Just when John McEnroe seemed to be putting his game back together, he managed to take a huge step backward.
And the reality, this time, is that he may never recover. Due to a series of outbursts during his third-round match against Slobodan Zivojinovic Saturday, McEnroe drew a $17,500 fine and a two-month suspension.
He accumulated a $7,500 fine because of his verbal outbursts in the match, and $10,000 was automatically added because it's the second time this year that McEnroe has reached the $7,500 limit in fines, said Ken Farrar, the chief supervisor of Men's International Professional Tennis Council (MIPTC).
"He's probably very lucky he didn't get defaulted," said Farrar in a press conference here Sunday morning at the National Tennis Center. "Because of all the crowd noise, he (chair umpire Richard Ings) probably didn't hear all of it. In retrospect, he might have defaulted him."
Farrar, who has been a supervisor for eight years, said that McEnroe's behavior was among the worst he had ever seen.
"Verbally, it probably ranks at the top," he said."
The suspension is scheduled to begin the day the Open ends, barring an appeal. And, according to McEnroe's agent, Peter Lawler, an appeal will be filed. McEnroe has 10 days to make an appeal, so the suspension cannot go into effect until the after the MIPTC reviews the case.
So, the suspension--which does not include exhibition or non-sanctioned events--would not begin until the Monday after the MIPTC makes the final decision.
Which means McEnroe probably would be eligible to play in the Volvo/Los Angeles, a tournament which starts a week after the Open. McEnroe has also accepted a wild-card at the Transamerica Open in San Francisco, starting Sept. 28. Tournament director Barry MacKay said he believes McEnroe could still play in that event.
A two-month break would hurt McEnroe more than it would help him at this juncture in his career. He has found the road back much harder than he could have anticipated. There have been first-round losses at the U.S. Open (1986) and the French Open (1987). And a variety of injuries have stalled his comeback.
So now, just when he is playing his best tennis in quite some time, comes the suspension. Two months off would most certainly knock McEnroe out of the eight-man field for the Masters championships at the end of the year in New York. Then, he might have to start all over again next year at the Australian Open.
And, yes, there is one more complication. McEnroe's wife, Tatum O'Neal, is scheduled to deliver their second child, perhaps this weekend. Who knows what McEnroe will want to do after the baby is born?
McEnroe, at this point, probably doesn't know, either.
For those with satellite dishes, CBS had a little more to offer viewers watching the McEnroe-Zivojinovic match on Saturday. The satellite owners received a raw feed, which included the raw McEnroe, uncensored.
"If you had a dish, you heard it all," said Susan Kerr, a network spokesperson.
Those who were watching CBS without a satellite dish only saw commercials, because the incidents occured during changeovers.
Obviously, McEnroe's ups and downs dominated the U.S. Open on a day in which nothing of great significance occurred on the court.
Mats Wilander, the tournament's No. 3-seeded player, has taken stretches of time off in his career and realizes the difficulties in returning to form.
"I think it will be very hard for him if he gets the suspension," Wilander said. "Because I think now he's back. I think he's back mentally, and also maybe physically he's 100%. Now, the only thing he has to do, maybe not to become No. 1 again, but to become one of the best, is to beat good players.
"And if he gets another suspension, that means he's not going to practice too hard for the first few weeks. And then maybe he'll play a few exhibitions. I think, for him, he needs a lot of matches, and I think it (the suspension) would be the worst for him."
Wilander had little trouble in his third-round match, defeating No. 100-ranked Libor Pimek of Czechoslovakia, 6-2, 6-0, 6-1. Wilander, who has lost 12 games in three matches, will play either American Ken Flach or No. 14 Emilio Sanchez of Spain in the fourth round. Other men advancing on Sunday included No. 2 Stefan Edberg of Sweden, India's Ramesh Krishnan and qualifier Mark Woodforde of Australia.
Edberg encountered few problems with New Zealand's Kelly Evernden, defeating him, 6-2, 6-1, 6-4. On Sunday, Edberg had his problems before he took the court, as someone stole several of his shirts from a locker in the men's dressing room.
Luckily, Edberg, whose shirts sport a distinctive Joan Miro-like design, had plenty of other ones for his match.
"It wasn't a problem, but you know it never feels good to have shirts stolen," Edberg said. "Especially when you play a match and you don't have enough shirts. So if you see anybody wearing those. . . ."
Three of the top-seeded women had difficult matches, and two were extended to three sets before winning. No. 10 Manuela Maleeva of Bulgaria defeated 16-year-old American Mary Joe Fernandez, 6-2, 0-6, 6-3, and No. 11 Lori McNeil beat Australia's Nicole Provis, 5-7, 6-1, 7-6. McNeil won the third-set tiebreaker, 7-2.
McNeil's doubles partner, No. 7 Zina Garrison, didn't need to go three sets, but she was pushed to two tiebreakers before defeating Katerina Maleeva. Garrison won the tiebreakers, 7-4 and 10-8. Garrison and McNeil will meet in the fourth round.
The other top women won in straight sets as No. 1 Steffi Graf of West Germany, No. 5 Pam Shriver, No. 13 Sylvia Hanika of West Germany and Jana Novotna of Czechoslovakia reached the fourth round.
Graf defeated Argentina's Patricia Tarabini, 6-2, 6-0, in 38 minutes. The most games Graf have lost in one match are five, in the second round.
Afterward, Graf said it was difficult to play Tarabini because they are close friends on the tour.
"It was the first time maybe I felt I was not concentrating well," she said. "Sometimes I was laughing when I looked over at her."
Graf was asked whether she enjoyed practicing with Woodforde, who like Martina Navratilova, is a left-hander.
At the mention of Woodforde's name, she laughed. "I practiced with him at Wimbledon the day before I played Martina," she said. "I enjoyed it, yes."
Said a reporter: "He says you have nice legs."
Graf turned red and ducked her head, giggling.
Said Graf: " . . . Tell him . . . thank you very much."
Evidently, hitting with the 18-year-old Graf hasn't hurt Woodforde's game, either. He defeated Milan Srejber, 6-2, 6-1, 6-1, to reach the fourth round, which is his best Grand Slam showing.
Australian reporters questioned Woodforde about hitting with Graf, and he said they were going to try to work out later in the day.
"She hits the ball harder than a lot of male players that I practice against," said Woodforde, a 21-year-old who is ranked No. 134.
Then, the inevitable question came up. Woodforde was asked whether he was romantically interested in Graf.
"No," he said, pausing to think about it. Woodforde started to say something else, but then stopped himself, looking at the poised pens and tape recorders of the reporters.