Scotsman Archive: Tie-break supremacy seals classic win for McEnroe over Connors in capital

Bank of Scotland Grasscourt Championship, Edinburgh19 June 1989

IT would be misleading and needlessly uncomplimentary, to dwell on the fractious side of John McEnroe which brought him to within one transgression of disqualification from the Bank of Scotland Grasscourt Championships, at Craiglockhart Edinburgh, yesterday.

That accounted for what the winner of the men's singles called after his 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (7-4) defeat of Jimmy Connors a "ten second spurt" by the end of which he was back under control.

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As a magnanimous loser observed later, the other one hour, 53 minutes and 50 seconds of their match provided tennis of a high calibre high enough to have more than satisfied the capacity crowd who populated the Centre Court and those who were willing to pay 18 just to sit on the grass embankment behind the seated areas. The atmosphere of truly big-time tennis contains a uniquely tense element that affects players and spectators alike and what went on yesterday afternoon was a far cry from the day when, during this tournament Buster Mottram, when Britain's No1, ordered tea and scones in the middle of a match and had them brought to the foot of the umpire's chair.

The official who recalled that story earlier in the tournament was John Frame, from Penicuik, who was once again at the centre of something bizarre when McEnroe momentarily overheated.

It came as McEnroe trailed 30-0 at two-all in the second set. When the American's racket went up in the air for the fourth time, Frame gave him a code violation for abuse of his racket.

This prompted an outburst, incuding the usual four-letter expletive. which saw McEnroe deducted a point an when his chagrin could not be quelled, the umpire then withdrew another point from the same player and the game therefore went to Connors.

The explosive interlude had no effect on either player, since it was not the first time, and it assuredly will not be the last, when temper gets the better of that particularly volcanic individual, and the ferocity of their more conventional exchanges was such that there not a break outside of the tie-breaks throughout the entire match. It was only when the sets had to be terminated in that way that Connors looked less than impressive, making a succession of unforced errors that pushed the match, the title and 14,000 the way of his opponent.

Both men served as powerfully and accurately as their reputations vouch for and each agreed that they had got out a week at Craiglockhart what they had wanted.

Each player displayed such consistency that there were only five break points over the two sets and Connors failed to pick up on four of them. The first set, in fact, took 53 minutes to negotiate, the exact time Connors had taken to eliminate Sweden's Peter Lundgren, the defending champion, the day before.

McEnroe felt he had acted "inappropriately" at the time of the his misdemeanours but, typical of the man, was not letting the official off without the admonition that he was guilty of the same mistake.

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What you see is what you get in McEnroe's case, however, and there would not have been a person watching among the 4,000 crowd who did not hope that they would see him back in Craiglockhart next year. That is a decision the player will need to make nearer the time.

"I like to defend the titles I have won," he said. "It would suit me if more time could be created between the end of the French Open and the start of Wimbledon and if that made room for me to come back to Edinburgh I would be pleased."

Connors felt it would be prudent to take one year at a time at his age before committing himself, but he offered the encouraging opinion that when the attractiveness of the conditions at Craiglockhart was spread by "word of mouth" the Scottish Championships would recruit a worthy field, regardless of whether he made it or not.

The extent of the event's future is now in the hands of the Bank of Scotland for their financial investment and the management company, ProServ, whose job it is to attract such a field as has been enjoyed this year. The political powers of the Scottish Lawn Tennis Association in helping to upgrade the tournament to the status of a grand prix event cannot be minimised, either.