If only Derrick Rostagno could play John McEnroe every week. Perhaps then Rostagno would consistently produce the brand of tennis he seems to reserve solely for his duels with McEnroe, replete with serves, returns and volleys that last night tormented the once-invincible champion yet again.
For reasons even he can't explain, when McEnroe is on the opposite side of the net Rostagno, ranked 113th, suddenly becomes the player many thought he'd be by now -- even better than the player who came within a net cord of ousting eventual champion Boris Becker in the first round of last year's U.S. Open. Last night, Rostagno continued to make up for that missed opportunity at McEnroe's expense, vanquishing the three-time Wimbledon and four-time U.S. Open champion, 6-3, 1-6, 6-1, in the third round of the Sovran Bank Classic.
"I don't know," said Rostagno when asked to analyze his success against McEnroe. "I don't exactly know what is the determining factor for when I play well."
Aside from a second-set collapse during which McEnroe reeled off five straight games, Rostagno, 24, was brilliant in the first set and even stronger in the third. He scored early service breaks in each of the sets he won, suffocating his opponent with penetrating serves and aggressive volleys, again providing a stumbling block in McEnroe's latest comeback attempt. Last month, in the first round at Wimbledon, Rostagno had even less of a struggle with McEnroe, winning, 7-5, 6-4, 6-4.
"I didn't lose it, he just played better," McEnroe said. "He played as well as he can play.
"He's the type of player who plays better against the good guys and worse against the bad guys. He'll probably lose tommorow."
Rostagno doesn't plan on it -- "I think he's wrong," Rostagno said when told of McEnroe's comment -- but the Los Angeles native has a history of inconsistency. He meets sixth-seeded Jim Grabb in today's quarterfinals, with a chance at his first semifinal berth of the year.
"I think it has a lot to do with just concentrating," Rostagno said. "When I concentrate, I have full confidence I can play any given match well."
It was a sweet moment for Rostagno, who Tuesday was informed that McEnroe said he would "kick his ass" if McEnroe played well.
"Perhaps that made me feel less sorry for him when he lost," said Rostagno, who was somewhat sympathetic after defeating McEnroe at Wimbledon. "I had no remorse" this time.