Vintage doubles victory by McEnroe at SAP Open
SAN JOSE (AP) – There’s good news and bad news for American tennis.
The good news is that 47-year-old John McEnroe is back, having capped an improbable ATP Tour return with Jonas Bjorkman to win the doubles title Sunday 7-6 (2), 4-6, 10-7 over a couple of former Stanford All-Americans at the SAP Open.
“It’s nice. I can’t deny that it’s nice,” McEnroe about his achievement.
The bad newsâ¢ Other highly touted — and considerably younger — Americans went home without any trophies or winner’s checks.
Top-seeded Andy Roddick bowed out in the semifinals to the eventual winner, Britain’s 18-year-old Andy Murray. And hot prospect James Blake, the No. 5 seed, lost in straight sets in the first round.
So much for the new school of tennis. The story of tournament was old-school McEnroe.
The doubles final ended with a vintage, piercing backhand volley by McEnroe up the middle between Paul Goldstein and Jim Thomas. He was light on his feet all match long, smashing overheads from deep in the court and pulling his opponents far off the court with slicing serves.
When his volley ended the match, McEnroe’s face lit up and he embraced Bjorkman. The crowd gave a standing ovation and the crafty lefty, considered by many to be the finest doubles player in tour history, basked in victory yet again.
“I’m surprised that it went to the final tiebreaker, but the right team won,” McEnroe said.
Earlier in the day, Murray used a mix of deft drops shots and backhand winners to upset third-seeded Lleyton Hewitt 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (3) in singles play for his first ATP Tour title.
He became the event’s youngest winner since a 16-year-old Michael Chang beat Johan Kriek for the title in 1988.
Murray, who knocked off Roddick 7-5, 7-5 in the semifinals, raised his hands high over his head after winning the match. He shook hands with Hewitt at the net and then climbed into the stands for a long hug and kiss from his girlfriend.
Murray said his girlfriend’s presence during the tournament relaxed him.
“Hopefully she’ll come to a few more tournaments,” Murray said, drawing chuckles from the crowd.
“Obviously, it’s the biggest moment in my life in tennis so far,” Murray said of the win, which earned him $52,000 and moved him to No. 47 in the world rankings.
Hewitt said his serve, including a crucial double fault in the third-set tiebreaker, let him down.
“I just wasn’t getting any cheap points out there, but to his credit he was hardly missing too many returns,” said Hewitt, who had 10 aces and 11 double faults on his serve.
McEnroe was the story of the tournament, drawing large crowds out to see doubles which is often ignored. He’s stayed in decent playing shape and his hands remain sharp as he plays often on the senior pro tennis circuit.
“I felt like I had it in me, but I didn’t know quite what was going to happen,” said McEnroe, the oldest player to win an ATP title — singles or doubles — in the last 30 years.
It was McEnroe’s 78th career doubles victory, and first ATP final since winning a doubles tournament in Paris with his brother Patrick in 1992.
McEnroe jokingly said he would take a few months off before deciding if his comeback would continue. He took the wild-card from the tournament director to put a spotlight on the game of doubles, which is undergoing changes that shorten the matches and threaten to further marginalize its importance.
McEnroe reached the top ranking in singles and doubles during his heyday. He has now teamed with 14 players to win doubles titles, including an impressive 57 with longtime partner Peter Fleming. Additional Information: