McEnroe hoping for blast from the past

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 October, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 19 October, 1993, 12:00am

ALL-TIME great John McEnroe has promised to push his 34-year-old body to its limits when he takes on the young guns of modern tennis in the $5.4 million Marlboro Championships, which begins today at Victoria Park.

The legendary McEnroe said he expected nothing less than to play his best in his first official tournament of the year.

''I expect to play my best tennis and if that doesn't happen it's because I haven't been playing all the time,'' said McEnroe, who opens his campaign today in the doubles partnering flamboyant Frenchman Henri Leconte.

''I haven't played that much this year, mostly exhibition matches, but I will be using the tournament to get a good idea of how I match up with the best players.

''If I win this tournament, it will be bonus for me. If I could win a couple of matches that's also good. I don't expect to win but I'm capable of winning,'' said the former world number one, whose long list of achievements includes three Wimbledon and four US Open titles.

''I want to see how well I'm playing and the main thing for me is to try to do well in the singles, although in the doubles I'll be having more fun and it will be good practice for the singles,'' he said.

McEnroe's ranking has plummeted to 407th in the world in singles. The fiery American has been drawn in the Blue Group against big-serving Dutchman Richard Krajicek, and Australian Mark Woodforde, who is favoured to win the doubles with compatriot Todd Woodbridge.

''Krajicek is in the world's top 10 and that match will be difficult while Woodforde is ranked among the top 20-25. That should also be tough,'' said the New Yorker.

McEnroe also promised to treat fans to some of the vintage ''touch'' tennis which is being swept away by today's power-hitting game.

The brilliant left hander, who was world number one for four consecutive years from 1981-84, renewed calls for the game to be slowed down to provide more entertainment value to spectators.

''I personally find tennis boring nowadays,'' he said.

''Men's tennis should be slowed down so people can enjoy watching it. I don't think anybody has the guts to do anything about it. The players should make the move.

''Maybe they should do away with the wide-bodied racquets. In baseball, graphite bats are permitted in college baseball but not in the professional ranks. Maybe something similar should be done for tennis. The game should provide the best possible entertainment for spectators. It isn't doing so now.'' McEnroe said he turned down an offer to become US Davis Cup captain because he was not prepared to be away from his family for several weeks at a time.

''Being a Davis Cup captain would mean four weeks of travelling and that means being away from my family which is something I'm not prepared to do,'' he said.

McEnroe and Leconte will take on Todd Martin and Paul Kilderry this afternoon in the Scorpio Group.

Leconte said of his partnership with McEnroe: ''It's really a pleasure to play with John. I think we'll have a lot of fun and I think playing in the doubles will help us prepare for the singles. It's the first time I will play doubles in the day and singles at night.'' Leconte will be back on Centre Court this evening when he takes on defending Marlboro champion Ivan Lendl - winner of the Seiko Super tournament in Tokyo on Sunday - in the last match scheduled today.

Meanwhile, world number one doubles pair Woodforde and Woodbridge said they were looking forward to the tournament and were out to win.

Woodbridge, who is competing in the territory for the eighth time, said Woodforde and himself - affectionately known as the ''Woodies'' - were confident of victory but would treat their opposition with high regard.

''We're here to win regardless of who we are playing,'' said 22-year-ld Woodbridge, who captured this year's Wimbledon doubles title with Woodforde.