STATOIL MASTERS TENNIS
McEnroe Beats Ferreira; Rafter Sets Ivanisevic Decider
It wasn’t without its drama – would it be a John McEnroe match otherwise? – but the American opened his Statoil Masters Tennis campaign with a 7-6(9), 6-2 victory over former World No. 6 Wayne Ferreira on Thursday evening.
"I think it's just a great place to play, it's unbelievable history here," said McEnroe, who is next due to face Sergi Bruguera on Friday night. "It just feels like you can't pass this opportunity up. It's so much fun to be able to come back and play. It's a historic place. It worked out pretty well tonight, hopefully I can pick it up.
"They all seem to be younger than me, but hopefully this court and the balls favour me. Sergi [Bruguera] likes it slower. I'll try to rush in and hopefully I can get this crowd behind me. They remember the old Jonny Mac. I played well here last year and I think this is my 15th year here."
McEnroe kissed the net after a lucky net cord gave him a 4-2 lead, but Ferreira came back to force a tie-break, hitting arguably the shot of the match in the process when he returned a McEnroe smash with a smash winner of his own from the baseline. “Oh, that felt good!” exclaimed the South African.
McEnroe squandered a 5-1 lead in a pulsating tie-break, but eventually prevailed 11-9. Buoyed by the lead, the American, a seven-time Grand Slam champion, put his foot down in the second set and claimed victory with two breaks in 87 minutes.
"I was up 5-0 and thought it was over," said McEnroe. "I got a little casual, stepped back. Next thing I know, I'm down set point. Then I got really frustrated with myself because I felt like I'd let Wayne back into the set. I got a little bit lucky, got back into it, and finally got a couple of balls that I made the most of. But it could have gone either way. We were both battling and it took the wind out of his sails when I won that set."
Pat Rafter meant business in a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Greg Rusedski at the Royal Albert Hall in London. The meeting came 16 years after they contested the 1997 US Open final, which Rafter won in four sets.
"I like to start off hard and if the other guy's playing well, which he was in the beginning, then it becomes a tight match,” said the Australian Davis Cup captain. “He could have broken my serve early on and that would have changed the complexion of the match.
“I got off to a great start in the second set and you've got to work out if you're going to take your foot off the pedal. I did take it off a fraction, but I was still playing really well. It's a very good surface. You can play, have rallies."
Rafter will now face Goran Ivanisevic in a repeat of the 2001 Wimbledon final on Saturday night, with the winner to go through to Sunday’s final.