With vigilantismbeing all the rage in New York City, it was only natural that John McEnroewould take the Grand Prix Masters into his own hands and save tennis from thatfearful gang of blue-eyed baseliners threatening to take over the sport. SwedeI. Blam! Swede II. Blam! A Czech? How'd he get in there? Beat a Swede? Oh.Blam, blam!
Forget IvanLendl—McEnroe presumably already has after beating him 7-5, 6-0, 6-4 in thefinal on Sunday for his sixth victory over Lendl in their last seven meetings.Excepting his dramatic collapse against Lendl in the French Open last summer,McEnroe has now won 18 of their last 19 sets. This Masters, however, shouldbetter be recalled as the week an avenging Johnny Mac—"RememberG√∂teborg!" was obviously etched into his brain—turned into Swedebuster.
The multitude ofSwedish players swarming about the premises served only as a reminder of thehumiliation they inflicted upon the U.S. Davis Cup team last month in thatcity. Why even the tournament sponsor, Volvo, is Swedish, as is the Masterstrophy, a striking crystal creation of Kosta Boda, the world-famous glassmaker.At times in New York it seemed as if the only Swedish players who weren't inthe 12-man draw were Bjorn Borg, Kosta and Boda.
In fact, just fouryoung fellows from the land of the midnight topspin were at the Garden: MatsWilander, 20, and Henrik Sundstrom, 20, who in G√∂teborg whipped Connors andMcEnroe, respectively; Anders Jarryd, 23, who partnered Stefan Edberg, 18, inthe Cup-clinching doubles win over McEnroe and Peter Fleming; and JoakimNystrom, 21, a towheaded non-team member from Skelleftea, which is only 125miles below the Arctic Circle and only 25 degrees below zero. The only reasonEdberg, who could be the most talented of them all, failed to qualify for thetropics was that Wilander knocked him out of the points race in the AustralianOpen.
January 21, 1985
If the Masterssignified the arrival of the Swedish Armada, it also marked the first realDavis Cup confrontation of 1985: U.S. vs. U.S. To refresh the memories, ofthose whose holiday appetites may have been spoiled by the pitiable andgraceless performance of the motley American crew in its 4-1 loss in Sweden:McEnroe complained about everything from the dates of the tie to the buildingand the court, and Connors topped/bottomed most previous lunacies perpetratedby himself and even McEnroe in his abuse of anything that breathed. He waspenalized, fined $2,000 and nearly disqualified.
McEnroe and U.S.team captain Arthur Ashe by now can barely stomach each other—"You talk tome only if I talk to you first," Mac had been heard to tell Ashe on courtduring a previous Cup match—and in Sweden the Ashe-Connors relationship,alternately tenuous and stormy in the past, broke apart completely. On oneoccasion, when a mix-up in communications caused Ashe and Jimmy Arias, who losta meaningless match to Sundstrom, to keep Connors waiting at G√∂teborg'sScandinavium Stadium for nearly an hour, Jimbo wrote —— OFF, ARTIE with hisracket in the clay. Then he left in a huff. As for how McEnroe and Connors feelabout each other, only a sadist would invite them to the same country—unlessthe price was right.
The upshot of allthis was a letter written on Dec. 21 to the U.S. Tennis Association from HarryMerlo, CEO of Louisiana-Pacific, which sponsors the U.S. squad. In his missiveMerlo demanded "civil behavior" from U.S. team members. "We failbadly when it comes to living up to minimum behavior standards on thecourt," he wrote. "Abusive language, gestures...abuse of rackets, ballsand courtside accessories.... All such irresponsible and immature behaviorshould not be tolerated." Merlo threatened to withdraw support unless"constructive changes" were effected, including a "code ofconduct," which he suggested should include a dress code. (Mediasuggestion: white coats with lots of snaps and locks, lead boots and rep tieswith removable soap, the easier to wash out everybody's mouth.)
While Connorscould care less about the team aspects of the Davis Cup—his agent, theubiquitous Donald Dell, had persuaded Jimbo to join the Cup squad to boost his"image"—McEnroe has been feasting off his "superpatriot"reputation for a long time. Nonetheless, Mac's showing up in Sweden four daysbefore the tie to practice on the dread clay after a six-week layoff wasn'texactly tantamount to a commitment in stone. On the other hand, why should anyred-blooded American lad be expected to go off slaving amid the northern lightswhen waiting at home all cozy and cuddled up in mousse-infested locksis...yes!...Ta...turn...O...Neal. Alas, fans, all those unimpeachable sourceswere correct all along because it was right there in the New York Post as wellas in living ocher and chartreuse, these being the approximate colors ofTatum's hair and scarf, respectively, at the Masters.
"What does shedo, shampoo in taco sauce?" inquired one obviously insanely Connors' anticswere not noticeably balanced jealous former suitor. Well, Tatum just showed upone night and marched in, squired by Mac's new beard, none other than Ahmad("Back to you, Bob Costas, or do I go long?") Rashad, and inspiring thevery vision of a Cyndi Lauper gone straight. Those Little Darlings, Mac andTate, have already begun sharing heart, soul and West Side triplex apartment,resulting in the previously unthinkable: Johnny Mac may be the futurestepsonin-commonlaworsomething of...Farrah...Fawcett.
All seriousnessaside, circuit insiders report that during his 21-day suspension from the gamebefore G√òteborg, McEnroe forgot all about tennis and discovered Show Biz. Dateswith Alana Stewart, Rod's ex. Parties with Randy Newman. Their conversationallegedly went: McEnroe: "How much did you make from I Love L.A.?"Newman: "About $150,000." McEnroe: "What? I don't get out of bedfor $150,000!" Then, a meeting with the Bad News Bear herself.
Wherever his mindand body might have been beforehand—and both were in deep cotton in New York,when McEnroe was trailing by a set, 3-0, ad-out before pulling out a 2-6, 6-4,6-2 win in his opening match against Jarryd—the champion rescued himselfinitially on will alone, and then on his overwhelming talent. The less saidabout Junior's 6-1, 6-1 switchblade job on a shockingly off-form Wilander inthe semis the better, but at least one could admire McEnroe's exquisiteshotmaking and control.
It was difficultto cheer for either of the other semifinal combatants, Lendl and Connors, sonasty their demeanor, so flagrantly spiteful their attitude toward each other.On set point in the first, Lendl smashed a sitter, which barely misseddecapitating Jimbo. The victim recovered to give his foe the finger, a familiarstaple in the Connors repertoire. Then Jimbo gave Lendl the match, 7-5, 6-7,7-5, blowing a 5-2 lead in the third set while hitting shots he confessed were"abortionated."
"You hatelosing; you triple [the hate] if you play someone who treats youunsportsmanlike," Lendl said in the interview room. "I think he gottired."
"I didn'tget——tired, you——," Connors snarled, waiting outside. When Lendl passed himon the way out, Jimbo wheeled behind Lendl's back and gave his buddy anotherferocious finger.
But forget allthat miserable, discordant offstage rigmarole from the over-the-hills and thealso-rans. Tennis has got itself a revived, improved, star-turning celebritychampion again. Smiling and laughing. Happy and in loooove. Hey, anyway, it'sonly a Paper Moon.