LONDON, JULY 2 -- Stefan Edberg and Pat Cash have the best grass court games. Ivan Lendl is the best all-around tennis player. And Jimmy Connors is Jimmy Connors.
In short, all four men in Friday's Wimbledon semifinals (WRC-TV-4 at 11 a.m.) have reason to believe that, come Sunday, they will be holding the Wimbledon Trophy. And, if truth be told, each of them has a legitimate chance.
Edberg and Lendl will open the program, followed by Cash and Connors. The last time Edberg and Lendl met on grass was in the semifinals of the Australian Open. Edberg won in five sets. The last time they met in a Grand Slam semifinal was last September in the U.S. Open. Lendl won in three.
Edberg has had an excellent tournament from the start, opening with a 6-0, 6-0, 6-0 victory against countryman Stefan Ericksson and losing only one set so far. Lendl looked awful in his first two matches, but, after escaping Paolo Cane in the second round, has gotten stronger with each match. In the quarterfinals, he played perhaps his best match ever on grass while beating Henri Leconte in straight sets.
If Edberg is to win, he must serve superbly. Even though his kick second serve is one of the game's best, Lendl will eventually batter it if he sees it often enough. The first set also will be crucial. Opponents who lose the first set to Lendl tend to let down a little and often the second set is gone before they know it. That happened to Leconte on Wednesday. At the Open, Edberg lost a first set tie-breaker, 8-6, and did a quick fade.
If Lendl wins the opening set, he will probably win the match. If Edberg wins it, he has a chance to win. Lendl is very confident right now. He seems to think this is his year finally to win Wimbledon. "If I could win Wimbledon and lose every other match I play all year, that would be fine with me," he said. "Sometimes, I wonder if it is all worth it when I struggle so much on the grass, but now I believe that it is."
The winner of this match should win the tournament. Edberg beat Cash in the Australian final where the home court advantage is very real. Lendl would have the very large advantage of experience, having been in the final last year, if he plays Cash.
But will the winner play Cash? Connors is already the hero of this tournament and, even if he loses to Cash, what he has achieved with his miracle victory Tuesday over Mikael Pernfors and his advance to the semifinals can't be wiped out.
Don't tell that to Connors, though. If he somehow figured out a way to steal this title it would be the crowning achievement of his remarkable career. And, unlikely though it is, he can win this tournament.
How? First, before Connors even takes the court, Edberg must beat Lendl. Connors has not beaten Lendl in their last 11 matches, dating back to a victory in Tokyo in 1984. That just happens to be the last time he won a tournament. Put Lendl and Connors in the final and the result could be similar to 1984 when John McEnroe, at the peak of his powers, destroyed Connors in the final.
Edberg can beat Lendl and Connors can beat Cash. He beat him three weeks ago at Queens and he can beat him here. It will not be easy. Cash has played almost flawlessly the last two rounds, wiping out Guy Forget and Mats Wilander. But neither returns like Connors. If Connors can make Cash's first volley difficult, he can win. If he doesn't, he will be in trouble, because Cash will pressure him on his serve all day long.
Edberg has the consummate grass court game. But put Connors in the Wimbledon final, with the entire crowd behind him, and Edberg might not be able to handle the pressure.
Edberg has come a long way in terms of his mental strength and winning a fifth set against Cash in Melbourne is not a minor achievement. But this is Wimbledon and Cash isn't Connors. If Connors can get into the match, he can win.
He is now two matches from one of the great sports stories of the decade. It remains an unlikely story. But at least until dusk on Friday, it remains a delicious possibility.
Logic says Lendl-Cash in the final. The heart hopes for Connors-Edberg.