McEnroe's petulant outburst leads to painful exit for crying child

He may be virtually contracted by tournament organisers to kick up a fuss on the seniors' circuit, but not even they could have foreseen the humiliation and embarrassment that John McEnroe brought upon himself on Saturday.

He may be virtually contracted by tournament organisers to kick up a fuss on the seniors' circuit, but not even they could have foreseen the humiliation and embarrassment that John McEnroe brought upon himself on Saturday.

McEnroe accidentally hit a young boy in the stands with a nearly empty water bottle during an argument with the chair umpire at the Nuveen Champions senior tournament here.

McEnroe threw the bottle behind him from his seat while arguing during a changeover in the second set of his 6-2, 4-6, 11-9 semi-final victory over the Swede Mikael Pernfors. The bottle sailed over a side wall and hit a boy seated in the front row. McEnroe went over and apologised, but the boy continued crying and his family left the match.

"It took away from the victory," McEnroe said. "I just sort of scared him. To see a kid upset is upsetting. I felt bad. It just shows you that one little thing can take away from the victory. And it wasn't anyone's fault but my own."

McEnroe has been unpleasant to children before, once throwing away a ball in a rage that had been offered for him to sign by a ball-girl following another seniors event. In 1990, he became the first player to be disqualified at a Gram Slam event, at the Australian Open, for persistent misbehaviour. And his outbursts at Wimbledon, which he once called "the pits of the world" are the stuff of legend, albeit not a particularly edifying one.

However, McEnroe, who is the United States Davis Cup captain, later added that he had another chance to talk to the family after the match.

The dispute came immediately after Pernfors had wonhis third game in a row to take a 5-4 lead in the second set. McEnroe received a pointviolation for unsportsmanlike conduct, and Pernfors heldhis serve to close out the set. McEnroe won the tie-break on his second match point.

It had looked like it might be a short match after McEnroe won three straight games on his way to winning the first set 6-2.

McEnroe was scheduled to play Mats Wilander in the final last night.

Wilander defeated Mansour Bahrami 6-4, 6-2 in Saturday's other semi-final and will face McEnroe for the second time in three days. McEnroe beat Wilander 6-4, 6-4 on Friday in round-robin play.

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