What I did on my winter-spring-summer vacation, by John McEnroe:
Settled in a new house. Played in the sand. Grew a beard. Discovered yoga. Found happiness. Watched the Lakers with Jack. Had a baby...well, Tatum did. Talked to the New York Daily News (three parts). Got married. The neighbors hated the curtains outside the church...we almost cared. Honeymooned in Vermont. It rained. Hit a few balls. Oh yeah, and saved American tennis from the next me, some weirdo teenager from Vegas with a peroxide rat's-nest haircut I haven't seen since I gave away my Cyndi Lauper albums. What is this sport coming to?
What tennis came down to last week was a showdown between McEnroe and Boris Becker, who won a bathed-in-animosity, soaked-in-dramatics, 10-8 third-set tiebreaker in the semifinals of the Volvo International at Stratton Mountain, Vt. You may have read about it in the mileposts section. Under "Already Legendary Classics." For that is what the match was, the combatants taking but a couple of days to build a nasty hate for each other and only a couple of hours to concoct a rivalry recalling the best of Borg-McEnroe.
"Brilliant...the greatest...a genius," Becker said of McEnroe early in the week. But that was before Becker was apprised of what McEnroe had said about him. Before the remarkable West German had shaken off four McEnroe match points in the tiebreaker, not to mention some ugly McShenanigans—the new and improved, mature and serene, warm and gracious husband and father still found the inspiration to shout "—— you" and "eat ——" at his 18-year-old opponent. And before Becker gutted out the gripping, rain-interrupted match by the score of 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 on the second of his own match points.
Then Becker elaborated. "I never said McEnroe was a great human being," boomed Boom Boom. "He is always talking, always thinking everybody is being bad to him and cheating him. Even though he's been off six months, he's still the same guy, which is sad."
Out of the mouths of babes....
Equally sad were two events that took place before McEnroe even played his first match in Stratton. No sooner did the Mac clan announce a pretournament press conference than Mac Junior stiffed the working stiffs and Mac Senior showed up instead. And no sooner did the prodigal son take the practice court than he swatted a ball into the body of a British photographer named Tommy Hindley, who had earlier camped out near Mac's condo.
McEnroe Senior's press conference may have been unprecedented for its nonsense quotient. The major news to emerge from the initial Stratton Mountain symposium came when he was asked if any celebrities were at his son's wedding, namely Johnny Carson. And he actually answered, "No, I don't know what your definition of celebrity is, but Mick Jones was there, who I understand is a member of the rock group Foreigner." Nobody ventured the obvious follow-up—did Poppa have a brand-new bag?—but one brave soul did inquire why none of the bride's family had attended. "Inappropriate question," snapped Senior.
To his own vast credit, if not for the good of the junk-food retailers of Malibu and New York, Junior diligently prepared for his comeback by remaking his body, theretofore a pasty, undefined, Sluggo kind of thing, which, combined with his magnificent natural athletic gifts, had nevertheless served him well enough to win three Wimbledons and four U.S. Opens. Last week he said he even used to pride himself on "the fact that I didn't work hard, that I was able to become Number One without doing the nutritional part, the stretching or working extra hard. I think people don't give me credit for what I have done, considering what I hadn't done. Now I want to take pride in doing that."
Right. Say goodnight, Gracie.