Tennis: McEnroe and Connors renew rivalry

JOHN McENROE and Jimmy Connors won their second matches of the ATP Seniors' Honda Challenge at the Royal Albert Hall yesterday to set up a fascinating head-to-head meeting today.

Connors' match with long-time rival McEnroe will be the first between the two Americans in Britain since McEnroe swept aside Connors in three sets to win the 1984 Wimbledon title.

McEnroe cruised past John Lloyd 6-3, 6-2, while Connors overcame Bjorn Borg 6-3, 4-6, with a deciding 10-8 tiebreaker, which is used in seniors' tennis instead of a third set. Although both have guaranteed places in tomorrow's semi-finals, there could still be fireworks even though McEnroe has so far not resorted to the tantrums that punctuated his career.

"I've got a few more days to go so there's plenty of time to work that out," he said, "but I don't feel like the crowd is clamouring for it quite yet." That might all change today."

"We know each other's game so well that we have to do something a little bit different to win now," Connors said after beating Borg. "He comes in smartly behind your shots and it makes you have to hit better passing shots. So it comes down to one point here and one point there and today I hit the one good point."

Commenting on the reaction British fans have given him this week after a seven-and-a-half year absence, he added: "I like this atmosphere and the fans seem to really like it as well.

"They've watched me play for a long time and because of that they really get into it. If we can produce tennis today like we did back then it makes the atmosphere a whole lot better for everyone.

"The people have missed me. They've seen Borg, they've seen McEnroe - Bjorn went away for eight years and I'm sure he had the same feeling. It's a very nice feeling and I think the fans like the kind of tennis that we play."

Connors' first game in the tournament on Wednesday was against Lloyd, the former British No 1.

"Once I get out there it's always fun and I always enjoy playing John," Connors said after winning 6-4, 7-5. "We've been friends for a long time, we play a lot of tennis and golf and to play him over here like this adds to it."

Lloyd, who was brought into the singles event to replace the Australian Pat Cash, said: "I was pleased with my game. It was a throw back to playing Jimmy in the old days and I always used to play well against him. I haven't got a big serve and he could always return it so we played some good points." Lloyd's next game is against Borg tonight.

Henri Leconte, neck and neck with McEnroe in the series' points standings going into the season-ending Honda tournament, beat his fellow Frenchman Yannick Noah 6-4, 6-4 to progress into the semi-finals. Leconte also beat Britain's Jeremy Bates in straight sets on Wednesday.

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