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Spare a Match, Bro?
Lisa Twyman Bessone
March 11, 1991
John McEnroe overcame "every emotion you can imagine" to win a hard-fought final in Chicago over his kid brother Patrick
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March 11, 1991

Spare A Match, Bro?

John McEnroe overcame "every emotion you can imagine" to win a hard-fought final in Chicago over his kid brother Patrick

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Now Patrick has come into his own. In the last two months his ranking has jumped from 144 to 44. He was seeded seventh in Chicago and advanced to the finals by winning three of his four matches in final-set tiebreakers.

Perhaps the older brother has matured too. After his semifinal victory over Malivai Washington, John, the tournament's top seed and No. 19 in the world, joked about playing Patrick. "The older brother just cannot possibly lose to the younger brother," he said. "If I do, I can't show my face for about six months on the planet."

But then he continued, "I have to realize that I have a wonderful wife and two kids [not to mention a third due in May] and a beautiful home, and I've made more money and won more tournaments [than Patrick]. I have to keep telling myself these things so that I don't jump off the Empire State Building if I lose."

John and Patrick seldom pal around on the circuit even when they are playing the same tournament, and Sunday was no exception. The match was scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. "I didn't run into Patrick until 12:30," said John afterward. "I might have said something like 'Don't beat your older brother,' but we were taking our last-minute pees in the locker room."

When the two took to the court, Patrick neatly shorn and John sporting a red bandanna, they hugged over the net. Then, as Patrick turned and headed toward the baseline to begin warming up, John smacked his brother's behind.

Patrick broke serve in the first game and then held, and John began to unravel—sort of. He started to throw his racket in disgust but stopped himself. He glared at a linesman but made nary a peep. After he double-faulted three times at 4-5 to give Patrick the set, John slumped in his chair and buried his head in his towel.

The second set was very different. John won it with an impressive array of line-splitting serves, pinpoint returns and touch volleys. Patrick's only displays of emotion were nods to acknowledge his brother's aces. John would finish with 16.

When Patrick took a 2-0 lead in the third set, John again looked as if he were in trouble. But he reeled off four straight games en route to his 77th singles title. "I am absolutely glad that this is over," said John. "Every emotion you can imagine is there. You're worried about trying to win, but you know it's your brother. You're proud of the way he's playing, yet you don't want him to beat you."

Patrick said, "Obviously, I was trying hard to win each point. But it was weird. I never felt really comfortable or like I wanted this match so badly."

Does that mean that little brother would relish a rematch? Patrick is emphatic: "No."

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