McEnroe leaves more memories despite falling in straight sets

WINBLEDON, ENGLAND — WIMBLEDON, England -- This wasn't the way John McEnroe wanted to leave Wimbledon. This wasn't what the Centre Court crowd at the All England Club wanted to see.

McEnroe's wonderful run turned into a miserable dead end for the three-time champion yesterday. And Andre Agassi turned their much-hyped semifinal match into a horrible mismatch.


Just call it a McEnrout.

"It's just incredible the shots he's capable of hitting on grass," McEnroe said of Agassi after a 6-4, 6-2, 6-3 loss to the tournament's 12th seed. "I felt like I was hitting some solid approaches, good volleys, and he would hit some great shots. He was too good."


It was McEnroe's second-worst defeat in 70 matches at Wimbledon, coming after a few of his most memorable victories. Most notable this year was his come-from-behind, second-round, five-set win over former champion Pat Cash.

McEnroe wasn't in a mood to look back on this year's tournament, or look ahead to the possibility of playing here again in the future. But the past two weeks have given him an indication what kind of player he can become -- at least on grass -- if he works as hard as he did to get ready for Wimbledon.

"It's too early to say," McEnroe said, when asked to talk about what this tournament meant. "I mean I'm really happy with this tournament. I feel great about it. It's like every time we sit here and reflect on my great runs when I lose in the semis.

"It's hard to feel good right now, but I know I'll feel very proud of it soon. But after you've gotten beaten badly in a semifinal, it's hard for me to remember the victories. That's just the way it is."

Others will recall how he beat David Wheaton in straight sets in the third round. They will remember the six set points he held off in a second-set tiebreaker of his straight-sets quarterfinal victory against Guy Forget of France.

And they will ask: Can McEnroe do this again? Did the grown-in grass this year at Wimbledon slow down the big hitters enough for McEnroe to have a chance, at least until Agassi came along? Was this a brief stroll down memory lane, or a long, hard look

onto the horizon?

"I always planned on playing a certain amount of tournaments in the next year," said McEnroe, who also indicated that he would be back at Wimbledon next year. "I don't think it's going to change the fact that I'm not going to play a full-time schedule.


"But it certainly makes me feel good that I'm still capable of playing great tennis and that I'm still a legitimate top player. Whether or not I'm a legitimate contender, it doesn't appear to be at this stage, but at least I'm a legitimate top player."

While some believed Friday's postponement because of rain might have helped McEnroe the most -- at 33, he's 11 years older than Agassi -- in the end it didn't really matter.

McEnroe, who practiced for 90 minutes indoors Friday, was flat almost from the start. He double-faulted on break point in his first service game. After breaking Agassi back to 2-2, and leading 4-3, McEnroe lost 10 of the next 11 games, the second set and, probably, the match.

"You can say what you will, it just didn't feel like my body responded as well," said McEnroe. "I got a little bit uptight, but a lot had to do with what he was doing to me. He's really good when he gets ahead."