One of the great stories in American Davis Cup history was written at the Hartford Civic Center in July of 1987 when John McEnroe and Boris Becker engaged in a grueling five set, two tiebreak singles match that lasted nearly seven hours, Becker winning the match to give Germany a 2-0 lead. The following day the U.S. won in doubles to gain new life, dependent on McEnroe and Tim Mayotte in the Sunday singles.
McEnroe disposed of Eric Jelen in straight sets to put it all on one match, Mayotte and Becker. Mayotte was over-matched but McEnroe created one of the great Davis Cup images following his win, when he raced around the court waving a large American flag, firing up the crowd to decibel levels that held throughout the final match, Mayotte taking Becker through five sets before losing the fifth 6-2. Beyond the heart-stopping action of the McEnroe-Becker marathon and Mayotte’s spine tingling comeback from two down in the final match, that world group Davis Cup encounter, perhaps more than any other, came draped in American patriotism, with McEnroe leading the charge.
It was a fitting display from tennis’ bad boy, who for all the years he spent among the elite of the sport never turned his back on his country, as a player, coach or chief recruiter, constantly in the ears of his fellow American elite about the importance of representing their country on the world stage. Patriotism is a McEnroe family trait, brother Patrick picking up the Davis Cup coaching reins before advancing to the position of general manager of player development for the U.S. Tennis Association.
The McEnroe brothers have never been shy about speaking their minds, which hasn’t made them favorites in all tennis corners, but they are compelling in their analysis, which has made both major tennis media figures.
Yesterday Patrick announced he’s stepping down from his position with the USTA amid rumors his leaving is tied to the lack of American males beyond the third round of the U.S. Open the past two years. USTA officials deny one has anything to do with the other. McEnroe has been critical of the USTA in the past for refusing to sanction coaches for it’s players, putting the U.S. behind the rest of the world in coaching. His decision apparently has more to do with not wanting to move to Orlando, home of the new USTA headquarters, because his wife, for career reasons, needs to be based in New York. McEnroe has gone as far in showing his loyalty to U.S. tennis as giving up a successful radio talk show in New York because USTA officials felt he’d become too media oriented.
Whatever the reasons behind this latest development it’s hard to blame Patrick McEnroe. He and his brother have, for decades, given U.S. tennis the best they have, in some cases more than it deserves.
With a comment from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.