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TENNIS : McEnroe Serious About Intention to Become Commissioner

The man who would be king, or at least chief executive officer?

The men’s professional tennis tour, the ATP Tour, has as its CEO Hamilton Jordan, the former Carter White House chief of staff, but last week someone who wants Jordan’s job threw his racket into the ring.

Would you believe, John McEnroe?

“I can’t think of anyone better than me,” McEnroe said.

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McEnroe revealed his desire to test the murky waters of tennis politics last week after playing an exhibition match against Jimmy Connors at the Forum. No one is sure whether McEnroe’s politics are leftist, only that he swings the racket that way.

But McEnroe the reigning authority figure of men’s tennis? Better figure that the fines for verbal abuse go way, way down.

Actually, maybe Mac’s a pretty good idea. After spending his career treading water in the shark-infested political pool of men’s tennis, McEnroe is obviously fairly adept at this fuzzball business.

“Commissioner of tennis, that would be nice,” McEnroe said. “My vision of tennis is far more interesting than the people who care about money, money, money. I don’t know who would be better than me.

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“Hamilton Jordan is a politician. He doesn’t know anything about tennis. He’s done a great job, but now it’s time for someone with vision to carry it into the 21st century.”

Off the top of his head, McEnroe came up with two planks for his platform. He favors a program to establish and support a children’s tennis movement. He also stands for moving in the service line an inch or two.

“This sport needs some positive change, otherwise it’ll be the same old boring thing it is now,” he said.

Jordan recently had his contract extended as the top management officer of the ATP for three more years, so the position McEnroe covets is already taken. But there could still be room for him in the future, an ATP official said.

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“I’ll tell you one thing, John McEnroe is a very bright guy and has a lot of good ideas,” said Jay Beck, communications director of the ATP. “I don’t know what kind of management experience he might have, but I don’t think he’s saying anything out of line when he looks down the road at his future.”

McEnroe, 30, isn’t exactly running for office, but he would have to gain the support of the players’ group, which selects its leaders through various committee votes. McEnroe would be a slate of one as a candidate, but he’s already considering his options if he needed a running mate.

“Maybe I’ll get Jimmy,” McEnroe said, referring to Connors.

Mac attack: As a member in good standing of the ATP, McEnroe has long been a vocal critic of the organization of his peers, just as he has spoken out against most every other institution of man. The 1990 ATP Tour may not be a shining example of what the players are capable of producing, McEnroe said.

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“I don’t see the players taking as much a voice as I hoped,” he said. “I’m not optimistic. Basically, all they have is Hamilton Jordan and his cronies with more power. The special interests have more power. We could do a lot better, but at least it’s a step in the right direction.”

McEnroe said that the top players were not consulted enough during planning sessions for the 1990 ATP Tour, that players must play too many tournaments and the off-season is not long enough.

McEnroe also criticized the U.S. Open for putting together a difficult playing schedule because television wants two men’s semifinals on Saturday and the men’s final on Sunday.

“It’s a joke,” he said. “The next thing is, we’ll be playing at 2 in the morning because somebody can get more money from it. We’re still pieces of meat when it comes down to it.”

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He’s 38 in September: Connors, 37, is scaling back his 1990 tournament appearances to about 12 and neither the Newsweek Champions Cup at Indian Wells nor the Volvo/Los Angeles events are on his schedule.

Last March at Indian Wells, Connors said he planned to play until he is 40, but now he is reconsidering.

“I don’t know if I’ll make it until I’m 40,” he said. “I’ll look at it at the end of the year and see. I’ll probably play until I’m 39, like Ken Rosewall did, when I played him at the Open and he was 39. That would be an appropriate ending, I think.”

Connors was 22 when he defeated 39-year-old Ken Rosewall in the 1974 U.S. Open final, the first of Connors’ five U.S. Open titles. Rosewall, who had also lost to Connors in the 1974 Wimbledon final, never made it to another Grand Slam final.

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“I just hope to play one more year on this level,” Connors said. “I still have a chance to do something down the line--somewhere, sometime--I just don’t know the place or the time. Wish I did.”

Davis Cup update: U.S. Captain Tom Gorman said that by Jan. 1 he will name the U.S. team that will play its first-round match against Mexico that begins Jan. 29 at La Costa. One player certain not to be named is McEnroe, who has already made himself unavailable.

But will he be available after that?

“We’ll discuss it after that (Mexico match),” McEnroe said. “I will say that I’d like to be part of a team that wins the Davis Cup, but . . . it’s sad. The Davis Cup doesn’t seem right right now. It’s just not as big as it was, not as important as it was.”

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McEnroe said much the same thing when he skipped a first-round match with Paraguay, but he played against France and would have played against West Germany if he had not injured his shoulder.

Gorman will consider a number of potential singles players, including Michael Chang, Andre Agassi, Jay Berger and Aaron Krickstein.

In doubles, it appears probable that the team of Rick Leach and Jim Pugh will make their Davis Cup debut. If so, they would replace Ken Flach and Robert Seguso, who lost their first Davis Cup match ever in this year’s semifinals against West Germany at Munich.

Tennis Notes

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Ken Flach, who injured his ankle while playing doubles with partner Robert Seguso at the Wembley Indoors, may not be ready in time for the Nabisco Masters Doubles in December at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

College-bound tennis players who want to learn how to qualify for scholarships might be interested in attending the college and university scholarship meetings sponsored by the Southern California Tennis Assn.'s junior development program. The meetings will be held at 7 p.m. Dec. 5 at Morley Field Clubhouse at Balboa Park in San Diego and at 2 p.m. Dec. 17 at the Los Angeles Tennis Center at UCLA. For details, call Mark Winters of the SCTA at (213) 208-3838.

The seventh Senior Grand Prix Masters tennis championships will be played Dec. 6-10 at Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego. Some of the top players in their age groups are Bill McQuaid of Tustin and Mike Tunstall of Irvine in the men’s 30; Leland Housman of San Diego in the men’s 45 and Bob Duesler of Newport Beach in the men’s 50. Bob Perry of San Diego, national men’s hardcourt champion, will play in the men’s 55 singles and team with last year’s age-group runner-up John Sahratian of La Jolla in doubles. Dodo Cheney of Santa Monica, who has won 190 national age-group championships, will play in the women’s 60 singles and will team with Corky Murdock of Los Angeles in the women’s 65 doubles.

Barbara Mueller of Tempe is top seeded in the National Hardcourt women’s 40-and-over singles championship Monday through Sunday at the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club.

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