John lost early in the singles in Paris, a particularly cruel blow for someone who always found haven in the game. But he still had doubles, and I was surprised by how well he performed despite his anxieties. Maybe feeling like he was taking care of his little brother took his mind off his own problems. Whatever the case, he took me under his wing to an unusual degree. One night early in the tournament he took me along on a night out with his buddy, the French tennis and pop music superstar Yannick Noah. "Take care of my kid brother," he told Yannick. The next thing, poof, I was surrounded by gorgeous girls, including a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. She and I hit it off and had a great time in Paris; it was certainly good incentive to keep winning that week. The doubles were played at night, so we'd be out until three or four in the morning, I'd sleep until one or two in the afternoon, and then John and I would play our matches at night.
Not bad, I thought, a swimsuit model, Paris, John McEnroe for a doubles partner. Life may suck for John, but at the moment it sure is good for me....
On paper, John and I had the makings of a good doubles team. It was a natural fit: a lefty and a righty, a shotmaker (him) and efficient server with a steady partner who could set him up for the kill with precise returns. But the pressure was too great, because the shadow of our father loomed over the enterprise, no matter how much he tried to downplay the pride he took in seeing us as a team or his expectations.
We did have one significant technical problem. John and I both preferred to play the ad (left) court. Although the steady player usually takes the deuce (right) side to set up opportunities (most of the break points are played in the left, ad court), I preferred the ad side because of my excellent return, especially with the backhand. It was hard to get that wide serve by me, and rule no. 1 on break points is: Make sure you get the return back into play. John groused about my desire to play the ad court, but he grudgingly agreed to move over to play the deuce side on the grounds of his superiority and experience. He was more likely to adapt successfully if forced out of his comfort zone. The alignment worked out well.
We played all of our matches at night, before huge crowds. In the quarterfinals, we played a good French team, Arnaud Boetsch and Olivier Delaître. It was a very tight match that came down to a third-set tiebreaker. At five-all we got the benefit of a truly bad call against the French. The cavernous arena at Bercy was packed and it just erupted. It was pure chaos. The French team was hopping mad, arguing with the umpire. The fans were booing and jeering us. I got a taste of what it was like to be John, for whom this kind of anarchy was business as usual.
John was patiently waiting to serve the next ball, but the scene was out of control. He stood there with his hands on his hips: What's the problem with all you whiners? After a few moments, he called me back to the baseline where he stood. He paddled the ball against the court. He grinned slyly and said, "Don't worry about it. We've got this thing in the bag."