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McEnroe Opens to Mixed Reviews, Wins : Tennis: Three-set victory over Krickstein has plenty of histrionics but spotty play, too.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Live from New York, it’s “The John McEnroe Show,” starring John McEnroe, produced and directed by John McEnroe, with special choreography by John McEnroe.

See John McEnroe lunge for a shot, fall on his chest and lie motionless like a human throw rug, then pop right up and offer a biting critique of his serve.

Hear John McEnroe as he berates a linesman: “Are we watching the same match? Are we on the same continent?”

Feel the fiery heat of competition that is John McEnroe as he receives a fine for unsportsmanlike conduct when he angrily clobbers a ball after what he considers a bad call.

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“Are we doing a Saturday night skit here?” McEnroe asks.

Well, no, just your routine Wednesday night of tennis in the Nabisco Masters at Madison Square Garden, where McEnroe dropped the first set and then spent the rest of the match polishing up his act.

Actually, McEnroe’s 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Aaron Krickstein earned some mixed reviews. McEnroe served 10 aces, but he also double faulted eight times. McEnroe, who lost his first service game with back-to-back double faults but closed out the match with an ace, acknowledged something of an up-and-down performance.

“I was in a little more danger than I wanted to be,” he said.

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He found many disturbing elements during the match, beginning in the first set when he heard a telephone ring.

“Are we going to hear that ringing all night?” McEnroe said.

Trailing in the first set, McEnroe halted his service game, glanced at his father sitting in the stands and then addressed chair umpire Paolo Pereira.

“My dad is not my coach, so can I ask him what’s wrong with my serve?” McEnroe said as Pereira smiled.

In the second set, after trading insults with a couple of fans, McEnroe found a new target for his ire, the electronic machine that calls the service line.

“It’s never worked,” McEnroe muttered to himself. “I’m not paranoid, but that machine knows who I am.”

Krickstein knows McEnroe quite well, having now lost to him each of the five times they have played. McEnroe reeled off 11 consecutive points in the third set and jumped to a 5-1 lead, although Krickstein said he was not put off by the McEnroe show.

“The calls weren’t really that bad, and I think he exaggerates things quite a bit,” Krickstein said. “He maybe does it to stall a little and throw you off your timing and maybe he intimidates a little bit.”

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The most intimidating shot in men’s tennis, Boris Becker’s serve, surely affected Andre Agassi, who once went scurrying behind a ballboy in mock terror of having to return Becker’s booming service.

Becker, who won his second round-robin match while Agassi lost his second, buffed the teen in pink tights with the painted fingernail, 6-1, 6-3, in 66 minutes.

Stefan Edberg defeated Brad Gilbert, 6-1, 6-3, in the last match Wednesday to join Becker in clinching a semifinal berth.

It was the first time Becker and Agassi had played each other since the Davis Cup semifinal between the United States and West Germany in Munich when Agassi lost to Becker after holding a two-set lead.

In this meeting, Becker had seven aces, four of them in succession in one game of the second set. Agassi took note. When someone accidently knocked down a row of curtains hung on pipes in the interview room, Agassi assessed the rubble.

“That was an aftershock of Boris’ first serve,” Agassi said.


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