A story in yesterday's editions misidentified Mark McEnroe, brother of tennis players John and Patrick. He is the middle brother of the three. (Published 2/15/91)
PHILADELPHIA, FEB. 13 -- For tennis player Patrick McEnroe, reality probably lies somewhere between Melbourne and the southeastern corner of Pennsylvania. First there was his dream appearance last month in the semifinals of the Australian Open, where the 24-year-old Stanford graduate -- ranked 120th at the time -- lost in four sets to eventual winner Boris Becker.
Then there was the nightmare of today, when McEnroe, seeded in singles for the first time, was shellacked, 6-0, 6-3, by up-and-coming MaliVai Washington in the second round of the U.S. Pro Indoor Championships at The Spectrum.
The blue-eyed, blond right-hander, whose relatively angelic temperament distinguishes him from his more famous and more tempestuous older brother, John, had no trouble finding meaning in the roller-coaster events of the last month.
"Obviously it was a nice wake-up call," he said of today's lackluster performance as the 16th seed.
At least for the moment, his delirious start to 1991 is over. So is his momentary eclipse of his brother, who was disqualified from the Australian Open last year for misconduct and has never made it past the semifinals there himself.
Now Patrick, a quick-witted and easy-going sort who majored in political science in college, must convince the tennis world that his impressive play in Australia was no fluke, but rather the result of 18 months of very hard work.
Australia "was a great step for me. It did tell me that a lot of hard work is beginning to pay off," he said.
This statement is delivered with the equanimity of someone who has accepted that, even with his fierce two-handed backhand and much-improved serve, he likely will never be as fast, as quick, or as powerful as his brother.
For most of his life, Patrick has been compared with John, who became one of the top tennis players in history when Patrick was barely in his teens.
"It clearly was a help to him that his name was McEnroe, but at the same time it was a certain problem in that he got a great deal of attention that he would not have gotten if his name wasn't McEnroe," said his father, John Sr., an attorney in New York.
"He was regularly asked to be interviewed by newspapers, magazines and TV people. He became quite aware that it was not because he was Patrick McEnroe, but because he was John McEnroe's brother."
Arthur Ashe, the former tennis champion and now a television commentator, said, "Lots of people in the same situation would have cracked under the pressure." By contrast, Ashe said, "Patrick has not tried to step out of his brother's shadow nor tried to take advantage of his brother's success."
In fact, Patrick seems quite appreciative of John, and by all accounts, the reverse also is true. They often practice together on the tour, and John, seeded fourth this week, was so excited when Patrick won the first set against Becker in Australia that he called their father in the middle of the night to tell him the score.
For his part, Patrick simply seems to have an unusually accommodating personality. Oldest brother Mark, also a New York attorney, said Patrick "is more even keel than John or me or my father."
Patrick says he was conditioned as a youngster to avoid outbursts that would inevitably draw comparisons to John. "I remember my dad telling me millions of times, 'You're going to be watched more closely than anyone else.' "
Whatever Patrick lacked in athletic ability, he made up for with a deeply ingrained notion about the value of hard work. His father says Patrick played tennis because he loved it, not to follow in John's footsteps. Stanford teammate and frequent doubles partner Jim Grabb put it this way: "He doesn't possess all the great physical tools . . . but he is always there giving a hundred percent."
Although a talented junior and collegiate player, Patrick was so unsure about whether to become a professional that he took the law school board exams the day after graduating from Stanford.
"I always said I'm just going to do my thing in school and do my thing in tennis and see what happens," he said.
His decision to turn pro resulted partly from his brother's prodding, but also from a realization that a young man could do worse than spend a few years traveling around the world.
Although he has trained hard for 18 months -- including conditioning with John and former speedskating champion Eric Heiden in Hawaii over Christmas -- he knows that a professional tennis career is probably not a long-term proposition.
That he is now ranked 55th -- and 14th in doubles -- is a nice bonus to what seems to be an otherwise pretty satisfying life.
"It's nice to be recognized for accomplishing something on my own instead of being John's brother," he said. "It's nice to have my own spotlight for the time being."
It also has delighted those who have watched Patrick grow over the years.
"I'm not surprised that his star is beginning to rise now because he has such a strong work ethic," says Andy Geiger, the former athletic director at Stanford who is now at the University of Maryland. "His sense of humor and his temperament have enabled him to overcome all of the big brother syndrome."
Stanford Coach Dick Gould remembers Patrick as the consummate team player, and thinks he deserves more glory for his hard work. He refuses to compare John, who left Stanford after one year to turn pro, and Patrick, who was captain of the team his senior year.
"Patrick is finally emerging as his own person," said Gould. "Let's let him have it."