The man known to the current generation of tennis pros as a television commentator showed he can still play doubles with the best as he and 19-year-old partner Jack Sock beat Sam Querrey and James Blake 7-6, 6-4 in an exhibition match. He was especially sharp in rapid-fire volleying exchanges at the net.
"I play hard," he said. "This hit-and-giggle stuff is boring. I have more fun going 100 percent."
Call it hit-and-grin, as Blake and Querrey were obviously holding back. But McEnroe aced Blake several times and served out the match at love, just missing an ace on match point and registering 120 once on the radar gun.
"I think that was the (radar) gun on steroids," he said doubtfully, claiming his hardest serve ever was 125, and that was decades ago.
What mattered, of course, was that McEnroe filled the stadium on a Monday night when there were no big names playing in the main draw of the Regions Morgan Keegan Championship or the women's tournament. They came to see a guy who used to make regular appearances on the cover of Sports Illustrated for both his play and his antics. He threw his racquet a couple of times for laughs, threw his shirts into the crowd, and threw compliments to Sock, one of latest crop of young Americans trying to restore the sizzle and glory of tennis in the USA. And a couple of times he urged the crowd, which seemed star struck at first, to make some noise.
McEnroe said he has no interest in reviving his career as a doubles specialist in ATP tournaments after winning so many Grand Slams including the U.S. Open and Wimbledon. He is at an age when he can make more money and have more fun playing singles and doubles exhibitions before crowds that have aged along with him.