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1999 Wimbledon

Mac is back

Graf, McEnroe roll in doubles action

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Posted: Friday June 25, 1999 05:17 PM

  Steffi Graf and doubles partner John McEnroe exchange a kiss at the end of their mixed doubles match on Court No. 1. AP

LONDON (Reuters) -- "Bad Boy" John McEnroe returned to a standing ovation at Wimbledon and boasted "I'm not totally extinct yet."

He partnered with Steffi Graf in the mixed doubles on Friday and it was one long love-in during their 6-2, 6-4 first round win over Czech Eva Melicharova and South African Jeff Coetzee.

"I felt so nervous coming out. I was kind of proud to play with you," Graf told her partner afterwards.

"Me too," replied the 40-year-old McEnroe, back playing at Wimbledon for the first time since 1992.

McEnroe, cheered to the rafters every time he struck the ball, said: "It was meant to be. I could not have picked a better partner. Onward and upward.'

The pair sheepishly admitted to having an uncontrollable giggling fit at the start of the match over Melicharova's unorthodox serving style.

"It needs a bit of work," said McEnroe, now more used to the television commentary box than being on court.

There were no McEnroe cries of "You cannot be serious." The elder statesman of tennis was on his best behavior, even blowing kisses to the adoring crowd on Court No. 1.

The pair, two of the most experienced players in the world, confessed to being very nervous after all the hype surrounding their decision to pair up for Wimbledon. The media dubbed them "Team McEnGraf."

McEnroe, three times a singles champion at Wimbledon, jokingly slammed his racket on the ground when Graf missed her first volley. She did the same when McEnroe missed. But dominance was soon established by the wily duo.

"I do believe we have a chance to win it," said McEnroe, the competitive fires still burning bright even if the hair is gray and receding fast.

Graf was thrilled to be competing alongside her childhood hero: "I have always admired the way he has played. He is the one player I watched when I was growing up. It's always been a wish of mine to play with him."

Graf, at 30, is favorite to land her eighth singles title at Wimbledon. She is fresh from an epic triumph over 18-year-old Martina Hingis in the French Open final when the Swiss world number one stormed off court in petulant fury.

Graf's next opponent at Wimbledon is 16-year-old qualifier Kim Clijsters and McEnroe joked: "Steffi is going to destroy another teenager. See, it's nice to be 30."

 
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