For daddy McEnroe, serving at love has new meaning

July 18, 1991|By Sandra McKee

WASHINGTON -- Everyone knows John McEnroe, the man with the temper. The man with the ego.

Everyone knows McEnroe. The man who screams at fans, embarrasses linesmen and curses umpires.

Everyone knows him.

Or do they?

His temper still can get him in trouble. It cost him $10,000 in fines at Wimbledon earlier this month. It was a fine he considered appealing, but decided not to, when he learned the money would go to charity.

The self-portrait McEnroe painted last night was of a gentle, caring father, who finds it difficult to stop playing with his children to compete on the tennis court.

"My preparation is sometimes lax," he said after holding off Brian Garrow, 6-3, 7-5, for a second-round victory in the Sovran Bank Classic. "I find myself lying around playing with my kids and all of a sudden, it's 'I have to go play a match.' Sometimes the focus isn't as sharp as I'd like."

The tournament continues today with the round of 16 with all 10 remaining seeds in action.

Tonight's first feature match is McEnroe against Luis Herrera at 7, followed by Andre Agassi against Chuck Adams in the nightcap.

Herrera advanced by knocking out Jim Grabb, last year's Sovran runner-up, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Adams defeated 15th seed Patrick Baur, 6-4, 6-4.

McEnroe and his family have been here since Monday, just adjusting to the city heat. It used to be when he rolled into town, he'd prepare for a match by lying around watching soap operas, "a game plan with which I had a lot of success," he said, smiling.

Now it's museums with wife Tatum and children Kevin, 5, Sean, 3, and Emily, 2 months.

"It is quite addicting having children," he said. "I find I have to make a big effort not to just float along as if everything is going right and everything is going well."

It is hard to break away from his family and from his tennis.

He is 32 years old and 17th in the world, but he has never won the Sovran Bank Classic.

"I'd love to win a tournament in Washington before I retire," he said. "I'd like to do well here, before I'm finished with the game."

Since dropping out of the Top 20 last August, McEnroe has managed to crack the Top 10 only once.

He leaves no doubt it is getting harder to stay where he is. After last night's 1 1/2 -hour match, he needed to stretch, get a massage, a hot shower and electric shock treatment on his left ankle.

"It's simply a sign of the aging process," he said. "I've been lucky. I haven't had any big, lingering injuries. But if I want to feel well and be in good shape to play tomorrow [today], then I have to do those things.

"Mentally, as I've said, I don't get ready as well as I used to."

Last night, his serve was off from the beginning, with only 34 percent of his first serves connecting.

In the second set, his concentration lapsed. At 5-3 he had three match points on his own serve, but allowed Garrow to break him.

"There is no other word I know to describe it other than to say I choked a little," McEnroe said. "I got a little careless. I missed my first serves and I didn't follow through on my backhand. It could have been a nightmare, but I finally put it away . . . It's frustrating when you're not doing the things you know you should be doing."

And he knows there is little reason for it. Although his children are distracting, his wife -- who was a star in her own right as actress Tatum O'Neal -- has gone out of her way to make life easy for him.

"Ever since we've been together, she's made the sacrifices to allow me to work on my career," he said. "I believe an adult should be there with the children all the time and my wife has been great, not working on her career. I am truly sorry I haven't taken more advantage of that, because it has been a sacrifice made for me."

The man with the temper looked so serious.

"I'd like to say in three years I can reverse our roles," he said. "I'd

like to say yes, I can do that. I hope I can."


Three more seeds were ousted yesterday. In addition to No. 15 Baur, No. 9 Peter Lundgren was beaten 1-6, 6-2, 6-4 by qualifier Johan Carlsson and No. 14 Scott Davis was upset by qualifier Grant Stafford, 5-7, 7-5, 6-0.

In the last match of the evening No. 3 seed Brad Gilbert beat qualifier John Sullivan, 4-6, 6-2, 6-2.

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