John McEnroe is beautiful. There. It's in cold type. Give the guy this: with a tennis racket in hand, he is beautiful. Today's work, which we'll get to, is evidence beyond question. Right here at the start, though, we have a late-breaking story from the newsroom.
Bulletin, bulletin. Attention, Mr. and Mrs. America and all the ships at sea. This is a news flash from Johan Kriek, sometimes known as Johan Creep, the famous tennis player who today lost to John McEnroe, sometimes known as John McEnrage. Extra, extra, read all about it, "Wimbledon Loves Dear John, Favors Him Over All Others."
For the first time in anyone's memory, it has been suggested that Wimbledon has a double standard of behavior which enables it to look the other way whenever McEnroe causes a ruckus.
Only last year, remember, the Wimbledon pooh-bahs twice penalized McEnroe a point for being a bad boy. They wouldn't ask him to join their club, as they have every other champion, and they didn't give him his trophies until last week. He also was fined $5,000.
But now comes Johan Kriek in the wake of his embarrassing loss to McEnroe today--winner of the first set and ahead, 4-2, in the third, he lost in four sets as McEnroe won 11 of the last 15 games--to tell us that the august All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club lets McEnroe get away with crimes for which lesser people, some named Johan, are chastised.
"I swear to myself under my breath, say 'damn' or 'hell,' and a linesman runs to the referee and complains," Kriek said. "But McEnroe slams balls into the net and nothing happens. It is just ridiculous. They cater for him. I asked for the referee when nothing happened after he hit the ball into the net at full speed. I was told that the ball had to be hit in anger.
"I said, 'Oh, he hit that with a smile?' The logic is gone there. There are double standards here."
Well, well. It happens. McEnroe even today was warned by the chair umpire for "abuse of equipment." McEnroe had committed the heinous crime of banging his racket against his chair. His sensibilities offended by the reprimand, McEnroe held the racket up for inspection by the umpire.
"Anything wrong with this racket?" asked McEnroe, whose father is a lawyer and may be responsible for passing along genes that encourage argument.
"Equipment does not have to be damaged, Mr. McEnroe, for there to be abuse," the umpire said.
At which point, McEnroe chose the course untraveled here last summer. He passed up a good fight. He has the right to be silent, and he at long last exercised it.
Coming into town two weeks ago, McEnroe said he wanted to avoid the travail of last summer. He had a brief flare-up in a doubles match when he argued a call for five minutes, causing the 2,000 spectators to slow-clap in European disgust. Otherwise, McEnroe has been a good guy by any standard for competitive athletes under pressure. A few oaths uttered aloud, a few balls struck in anger.
This time, tennis. "You can always find technical faults in McEnroe's game," said Vijay Amritraj, a second-tier pro respected for his judgments of the tour. "He's such a genius that he performs so well, but he always has a loose wrist, he doesn't bend for his volleys. You know, the perfect strokes in the game.
"I don't think McEnroe does it like that. That's why he's so great. He can just play any ball on the shoestrings or behind his back."
Tim Mayotte followed McEnroe to Stanford University and, like McEnroe, won the NCAA championship. Someone wondered how they compared. Mayotte, now 21, had won a fourth-round match here and with another victory would face McEnroe in a semifinal.
"I wouldn't . . . er, I couldn't . . . I mean, he's a great player," Mayotte said, embarrassed by the suggestion he should even think of comparing himself to a 23-year-old tennis genius who already has won three U.S. Opens, a Wimbledon and almost $4 million.
His victory over Brian Teacher now puts Mayotte against McEnroe. So someone asked if he would work on McEnroe's weaknesses.
"You know any?" he asked.
Forget Johan Kriek. He beat McEnroe last winter in an indoor tournament at Memphis. He thought he could do it here. He didn't have a prayer, even holding that 4-2 lead with a set each. McEnroe won the last four games of that set, then moved ahead, 4-3, in the fourth set.
At deuce on Kriek's serve, Kriek, who is very strong, ripped a backhand cross court to McEnroe's forehand corner.
Maybe Bjorn Borg is fast enough to have reached that roaring shot. McEnroe certainly is, because on the run he fetched a towering lob to Kriek's base line.
Kriek fired an overhead with first-serve velocity.
Somehow, and only the geniuses know how, McEnroe not only found a spot to intercept the flight of the ball, he also crushed a forehand return.
It wasn't over yet, for Kriek sent a backhand down the line to McEnroe's backhand corner. Following the shot in, Kriek was at the net awaiting McEnroe's feeble return.
Except that McEnroe made no feeble return.
Again on the run, with a flick of his wrist--a powerful snap of his wrist, really--he hit a top-spin backhand that flew past Kriek and bounced within an inch of the sideline.
As Kriek turned to see the ball eluding him, McEnroe bounced up and down, as if on a trampoline of perfection, and you knew right then that one of these fellows was a better player than the other.