McEnroe's unofficial retirement begins Ivanisevic ends tourney career

December 11, 1992|By New York Times News Service

MUNICH, Germany -- There was no fireworks display, literall or figuratively, nor any rock music, dry ice or smarmy testimonials. In what may very well have been his final appearance on the professional tennis circuit, John McEnroe exited yesterday pretty much the way he made his entrance 15 years and 77 titles ago -- with the light tread of a cat, bearing the artistic but slightly underpowered game that carried him to the pinnacle of his sport.

McEnroe, 33, was ushered out of the Grand Slam Cup by Goran Ivanisevic of Croatia, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2. Ivanisevic's thunderous serves provided the only background music, although a questionable line call against McEnroe while he led, 6-3, 3-3, 0-30, helped turn the tide for Ivanisevic.

"I will be around; it's not like I'm going to fall off the face of the earth now," a subdued McEnroe said afterward.

"But I don't think you will see me playing tournaments anymore. I had some good wins this year and I proved what I wanted, that I could still beat some top players. But it was also evident that I couldn't do that consistently or win the big titles anymore. So I don't really see where it could go from here."

At the same time, McEnroe reiterated that he would be loath to permanently limit his options by making an "official" announcement of retirement. He said he hoped to stay in shape and participate in exhibitions, preferably with other marquee names. And he will remain a viable choice for duty in the event that has increasingly captivated him in the autumn of his career, the Davis Cup.

"This last Davis Cup experience was the greatest one that I've ever been part of," McEnroe said of the United States' 3-1 victory over Switzerland last week in the 1992 final in Fort Worth, Texas.

JTC In the pivotal match in the final, McEnroe and Pete Sampras rallied from two sets down to win a doubles victory for the United States.

"For me, the greatest thing about Davis Cup is being able to play as a team, and this last group of guys was the best team I was ever on," McEnroe said.

McEnroe has maintained since the beginning of the year that he probably would leave the tournament scene at the end of 1992. And when the moment appeared to arrive yesterday, it came far from partisan home crowds in the United States and at a time when McEnroe is troubled by his estrangement from his wife, actress Tatum O'Neal.

"I actually felt more and more comfortable with my decision as the year went on," McEnroe said of his departure. "But at the same time, it is very difficult to give up something you've done for 25 years. I played pretty well, but a combination of mental and physical things wore me down. It's tough, but I feel I can leave with my head held high."

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