Challenge by McEnroe Ends on Rainy Court in 3-Set Victory by Edberg
John McEnroe’s Wimbledon challenge ended on a rainy Centre Court today, shot down by the thundering serve and volley of defending champion Stefan Edberg.
The 30-year-old American, a three-time Wimbledon winner playing his first Grand Slam semifinal in almost four years, was always a step behind as the second-seeded Swede muscled to a 7-5, 7-6, 7-6 victory.
McEnroe showed no ill effects from the shoulder-muscle tear that forced him out of the men’s doubles Thursday and--aside from a brief complaint about wet turf in the very first game--kept his temper in check.
Edberg just outplayed him and won in the third-set tiebreaker with a lightning-quick backhand return of a mighty McEnroe second serve.
“Basically, I did the best I could. It just wasn’t good enough,” McEnroe said. “The key thing was his volleying. He volleyed fabulous
“I’m disappointed. I felt like I could have won this tournament. Things just didn’t work out.”
Edberg said there was no one area where he had the edge.
“There were small things to make me win,” Edberg said. “I hit some good shots when I really had to. There was not a lot of difference between us.”
The match was interrupted for almost 3 1/2 hours by rain early in the third set, and that delay caused officials to postpone the second semifinal between Ivan Lendl and Boris Becker until Saturday.
The women’s crown will also be decided Saturday in a rematch of the 1988 title match, with defending champion Steffi Graf meeting eight-time winner Martina Navratilova.
The last time a semifinal was staged the same day as a final was in 1985, when Anders Jarryd and Becker finished a rain-interrupted semifinal before the women’s championship.
The last time McEnroe played in the final four of a Grand Slam was at the U.S. Open in 1985. The last time he reached the semis at Wimbledon was 1984, when he won his third championship.
A sabbatical from tennis, marriage and fatherhood have intervened, and while he was seeded fifth this year, no one forecast a late round for “Mac the Mouth.”
No one except McEnroe.
“I’m one of the four or five people who can win this,” McEnroe said before the 103rd edition of the grass-court tournament began.
He did his best to back up his boast, escaping a two-set deficit for the first time in his career to beat Darren Cahill in the first round, fending off challenges all through the early matches and finally beating fourth-seeded Mats Wilander of Sweden in the quarterfinals.
One more Swede was too much. Although he had problems with his first serve, McEnroe played what may have been his best overall match of the tournament.
But Edberg had the answer for every drop shot, every change of pace, every inside-out forehand that McEnroe previously used to such advantage.
That answer was power and quickness.