What McEnroe also needed was a confidence-building victory over a solid opponent, somebody he respected, somebody like another former Wimbledon champ. And when he got it, in five sets over Pat Cash, the 1987 titlist, he didn't believe the match was merely a sentimental "legends" piece—a tennis version of Trevino beating Chi Chi on the Senior PGA Tour—but a sign that he could again be a contender. "A couple of these young guys could drop dead, somebody get struck by lightning, anything might happen, and I could get in there," he said.
Sure enough, McEnroe's draw opened up nicely when Andrei Olhovskiy, who was ranked somewhere in the top four thousand in Russia and hadn't won a match since January, upset top-seeded Jim Courier. Actually, McEnroe's most impressive victory was a 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 fourth-round dismantling of 16th-seeded David Wheaton, who reached the semifinals in 1991. Then came Olly, followed by ninth-seeded Guy Forget, both of whom McEnroe eliminated in straight sets as well.
Against Forget, Mac even vented Court One with some vintage verbal blasts in the midst of saving six set points. Otherwise he was properly subdued, squiring wife Tatum and son Kevin around the premises and acting respectfully toward the place that once seemed to him to be "the pits of the world." Twice he actually knelt on the greensward.
One would have thought Wimbledon's favorite son had suddenly become the old American rebel were it not for the shrieking from the multitudes of English schoolgirls who mobbed a young American rebel every time he hove his frosted locks into view. Once poles apart, McEnroe and Agassi are now friends and Davis Cup teammates. At Roland Garros they played doubles, reaching the quarterfinals, and in London they practiced together regularly.
"Mac told me I didn't have to serve and volley to win with my game," Agassi said. "He shortened my stroke, showed me how on the grass every point counts and the importance of staying in points. I don't know why, but I really like the guy."
"That's garbage," McEnroe said with a laugh. "These young guys always say how honored they are to play me, when what they really want to do is kick my ass."
Which is about what happened to him against Agassi, who won 6-4, 6-2, 6-3. Not since the salad days of Borg and Connors has a returner so punished McEnroe's southpaw sidewinders. "Andre's taken the return to another level," said McEnroe. Having practiced so much with Mac, Agassi was in a comfort zone against him. "But still," said McEnroe, "the guy's passing was incredible. The ball came back so fast, it threw my system off. My system was going crazy."
In light of Agassi's magnificent performances against McEnroe and Ivanisevic, surely he will be buoyed by a new respect from the public. What's more, though Agassi seldom mingles with other players, the manner in which Ivanisevic climbed over the net and embraced him spoke far more about Agassi's status on tour than his hot-stud, merchandise-mart persona. Becker has always held Agassi in the highest regard. McEnroe talked last week of how "inquisitive" and "very smart" he has become.
So, Andre, what was that postmatch embrace of Ivanisevic all about? "I thought Goran looked great in his shorts," Agassi said, back in his Vegas mode.
Get off it, Hairball. You were laughing. You were crying. You had hammered off all those labels of poseur and quitter and had sucked it up to win the grandest of Grand Slam tournaments, and Ivanisevic told you, "Listen, man, you tried so hard, you deserve it." So what was that like?