Don't worry about it? The arena was full of hostile fans. The French team was motivated by righteous outrage and egged on by their countrymen, and support from a home crowd can make you capable of nearly superhuman feats. The way I saw it, these guys wanted to be heroes, the scene was set for them, and John and I were in deep doo-doo.
Finally, some semblance of order was restored. As a hush descended on the arena, John stepped up to the line. He went through all the familiar shirt-tugging and lip-licking rituals. I could almost feel the perverse pleasure he took at that moment—the feeling Pete Sampras has described as the intoxicating, exhilarating pleasure of being in the position to give a stadium full of fans the equivalent of a big, fat, middle finger.
John went into his signature, radical service stance with his back almost to the net, coiled up like a cobra as he tossed the ball, and snapped around to hit an unreturnable serve.
Game, set, match, John and Patrick McEnroe. As we walked off the court, John had this evil little smile on his face. He was flat out loving it. He shook his head in disbelief and started laughing. It was the happiest he looked all week.
We went all the way to the final, where we won the first set easily and broke our opponents in the second. I remember thinking at that point, Wow, this is easy. We've got this in the bag. But John wasn't about to let me relax. He was hyped up, and he kept saying things like, "Come on, we gotta get a break here...We gotta bury these guys....Don't let up."
It really hit me then, how his intensity level was just always so insanely high. Sure I was trying my hardest, but it was like playing with house money and I felt a little complacent, a little satisfied. I was enjoying myself, thinking, Great, we got another break, let's just cruise on through.
Not John. He wasn't buying into that. Maybe he remembered that long-ago US Open qualifying match with Zan Guerrey; maybe he thought of that French Open disaster with Ivan Lendl. This was a final. He wanted to demolish and bury those guys, and that's just what we did, winning 6–3, 6–1.
We never played doubles together again.
Larger—and Smaller—Than Life
When the job as general manager of the USTA's player development program came open, I felt I was a good candidate. You could substitute the words "parent management" for "player development," because the road to success with a promising player, especially in more recent times, runs through parents. Tennis was in many ways the glue that kept our family close, although my dad might, with some justification, flip that and claim that family was the bonding agent that enabled our success in tennis. Either way, we'd lived a typical tennis family's life, and stood out mostly because of John's extreme talent.