CHICAGO -- Somewhere in the outer environs of the University of Illinois, Chicago Pavilion, a phone was ringing yesterday afternoon.
For John McEnroe, one point from the conclusion of an emotionally exhausting final match in the Volvo Tennis/Chicago, the interruption was welcome.
For the first time since taking the court against his youngest brother, Patrick, nearly two hours earlier, he could finally relax.
"Dad, it's mom calling," John called to his father, John Sr., sitting in a baseline seat behind Patrick.
"Tell her I'll be home soon," younger brother retorted without skipping a beat.
"She said you should miss this return," John replied.
Like little brothers everywhere, Patrick didn't listen. But John won the point anyway -- in much the same way he has finished so many others -- with a crisp forehand volley to close out a 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory before a crowd of 7,258.
With it came singles title No. 77, a first-place check of $32,400 and a hug for the youngest of the McEnroe brothers.
"I'm glad that's over," Patrick sighed.
"Every emotion you can imagine is there, every single one," John said. "You're always worried about trying to win, yet you know it's your brother. You're proud of the way he's playing, and yet you don't want him to beat you."
Yesterday's match was the first time two brothers had met in a final in their homeland since Emilio Sanchez defeated younger brother Javier in Madrid in 1987. It was the first time that American brothers had played against each other for a singles championship since 1981, when Gene Mayer defeated Sandy in Stockholm.
The McEnroes had met once before, with John winning 6-1, 6-2 in a first-round match in 1985 at Stratton Mountain, Vt. Patrick was 19 then, an amateur still playing college tennis for Stanford. John was ranked No. 1 in the world.
It was a considerably different scenario for the rematch.
Yesterday was Patrick's first career singles final. And after his semifinal berth in the Australian Open in January, solid showings since then and his week in Chicago, his ranking will rise from 51st to approximately 45th, a career-high.
Against John, 32, the tournament's top seed, Patrick, 24, a hard-serving righthander, was accurate on 70 percent of his first serves. Patrick, seeded seventh, broke John's service in the first and deciding ninth game of the opening set and rebuffed four break points in the first set (12 of 16 in the match).
After losing the first set with three double-faults in the final game, John channeled his frustration into a highly productive second set, breaking Patrick in the first game and reeling off 16 straight points on his serve to take the set.
Like John, it was a day of mixed emotions for Patrick, who collected a runner-up check for $19,090.
"It was pretty tough. I can't really say I enjoyed it too much while it was going on. Hopefully, I can be happy about it in retrospect."
For John McEnroe Sr., it was an afternoon of proud smiles and little applause.