s clear that time has not healed all wounds. A feisty pairing, anything could happen with Cash the more relaxed, giving TV interviews at each changeover courtesy of a small mic inside his shirt.
Whatever Cash’s theory behind the mic, it certainly distracted the man from Connecticut who at one point seemed to suggest that the courtside commentators were pointing out the way his serves were heading.
A good match ensued but Cash’s ploy of keeping the big man moving paid off in full and he was never overly tested. Lendl, resolute on serve and on his thundering forehand, unable to keep up with his younger opponent.
A few metres away meanwhile, McEnroe took centre stage and put on something of a masterclass against an on form and formidable Leconte. The Frenchman played well but the movement and speed of Mac was, at times, quite stunning., his court coverage and anticipation second to none. 8/5 to Mac in the end and a privilege to watch.
More was to come though as Mac offered not only the shirt off his back but most of the household contents too, pledging $10,000 to the Queensland relief fund, a genuine and heartfelt gesture.
He faces Lendl in tomorrow’s much hyped showdown, and on this form, is likely to prove impossible to beat but a contest that will still be impossible to miss.
A dramatic night all round in Adelaide with even the cricket next door going down to the last ball.
But really it was Mac’s night. Cash got the win he craved but Mac was the main man.
T’was ever thus.
Australia def Pacific v International 3-0
Marinko Matosevic def Ivan Ljubicic 3-6 6-4 10-3
Cash def Lendl 8-4
Matosevik & Cash def Ljubicic & Bahrami 7-6
Australia 3 International 0
Europe v Americas 2-1
Michael Llodra def Ryan Harrison 6-4 6-7 10-8
Henri Leconte lost to McEnroe 5-8
Harrison & McEnroe def Llodra & Leconte 6-4
Americas 2 def Europe 1