Quite by accident, John McEnroe has caused problems for the organizers of the Volvo tennis tournament next week at the Los Angeles Tennis Center at UCLA.
McEnroe will play, as scheduled, but his fall to No. 20 in the latest computer rankings has tournament officials concerned.
Under Grand Prix rules, tournament seedings are determined strictly by the rankings, and right now McEnroe has the eighth-highest ranking among players entered in the tournament. As the eighth- and final-seeded player, he could wind up playing Ivan Lendl or Stefan Edberg as early as the quarterfinals.
“In the view of the tournament committee, this upsets the balance of the tournament,” said Bob Kramer, tournament director. “We believe John is stronger than our eighth-seeded player. Based on his past record and his success on this surface, we believe he is probably our second-best favorite.
“We’re not favoring him, we just don’t think it’s fair to McEnroe or any of the players in the field. I don’t think any of the top players would like it if they had to play McEnroe before the semifinals.”
But wait. It could get worse.
If, for example, Jimmy Connors or some other player ranked ahead of McEnroe decides to enter the tournament before Saturday’s draw, McEnroe would be knocked out of the seedings. In that case, his name could be drawn out of the hat to play, say, Lendl, in the first round.
That would make for a great opening-round draw, but what if McEnroe upset Lendl, then, because he’s not yet tournament-tough after his recent seven-month layoff, lost in the second round?
Such a development isn’t impossible, Kramer said, noting that McEnroe has had both Lendl and Boris Becker at match point in matches since his return.
“McEnroe may have been knocked out in the first round of the U.S. Open but he’s played some decent tennis since he came back, though maybe not up to his standards,” Kramer said. “You can never count him out, even though his last two outings were not as good as they might have been.
“We’ve made a request to the Men’s Professional Council that we be allowed to have some input into the seedings, but so far we’ve been turned down. But we think this is an unusual circumstance.
“We don’t expect them to allow us to do it, but we’ve put in an inquiry.”
Connors is playing in a tournament on the East Coast this week, and Kramer expects that he will want to take next week off before playing at San Francisco the following week.
But if Connors calls, there will be a spot for him.
“I don’t think any tournament committee in the world would turn down Jimmy Connors,” Kramer said. “You’re always looking for ways to strengthen your field. He’s popular, he’s won here before and he lives in Los Angeles.
“I think the chances of Jimmy calling us are 1 in 20, but we still have one wild card left in our draw that we could use on him. We missed him last year when he had to withdraw.
“Wouldn’t it be interesting if he decided to come and wound up playing McEnroe in the first round?”
That might be the kind of problem the tournament could use.