Thus comeback No. 3. "Even if I don't become Number 1 again, I'll get a lot of positive things out of it, not only on the court but off," McEnroe said last week. "I realize deep down that it's a long shot but also that I can do it. If I don't, at least I'll be able to go out on my own terms."
In fact, McEnroe has an acute sense of history and what his place in it may be. He doesn't believe Lendl really supplanted him as No. 1 in 1985 or that Lendl has advanced the game, as McEnroe did when he overtook and built upon Bjorn Borg. "It was as much me losing it myself as it was him taking it away from me," says Mac.
Worse is the specter of Ilie Nastase, who McEnroe knows is remembered more as a clown than as a great player. "I hope people will spend more time focusing on the records and what I've accomplished," McEnroe says. "But if I went out the way it was, there'd be more focusing on the other stuff."
His play at the French suddenly put "the other stuff' and "that whole business" and "the way it was" in the background. With the shorter points on grass more suited to McEnroe's still-suspect stamina, he'll go into his first Wimbledon in two years with confidence.
"He played as well as I've seen him since '85," said Wilander of McEnroe's play against Lendl. "He was taking the ball early, taking chances and looking confident. When the calls went against him, he kept his cool. He would have beaten Lendl on any other surface."
Exactly what beating Lendl means right now has been called into question. The world's No. 1 player is now 0 for 2 in this year's Grand Slam events. Perhaps a multimillion-dollar suit-counter-suit imbroglio with his old management representative, ProServ, has something to do with his lack of success. In his quarterfinal loss in Paris to unseeded Jonas Svensson of Sweden. Lendl was leading 5-3 in the first set when striking aircraft engineers began chanting, singing and sounding claxons outside the stadium. Lendl promptly lost his serve, and then in the second set strained a pectoral muscle. After his 7-6, 7-5, 6-2 victory, Svensson asked about the racket.
"A demonstration." someone said.
"Against...me?" said Svensson, taking self-effacement to its limit.
Actually, it was Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova—"queens in distress," as Le Figaro called them—who found their palaces being stormed. Each lost in straight sets—Evert in the third round to 16-year-old Arantxa Sanchez of Spain and Navratilova in the fourth round to Natalia Zvereva, 17, of the Soviet Union. By the semifinals the women's draw looked like a seating chart at a pajama party—Gabriela Sabatini, unseeded Nicole Provis of Australia, Zvereva and Graf average 18 years, one month—and caused Graf to mock-lament about being over the hill.
Graf's 6-0, 6-0 skunking of Zvereva in the final showed the difference between an 18-year-old playing her sixth French and a 17-year-old her second. Zvereva won but 13 points and kept Graf busy for 32 minutes—less time than Graf took to make her way to the press conference. Afterward Graf apologized for the ruthlessness of it all, and Zvereva—from Russia, with love and love—cried. Clearly, Evert and Navratilova have had their reigns prolonged because the Lost Generation—Tracy Austin and Andrea Jaeger—has flamed out. Enter Graf and Sabatini, who was Graf's semifinal victim but who has won two of their three matches this year. Said ladies' tennis couturier-curator Ted Tinling, "This tournament was a watershed."