Love him or hate him, John McEnroe will be inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame today in Newport, R.I.
An iconoclast who combined brilliant play with boorish behavior, McEnroe clashed with the authorities of tennis. He argued line calls and slammed his racket.
Along with a temper, McEnroe had talent.
"You couldn't ask for a better partner," said Peter Fleming, who combined with McEnroe to win seven Grand Slam doubles titles. "There were several times that we disagreed, but as a whole he was a great team player.
"They say the reason Larry Bird, Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan were so great is that they made the players around them better. John was like that."
McEnroe burst on to the tennis scene at the 1977 French Open, winning the mixed doubles with Mary Carillo as an amateur.
By 1980, at 21, he became the youngest player to achieve the world's No. 1 ranking.
During his career, the left-hander won 77 singles titles, 77 doubles titles, seven Grand Slam singles titles and 10 Grand Slam doubles titles. He was the world's No. 1 player from 1981 to 1984.
"I'm not the biggest. I'm not the strongest. I'm not the fastest," McEnroe said when chosen for the Hall earlier this year. "The effort and intensity and understanding of technique and doing something adventurous--that's what I'd like to be remembered for."
For all the wins, including a stellar Davis Cup career, McEnroe's most memorable match was his epic five-set loss to Bjorn Borg of Sweden in the 1980 Wimbledon final. Even McEnroe lists the match as his proudest moment.
"It showed me, but it also showed a lot of other tennis players, that even in losing, you can elevate your status," he said.
That match, along with his court flair and tantrums, elevated his worldwide popularity.
Joining McEnroe will be Ken McGregor, the Australian Davis Cup star who also was part of the only duo to win a men's doubles Grand Slam. He won that Grand Slam with Hall of Famer Frank Sedgman in 1951 and narrowly missed a repeat in 1952. . . .
After announcing she had played her last French Open and last Wimbledon, five-time champion Steffi Graf has entered the U.S. Open. Her name was included in a list of entries submitted by the WTA Tour to the U.S. Tennis Association, which will run the Open Aug. 30-Sept. 13.
Track and Field
Long Haul to Hall
Billy Mills, the surprise winner of the 10,000 meters at the 1964 Olympics, and Francie Larrieu Smith, a five-time Olympian, head a class of four to be inducted into the National Distance Running Hall of Fame today in Utica, N.Y.
Joining them will be running pioneer Nina Kuscsik, the first women's winner of the Boston Marathon, and Johnny Kelley, 91, a two-time winner of the Boston Marathon. . . .
French Olympic champion Marie-Jose Perec plans to return to the track at a meet Friday in Salamanca, Spain, after missing two years with injuries and illness.
Perec, 31, who won the 200- and 400-meter races at the 1996 Olympics, will compete in the 400.
Perec has been sidelined since suffering an injury in August 1997 and contracting viral mononucleosis, the treatment of which caused her to put on 44 pounds.
Asian delegates walked out of a FIFA meeting in Los Angeles to protest the number of berths awarded Asia for the 2002 World Cup, which will be played in South Korea and Japan. The Asian Football Confederation and its members are upset their demand for a fifth guaranteed place in the finals has not been met. . . . Two Mexican players tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and were expelled from the Copa America tournament by the governing body of South American soccer. Routine testing showed traces of anabolic steroids in the urine of Paulo Cesar Chavez and Rodrigo Lara after Mexico's 2-1 loss to Brazil in the first round.
Thirteen trainers at Delta Downs whose quarter horses tested positive for a banned substance were suspended and fined by the Louisiana State Racing Commission.
Kenneth Register, whose past violations included two instances of horses he trained testing positive for morphine, was suspended for 15 years and fined $5,000.
Ten trainers surrendered the right to appeal Thursday in exchange for lighter penalties.
CAPTION: John McEnroe and Steffi Graf, doubles partners at Wimbledon, are in news for entries: McEnroe into the sport's Hall of Fame, Graf into the U.S. Open.