INDIANAPOLIS — Like a classic rock star expected to play his biggest hit, John McEnroe delivered just before defeating his longtime rival Friday night on the Indiana Pacers’ home court.
Up 5-4, 30-15 against Ivan Lendl in a match-up of tennis legends, McEnroe had just served into the net and was walking back to the baseline when his voice suddenly filled up Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
“You cannot be serious!”
The crowd roared for McEnroe’s signature yell, which he first directed at a poor Wimbledon umpire in 1981 and used as the title for his 2002 autobiography. With that out of his system, McEnroe used the touch and temperament of yesteryear to finish Lendl 6-4 and later defeat fellow former No. 1 Jim Courier 6-3 to win the inaugural PowerShares Series QQQ Challenge.
The series may be one-set exhibitions featuring retired Grand Slam champions and other top pros, but McEnroe can’t put the brakes on his competitiveness.
“It’s getting better and better, and that’s exciting ‘cause I’ve got a birthday coming up,” said the seven-time Slam champion, who turns a spry 55 today. “So I’m trying to get myself to feel a little younger. I love to play and compete — we all do — but I keep at it. I have a tennis academy and I play with the young kids, they keep me young.”
McEnroe said his style of play, not seen so much on the ATP tour these days, helps him stay competitive on the PowerShares Series tour. He’s reached all four finals so far this month, winning the titles in Kansas City and Indianapolis.
“I was lucky that the way I was taught was sort of pretty easy on the body,” he said. “And I sort of use my racket, to some extent, like a slingshot so I would deflect someone else’s power and try and get it that way instead of using a lot of force that would have a tendency to beat up your body more.