'This tournament needs new blood'

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 October, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 30 October, 2000, 12:00am

John McEnroe is starting to get bored. The living legend feels that the competition on the senior tennis tour needs to be refreshed with young blood if it is to survive.

Watching him beat Australian Peter McNamara 6-2, 7-6 last night in his opening encounter in the Cathay Pacific Champions event at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre reinforced this notion. Not that McNamara just tamely conceded the preliminary group game. Australian psyche does not allow that, even when McEnroe was leading 6-2 and serving for the match at 5-4 and then 6-5.

On both occasions McNamara fought back to level the score before losing the tiebreak 7-3. McEnroe put down those couple of lapses late in the match to 'laziness'.

'I thought the match was over and let him off the hook. All credit to him for coming back and picking up his game. But I got a bit careless and lazy at the end,' said McEnroe.

The three-time Wimbledon and four-time US Open champion is the leading advocate of the senior tennis tour. For the first time, the Hong Kong tournament is part of the official tour. But sadly, only the dedicated tennis fan would know who is the number one or how much prize money is won on this tour.

McEnroe blames the media for that. 'You guys should print it. We would be only too willing to provide the stuff. It is all on the Web,' he says. That may be so. But with so much tennis around these days, would there be room for more of the same stuff in print and television?

McEnroe feels there is. That is why he wants players like Stefan Edberg, Ivan Lendl and Boris Becker, when he qualifies at 35, to play on the Masters Tour or senior Tour, to play.

'It will become stale if it doesn't change and more people don't start playing. I know Edberg has been approached and hopefully Becker will join once he turns 35. But this tournament needs new blood and I hope the others come in,' said McEnroe.

For those Mac fans, and there were plenty last night, the record states that the 41-year-old Germany-born American is the current world number one on the senior Tour.

'If you win 20 out of the past 27 tournaments I think you should be number one,' he shot back when asked who holds the plum position. 'When I'm on my game, I can beat all of them. I hear mumblings from some people that they could beat me. I want them to come and play.'

One of his wishes is to see Lendl back in the fray. 'I don't know if he is running scared. I would like him to play. But he is no fool for he knows he will have to come prepared,' said McEnroe. Perhaps he misses Lendl who now plays golf on the senior tour.

But the man who won 77 singles titles and 77 doubles titles in an illustrious career is quick to defend his former foe when the question was raised if the current crop of players resemble Lendl, who was often criticised for his lack of personality.

'Lendl has more charisma than some of the present players. At least he looked like he wanted to commit suicide or had some feeling. At least he had more life in him than them,' said McEnroe.

On court last night, McEnroe showed sublime touches at the net and proved he had a serve to match Mark Philippoussis - who is coached by McNamara. Off court he was equally entertaining. The master has not lost his touch.