SI Vault
Edited by Robert Sullivan
July 28, 1986
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July 28, 1986


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Six months ago, after losing in the first round of the Nabisco Masters tournament, John McEnroe announced he was taking a sabbatical from tennis. Since then he has spent most of his time relaxing and exercising on the West Coast. On May 23 his girlfriend, Tatum O'Neal, gave birth to their first child, Kevin, and shortly thereafter McEnroe started preparing in earnest for his tennis comeback. He has recently been playing twice a day with his brother Patrick, his friend Vitas Gerulaitis and former touring pro Tony Palafox. And now he's apparently ready to return. McEnroe will play in public again this Thursday in an exhibition against Ivan Lendl in Los Angeles, and over the weekend in a charity event in Lake Tahoe. His official tournament reentry is scheduled for Aug. 4 at the Volvo International in Stratton Mountain, Vt., although there is a chance he may yet decide to play the Washington, D.C., Grand Prix tournament next week.

An interesting sidelight to all this is that McEnroe may have wanted to begin his comeback last weekend in the U.S.'s Davis Cup tie in Mexico City. "About a month ago I talked to John about it," says Tom Gorman, captain of the U.S. team. "He said he'd like to be part of the team, but he didn't feel ready to play singles. I told him Ken [Flach] and Robert [Seguso] had been our doubles team all of last year and in this year's first match down in Ecuador. I was committed to them in doubles." As it was, Flach and Seguso won to put the U.S. ahead against Mexico 2-1 after Brad Gilbert had won his first singles match. Tim Mayotte added the crucial point with a five-set victory on Sunday, and the U.S. went on to win the quarterfinal tie 4-1.

America's semifinal tie in October will be in Australia, probably on grass. McEnroe would be the obvious choice to play first singles Down Under. The candidates for second singles would include fast-court specialists Mayotte, Gilbert, 1985 Wimbledon finalist Kevin Curren, and Johan Kriek, twice Australian Open champion. Curren and Kriek are both U.S. citizens who were born in South Africa, and since neither has played Davis Cup for his native land, they are eligible to play for the U.S.

But apparently you'll not soon see McEnroe as a teammate of either Curren or Kriek. Arthur Ashe, Gorman's predecessor as U.S. captain, says McEnroe recently told him he would never again play Davis Cup if either of the South African emigrants were invited to join the U.S. squad. McEnroe could not be reached for comment, but his father, John McEnroe Sr., concedes that John "may feel that way."

In the past, McEnroe has consistently taken a strong stand against apartheid. In an interview in the January issue of World Tennis magazine, he told senior editor Kim Cunningham that, as a matter of principle, he had turned down $1 million to play an exhibition in South Africa. But does McEnroe's opposition to Curren and Kriek constitute the same kind of statement? The players are Americans now—just as U.S. Federation Cup team member and former Czechoslovakian Martina Navratilova is an American—and they aren't identified in any official way with the policies of their former country. As Gorman puts it, "They have become U.S. citizens, so they have every right to be considered for the team."


Soviet sportspeak is sometimes unfathomable, sometimes entertaining and sometimes both, as examples from the Goodwill Games prove. Pravda, the Communist party daily, criticized Washington Post writer John Feinstein for an article that contained comments critical of pole vaulter Sergei Bubka by characterizing Feinstein as "unoriginal...dull, roundish" and saying he "weaves the long-lost breath of the Cold War." Feinstein countered, "Dull and unoriginal, maybe, but roundish is hitting above the belt."

Then Soviet officials explained why procedures at Goodwill track competitions were sometimes looser than at other major international meets. A spokesman said that since the games were being staged "in an atmosphere of goodwill and cooperation, we decided to violate some of the rules."


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