WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND, JULY 1 -- Pat Cash's checkered flag of a headband announces him, binding a hundred sharp points of hair that leap off his scalp as if he dragged a garden rake through them the wrong way. This loud arrangement frames an unresolved face that is part sensitive soul and part stubborn oaf, so no one knows what to make of him, except that he is always contrary.

He is vulgar, he belongs to Greenpeace, he is a freak for heavy-metal music that sounds like ash cans rolling down a street, and a doting father of two. The eyes and mouth are gentle, the nose and jaw challenging. The rest of him is a primal vision, hulking rolls of shoulder muscle and legs that belong on a stag.

Above all, Cash is a relentless stayer, the guy who won't leave the party, alternately annoying and amusing the tired hosts with his blunt charm. Only recently recuperated from a severed Achilles' tendon that kept him out of tennis for a year, he sneaked into Wimbledon on a wild card and is in the round of 16 against defending champion Boris Becker Monday, braying in his hard Australian, "I mean, why the hell not?"

For a handful of victories and one unforgettable 1987 Wimbledon title, the 25-year-old Cash has been knocked down more times than a bum fighter. He recovered from one devastating injury in 1983, a back ailment that kept him out of tennis for a season. When he ruptured his Achilles' tendon during a tournament in Tokyo 14 months ago, his career appeared quite possibly over, to everybody but him.

"People were writing me off at 24," he said. "And that's ridiculous."

Cash continually has risen from adversity with a mixture of dogged impatience and seemingly indefatigable good humor, qualities he will bring to his match with three-time winner and No. 2 seed Becker. "I'm going to enjoy myself, I've got nothing to lose at all," he said. "He's got his title to lose." But to somehow defeat Becker and make the final eight would constitute a highly improbable double comeback, and he has a palpable sense of gratitude to be in the tournament at all, ranked just No. 142.

"I'm just thrilled to be here," he said. "You know, being injured and going through the tough times, and wondering what the hell you're doing on a tennis court, and wondering if you want to {be there}, going through all the tough times I have in the last couple of months trying to get back. I'm lucky to be in this position."

Cash's appreciation was only recently learned. The son of a Melbourne solicitor, he had a generous amount of early success. He was the world junior champion at 17 in 1982, a member of the winning Davis Cup team the following year, and a semifinalist at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open by 19. When he won Wimbledon at 21, defeating Ivan Lendl in straight sets, he gave the tournament one of its most enduring moments as he swayed across Centre Court in his outback cowhand's walk and ignored protocol to climb a balustrade and hug Pat Cash Sr.

That gesture was somehow refreshing, but at times he has crossed the line into a clumsy gracelessness. There were reports of a smashed up hotel room in Oregon. He lost to Becker in straight sets in the 1988 Wimbledon quarterfinals, exchanging insults and then appearing at a postmatch news conference in a red wig.

He and the press are antagonistic, in part because of his anger over coverage of his breakup with longtime girlfriend Ann-Britt Kristiansen, the mother of his two small children, Daniel and Mia.

Cash still has raw and childish moments; he was thrown out of a Wimbledon tuneup event two weeks ago when he was late for a match with Stefan Edberg. But there is a quieter self-possession after the past year of trials. He has a new companion in serene Emily Bendit, and voices some previously unheard, pensive thoughts, like his new dedication to Greenpeace.

"You start thinking about these things once you have kids, and maybe I'm getting old, but you know, I want my kids to have dolphins, and to have -- or not to have -- I don't know," he said. "I just have some scary visions. There are a lot of bad things in the world, and I just feel very privileged to live in a nice country, and to have healthy kids, and be healthy myself. I think I've woken up a little bit after a couple of injuries. You'd think I'd appreciate it, wouldn't you?"

Cash's body is as much a contradiction as the rest of him, surprisingly fragile beneath all the imposing strength and a hobbling testament to the toll the genteel game of tennis can take on the legs, the spine, the ankles. He has a history of tendon problems, and as he followed a serve to the net against Bill Scanlon in Tokyo in April 1989, he felt a stabbing pain and rolled to the ground. He thought he had whacked himself with his racket and tried to rise, and found he couldn't move.

The Achilles' tendon was sewn back together. His ranking, No. 4 in 1988, plunged to No. 368 by the end of the season. Not playing Wimbledon was particularly painful, as he took a solitary walk around Centre Court the night before it started.

During his enforced idleness he moved between Australia and a second home in London, spending time with his children and following heavy metal music. He took his first vacation in years, to the Caribbean. He promoted a concert at London's Hard Rock Cafe just before Wimbledon, a slew of stars joining him and some other tennis-playing amateur guitarists such as Mats Wilander and Vitas Gerulaitis on the stage. It sparked thoughts of someday becoming a concert promoter. His other ambition is to own a pub.

Finally, out of a cast and back on the tennis courts after six months, he began the laborious process of trying to repair his game. His right calf muscle was half its previous size.

"I don't think anybody's been in the position where I've been, and where I am at the moment," he said. "Can you tell me a top player who was out for a year from the top 10 and coming back again? You can't really get any advice from any of the players, because nobody has been through that.

"So I'm going through something new and I'm learning all the time. It's interesting and it's exciting, and that's the reason I came back. Because why the hell not?"

That Cash has worked his way back so tirelessly is not surprising, given his history. In 1986 he fell to No. 413 with his back injury and that same year had an emergency appendectomy. He rose from his sickbed four weeks later to beat Wilander and make the Wimbledon quarterfinals. By the season's end he had clawed to No. 24 again.

"I am a good believer that hard work pays off," he said. "That's why I work hard. I just figure it's going to be worth it in the end."

If Cash has not regained all of his previous form, he is getting closer all the time. He spent part of the spring in Asia, winning 12 of 13 matches and a singles title in Hong Kong. He moved through the first three rounds of Wimbledon with increasing ease despite a strained hip flexor. He defeated No. 16 Juan Aguilera of Spain in straight sets to reach the round of 16. He is unquestionably a long shot against Becker, but when he is in full possession of his game he may still be among the top five grass court players in the world, prowling the baseline restlessly with a wide range of strokes, from forceful spears to light brushes, looking for an excuse to rush in for volleys.

"If I'm not ready now to start tackling the top guys in the world, I don't know when I am," he said. "Obviously 12 months off is not ideal preparation, being out for such a long time and working my way back. But you've got to face these guys at some stage. My aim is to get back and start working on them and get to be one of the top few players in the world again. So it's just another step to where I want to be."