John McEnroe is still waiting for Masters singles at the U.S. Open. Right now, his only choice is doubles, and he wants no part of that.
McEnroe won 17 Grand Slam titles, including 10 in doubles, but the maestro at the net would prefer to go loudly into the Masters singles sunset.
"I'm still pushing for a singles event," said McEnroe, 46, a four-time singles Open winner. "Forget this hit-and-giggle doubles as far as I'm concerned. But I'm almost too old for that."
While McEnroe headed to the announcers booth at Arthur Ashe Stadium, Guillermo Vilas signed autographs, posed for pictures and held court after his doubles match under the lights.
Vilas, the 1977 U.S. Open champion, joined 35 other men and 16 women in Masters doubles in the second week of the Open, which also features juniors and the inaugural wheelchair tennis competition.
For a guy who won 62 ATP singles titles in his career, Vilas is a late bloomer to doubles. The 53-year-old Argentine playfully teamed with Hank Pfister, yelling "What are you doing?" when his partner dumped an overhead smash into the net early in the match.
A full Court 11 grandstand watched them lose to doubles specialist Brian Gottfried and Raul Ramirez, 6-3, 6-0. Some 28 years ago, Vilas beat Jimmy Connors in four sets to win the Open.
Vilas, who played doubles in his prime to improve his singles game, said he'd like to see more support for Masters and pro doubles.
Some 665,000 recreational players are members of the U.S. Tennis Association. With court time at a premium, many play doubles. But it's hard to find a doubles match, beyond a final, on TV.
"Most of the people that are watching tennis play doubles," he said. "I don't know why it's not supported more."
The Jensen brothers, Murphy (36) and Luke (39), are among the youngest Masters players entered, while Fred Stolle and Ilie Nastase top out the super seniors (over 55). On the women's side, there's 37-year-old Katrina Adams and 41-year-old Gigi Fernandez, a winner of 17 Grand Slam doubles titles.
The Jensens entertained the crowd during a 7-6 (7-5), 6-2 win over Brad Gilbert and Jeff Tarango on Thursday. The Jensens won the French Open doubles title in 1993 and parlayed that into a small franchise with their zany on-court antics.
"It's fun to give kids high fives," Luke Jensen said. "Dads can tell their kids, 'That's Luke Jensen, he serves with both hands.' My dad used to talk to me about Rod Laver and Pancho Segura. The beauty of sports is that it crosses all generations and genders."
But Hall of Famer Rosie Casals was forced to be a spectator this year. Casals, 56, won four U.S. Open doubles titles and 112 in her career. She teamed with Billie Jean King to win two Open titles, and they helped start the Virginia Slims tour in 1970.
"I'm a little (ticked) off because they didn't invite me," Casals said. "Even though I'm of an older generation, of course, I've had my day in the sun and all that. The older fellas that are older than I am are having a chance to compete. They're not giving the same opportunity to women."
The men are grouped in the over-35, over-45 and super seniors, while the women are all in the same pool.
The Open offers equal prize money for Masters men and women, but with 20 fewer women invited, there's an unequal opportunity to play. The winners share $20,000 and the runners-up $15,000, plus $1,000 for each win.
USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said it's possible the participation numbers could be evened out.
"That could easily be, as some folks recently retire, and perhaps envision it growing," he said.
Ten years ago, Open fans watched former Grand Slam winners King, Casals and Virginia Wade play Masters on the outer courts. Most members of the generation of Steffi Graf and Gabriela Sabatini haven't competed much after retirement.
"They come in, play 10 years and they're out," Casals said. "They're millionaires and they go on to other things."
Graf, a winner of 107 WTA singles titles and the mother of two with Andre Agassi, has rarely played since leaving the game in 1999. But she played in a World Team Tennis match last month, and the USTA would welcome her into the Masters field.
"People of Steffi Graf's stature in tennis, if she desired to play, I'm sure there'd be a way to figure that out," Widmaier said.
There's not many stops on the tennis tour for retired greats, outside of exhibition matches and Masters play at the four Grand Slams. The women had a Legends tour for awhile, and Connors started a men's senior tour after he retired, building it to a solid number of dates before he sold it.
"You have to keep the roots of the thing alive," Vilas said. "(After it was sold), they started making it bigger and louder. You've got to keep it authentic and also a show."
The ATP has a Champions Tour for retired singles players who were No. 1 or a Grand Slam singles finalist.
Luke Jensen likes McEnroe's idea of adding singles to the Masters at the Open.
"That would be great," he said. "He's wanted it to be more competitive. But he's dodging us, he played over-45s at Wimbledon. Come on old man, let's go!
"But he's still playing very well. It would be fun just to see him bark orders."