'Hardcourt Confidential' by Patrick McEnroe

Of course playing against John was no picnic for either of us. He took no joy out of beating me, even if he refused to let up. I only played John in singles three times, and lost each match; the good news for me was that one of those matches (Chicago) was a tournament final—a big week for me, no matter what happened in the championship match. But I had pretty good success against John in doubles. We had some good matches that went either way. One of the more memorable matches we played was in Madrid, which at the time—spring of 1992—was outdoors on clay. I was partnered with Patrick Galbraith, and in the quarters we met John and Javier Frana, an Argentinian lefty who really ripped the ball.

Altitude is an issue in Madrid, so the conditions were pretty quick. Galby was similar to me, in terms of strengths and weaknesses, but a lefty. He needed a solid power player for a partner to put his skills to best use. He was a very good returner, but his serve was shaky. His lack of power kept him from exploiting the natural advantage of a lefty. Galby basically had one serve—he'd kind of slide the ball into your body. It was effective, as such things go, but even back then you could rarely get away with being a one-trick pony.

In our match, Frana kept teeing off on Galby's serve from his deuce court post, setting up John with break point after break point. In one game there must have been six, seven ad-points for them. I'd ask Galby, "Where are you going with the serve?" and he'd hiss, time and again, "Body...the body."

The altitude helped the ball hop around, and it made Galby's serve better than it was. Whatever the case, John had a lot of trouble returning and closing the deal in the ad-court. It was driving him nuts, but Galby kept sliding in that serve, and we kept dodging bullets until we won that match.

John was livid; this guy Galby (he might have been thinking of me, too, for all I know), who from a talent standpoint shouldn't even have been on the same court, had put up a W at his expense. John wouldn't even talk to me after that match. He held a grudge about it for a couple of weeks. Not that I cared about any of that; after beating those guys, Galby and I knew we might win the tournament, and that's just what we did.

John and I also faced each other in the doubles final of Basel in 1991. His partner was the mercurial Czech Petr Korda. I played with Jakob Hlasek of Switzerland. We had some success as a team, and we both had been coached at different times by Gunther Bresnick. Jakob and I had no illusions about what we were in for that day, because just hours before the doubles final, Jakob had beaten John in a thrilling five-set singles final. The big question was which of those two singles finalists would have more gas left in his tank.

As it turned out, both of them had plenty. Jakob and I lost the first set, 6–3. We won the second in a tiebreaker. The third and final set also went the distance. Jakob and I reached match point at 5–6 in the 'breaker, with Korda serving to me.

Page
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...