Patrick McEnroe overcame a pulled back muscle and a tenacious Italian with a nickname from a martial-arts movie to become the most improbable semifinalist at the Australian Open today.
It was a five-set copy of his better-known brother’s Grand Slam start, and it put him in some select company.
Unseeded and ranked 114th in the world, McEnroe was in dull, sometime stabbing pain after injuring his lower left back while serving in the second set against Italy’s Cristiano Caratti.
The “Caratti Kid,” No. 101 in the rankings, smelled blood and came back from two sets down, but McEnroe--with the help of a handful of letcord winners--held on to win on his fifth match point, 7-6, 6-3, 4-6, 4-6, 6-2.
The 24-year-old McEnroe will be the decided underdog in the men’s final four Friday. He’ll play second-seeded Boris Becker, who beat 10th-seeded Guy Forget 6-2, 7-6, 6-3.
The other semifinal has top-seeded Stefan Edberg against two-time defending champion Ivan Lendl. Edberg beat Jamie Yzaga 6-2, 6-3, 6-2, before Lendl defeated Goran Prpic 6-0, 7-6, 7-6. (Story, C5.)
“It’s just like you all expected--Edberg, Lendl, McEnroe and Becker,” Patrick said after raising his five-set record to 3-0. “It’s an unbelievable opportunity. Obviously, I’m thrilled about it.”
McEnroe, long known as a doubles star, pumped his fists in relief and elation as Caratti’s final backhand hit the net. The two exchanged high-fives and McEnroe collapsed into his chair, tears streaming down his cheeks.
“I felt like, ‘Wow, I did it,’ ” he said.
He left center court to a standing ovation from the sparse crowd, throwing a couple of sweatbands to his fans as he walked off.
“It (the back) feels a little better now,” McEnroe said about a hour after the match. “It bothered me off and on. It affected some shots, particularly my serve.”
This is McEnroe’s second Grand Slam singles appearance, after winning his only Slam title in men’s doubles at the French Open in 1989.