John McEnroe returned to Winbledon's Centre Court today and those who expected that the wild child would, in Shakespeare's words, "exit, followed by a bear," were disappointed.
The English, more sporting than vindictive, greeted him with almost 99 percent applause despite his tantrums Monday when he insulted and cursed an umpire and the head referee.
McEnroe, who was fined $1,500 Tuesday and warned that any further outburst could cost him as much as $10,000 and a suspension (from future tournaments, not this one), was on his model behavior. Even the player dubbed Superbrat here may have been chastened by what -- depending on rather ambiguous definitions -- may have been the first fine ever administered specifically by the committee of the All England Club.
While McEnroe was silent and unprovocative today, his doubles partner and buddy, Peter Fleming, was, as if by prearrangement, raising McEnroe-like cain, then sounding off about it.
While McEnroe was winning a set (6-3) from Raul Ramirez, then discontinuing at 3-3 in the second set when rain came, Fleming was given a warning and docked a penalty point in his interrupted match with Tim Gullikson (one set apiece and 5-5 in the third).
"I don't know what the warning was for," Fleming said, "but the penalty point was for jumping up and down for joy when the guy finally got a close call right.
"What that official did today was just the kind of thing that led to John's problems. These guys sit up there and ignore you. You try to reason with them and they look at the sky or say, "Play on.' They might get better results if they treat us as intelligent human beings."
Fleming is now McEnroe's official aide de camp in his running battle of Britain. On Tuesday, the pair was pulled off the road and ticketed for speeding near the All England Club. Every imaginable rumor has flown since then about who was driving, who said what to whom, and whether English law would have any further charges to press against the American equivalent of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.