McEnroe happily gives U.S. 2-0 Davis Cup lead

June 15, 1991|By Richard Finn | Richard Finn,Special to The Sun

NEWPORT, R.I. -- John McEnroe hasn't done everything by the book through his tempestuous career.

He has cursed officials, lambasted hallowed Wimbledon, been thrown out of the 1990 Australian Open and been defaulted before playing a doubles match at the 1986 U.S. Open.

But yesterday, in lobbing distance of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, where a spot virtually is reserved for him, McEnroe, 32, put on a textbook clinic of grass-court tennis. He defeated Spaniard Tomas Carbonell, 6-3, 6-2, 6-1, to wrap up an opening day of runaway victories for the defending champion U.S. Davis Cup team.

"It was fun," said McEnroe of his 40th career Davis Cup singles victory. "Once I got loose, I started to get in a feel of what I wanted to do on grass."

McEnroe's mowing down of Carbonell on the Hall of Fame's quaint, antiquated stadium grass court was matched by Brad Gilbert's 6-4, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Spain's top player, Emilio Sanchez, to provide the United States with a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five match quarterfinal.

The unbeaten Davis Cup doubles team of Rick Leach and Jim Pugh, the current Wimbledon champions, seeks to wrap up the series today against Sanchez and Sergio Casal. A victory would send the U.S. team against powerhouse Germany and Boris Becker on Sept. 20-22.

"Leach and Pugh, I think, should win this match, but it will present a closer score," said McEnroe.

Combining imagination with the same shot variety he had used to win three Wimbledon crowns and four U.S. Open titles, McEnroe wowed the crowd and overwhelmed his foe. McEnroe flicked passing shots winners off both flanks, punched away volleys with authority, floated lobs inches inside the baseline and kissed touch volleys off his strings.

He moved effortlessly around the court, punctuated by a perfectly struck backhand winner on the run followed by a leap over the courtside chairs of the Spanish team in the second game of the final set.

"You don't have to hit with as much pace on grass," McEnroe said. On the returns, you cut down your backswing and just meet the ball. The timing is different, and so is the knowledge of how the ball bounces."

All of this was lost on Carbonell in a losing Davis Cup debut.

"I was trying to do my best, but he was just too good," Carbonell said. "He hit his first volley so good that he always put me in trouble."

The holder of five U.S. Davis Cup playing records, McEnroe always has flowered in his patriotic duty. He pumped his fist and admonished himself to play even harder, despite the lopsided score.

"It is a special feeling to play Davis Cup anywhere, and I'm glad to be back on the team," said McEnroe, who had been passed over for younger stars Andre Agassi, Michael Chang and Jim Courier in the past two years. "It's great to be playing Davis Cup again."

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