They say hockey fans really just come to watch the fights. Tennis has something like that. It’s verbal abuse McEnroe fans are after--from anyone.
So, when a McEnroe match has brilliant shotmaking and polite acceptance of line calls, fans begin calling for the manager and demanding their money back.
There were no reports of refund requests Thursday night at the Los Angeles Tennis Center, but the crowd nevertheless moaned at each of McEnroe’s tight-lipped displays.
The fact that McEnroe defeated Ken Flach, 6-3, 6-4, in the second round of the Volvo tournament didn’t seem enough. The crowd of 5,614 seemed to want theater, but all it got was solid tennis.
Not great tennis, but a match long on variety and short on controversy.
“It was just one of those matches where I did just enough to win,” said McEnroe, the tournament’s top-seeded player. “It was probably just a matter of experience wins. I didn’t feel like I was on the top of my game. I didn’t hit the ball as well as I did yesterday. I didn’t concentrate.”
With McEnroe down a peg, Flach played him even until McEnroe broke serve in the sixth game of the first set. That break was all the opening McEnroe needed as he held his serve twice more to take the set.
Flach broke McEnroe in the second set, but that wasn’t enough to recover as he lost his own serve twice.
Flach is better known as a doubles player. He and partner Robert Seguso are ranked No. 1 in the world and won the U.S. Open earlier this month. It was there, in the doubles final, that Flach (pronounced Flack) gained his most attention to date.
At a crucial juncture in the match, a ball hit by opponent Henri Leconte appeared to graze Flach’s shoulder. The referee ruled the ball did not touch Flach and called the ball out.
Leconte and partner Yannick Noah protested, calling on Flach to admit the ball touched him. Flach, quite correctly, pointed out that the referee had the final word. Tennis etiquette, however, dictates a player speak up to correct a call, even if the call goes against him.
Still livid, Leconte and Noah lost the final set and the match. Flach accused his opponents of “tanking” the match.
Thus was the stage set for a match that promised plenty of clever banter and athletic antics. Not close, but the players did throw a few spicy bones.
At one point, McEnroe hit what he thought was a winner that was called long. Incredulous, McEnroe looked at Flach as if to say, ‘What did you think?’
With Flach’s record on coming clean with calls, fat chance.
Still, Flach, who is ranked 65th in the world, had a respectable showing. He thought so, too.
“I didn’t feel like I played too badly,” Flach said. “He puts so much pressure on you to hold your serve. It’s hard to break him, especially on that fast court. It was a good match. It was a cool night and I saw him sweat a bit. I saw a couple of beads of sweat rolling down the front of his shirt.”
Brad Pearce, the UCLA student who had fought his way through the qualifying rounds, was eliminated Thursday afternoon by Stefan Edberg.
Edberg, the tournament’s second-seeded player, overcame lapses of concentration to win, 6-4, 6-3.
Edberg was up 3-0 in the second set when Pearce broke Edberg in the fourth.
“I lost concentration, which you can’t do,” Edberg said. “But I got back and broke him. That’s a dangerous thing (losing concentration). I was playing quite well up to that.”
In other second-round singles action Thursday, fifth-seeded Brad Gilbert beat John Lloyd, 7-5, 6-3, in a hard-fought match. Seventh-seeded Jimmy Arias defeated Mike Leach, 7-5, 7-6, and eighth-seeded Paul Annacone defeated Vince Van Patten, 7-6, 6-3.
Featured singles matches in today’s quarterfinal round begin at noon. Fourth-seeded Johan Kriek faces Arias, third-seeded Scott Davis of Santa Monica faces Annacone and Edberg plays unseeded Ramesh Krishnan. McEnroe will play Gilbert at 7:30 p.m.