McEnroes must overcome odds

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The Independent Online

By John Roberts

By John Roberts

The McEnroe brothers, John and Patrick, will be flying the flag for America in Europe this week. John, 45, is competing in the Tennis Champions Masters here in London. Patrick, 38, is captaining the United States in the Davis Cup final against Spain in Seville.

Both are regarded as underdogs. Big Mac, the oldest swinger in town, faces two other former Wimbledon champions, Boris Becker and Richard Krajicek, in his round-robin group as a wild card at the Albert Hall. Little Mac is trying to convince Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish, and the Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike, that they can overcome Spain's clay-court masters and subdue 20,000 spectators.

As ever, Big Mac has been there, done that, and knows that a captain can only sit and wait for the change-overs and offer encouragement and advice. He said: "I only did it for one year because it was very difficult to get players to play and the format is not in the best interest of the players and the sport. Nothing has changed.

"I certainly wish Patrick the best. A coach can make a five or 10 per cent difference. The first couple of matches that I was coaching I'd like to think I contributed a little bit to us pulling out 3-2 wins. We had to play Spain in the semis in 2000 over there without Agassi, Sampras, Courier, who had just recently retired, and Chang. It was an uphill battle even if we'd had all those guys, because Spain had some of the best players in the world.

"Patrick is in a better position because at least he has got Roddick, who is very dangerous and No 2 in the world. If Spain are playing to the best of their ability, it's going to be unbelievably difficult to win... I would like to think it's going to be exciting, and I look forward to watching it from London and participating in the Masters while they pull off a big upset."

Two of the turbulent one's toughest Davis Cup opponents are among the dozen Albert Hall competitors. Becker, who is due to play McEnroe tomorrow night, defeated him after six hours 20 minutes, 4-6, 15-13, 8-10, 6-2, 6-2, in a World Group play-off in 1987. Mats Wilander was on court with McEnroe for two minutes longer in losing the longest rubber on record, 9-7, 6-2, 15-17, 3-6, 8-6, in the 1982 quarter-finals.

Masters schedule (Royal Albert Hall): Today (from 1pm): T Muster (Aut) v M Stich (Ger); J Courier (US) v H Leconte (Fr). From 7.30pm: B Becker (Ger) v R Krajicek (Neth); T Henman (GB) v J Johansson (Swe) (charity challenge); A Jarryd (Swe) v Mats Wilander (Swe). Tomorrow (from 1pm): P Cash (Aus) v Leconte; G Forget (Fr) v Wilander. From 7.30: Becker v J McEnroe (US); Muster v M Pernfors (Swe). Thursday (from 1pm): Forget v Jarryd; Cash v Courier. From 7.30pm: Krajicek v McEnroe; Pernfors v. Stich. Friday (1pm and 7.30pm): Quarter-finals. Saturday (1pm and 7.30pm): Semi-finals. Sunday (1.30pm): Final.