Publish date:


Six months ago, after losing in the first round of the Nabisco
Masters tournament, John McEnroe announced he was taking a sabbatical
from tennis. Since then he has spent most of his time relaxing and
exercising on the West Coast. On May 23 his girlfriend, Tatum O'Neal,
gave birth to their first child, Kevin, and shortly thereafter
McEnroe started preparing in earnest for his tennis comeback. He has
recently been playing twice a day with his brother Patrick, his
friend Vitas Gerulaitis and former touring pro Tony Palafox. And now
he's apparently ready to return. McEnroe will play in public again
this Thursday in an exhibition against Ivan Lendl in Los Angeles,
and over the weekend in a charity event in Lake Tahoe. His official
tournament reentry is scheduled for Aug. 4 at the Volvo International
in Stratton Mountain, Vt., although there is a chance he may yet
decide to play the Washington, D.C., Grand Prix tournament next
An interesting sidelight to all this is that McEnroe may have
wanted to begin his comeback last weekend in the U.S.'s Davis Cup tie
in Mexico City. ''About a month ago I talked to John about it,'' says
Tom Gorman, captain of the U.S. team. ''He said he'd like to be part
of the team, but he didn't feel ready to play singles. I told him
Ken (Flach) and Robert (Seguso) had been our doubles team all of last
year and in this year's first match down in Ecuador. I was committed
to them in doubles.'' As it was, Flach and Seguso won to put the U.S.
ahead against Mexico 2-1 after Brad Gilbert had won his first singles
match. Tim Mayotte added the crucial point with a five-set victory on
Sunday, and the U.S. went on to win the quarterfinal tie 4-1.
America's semifinal tie in October will be in Australia, probably
on grass. McEnroe would be the obvious choice to play first singles
Down Under. The candidates for second singles would include
fast-court specialists Mayotte, Gilbert, 1985 Wimbledon finalist
Kevin Curren, and Johan Kriek, twice Australian Open champion.
Curren and Kriek are both U.S. citizens who were born in South
Africa, and since neither has played Davis Cup for his native land,
they are eligible to play for the U.S.
But apparently you'll not soon see McEnroe as a teammate of either
Curren or Kriek. Arthur Ashe, Gorman's predecessor as U.S. captain,
says McEnroe recently told him he would never again play Davis Cup
if either of the South African emigrants were invited to join the
U.S. squad. McEnroe could not be reached for comment, but his
father, John McEnroe Sr., concedes that John ''may feel that way.''

In the past, McEnroe has consistently taken a strong stand
against apartheid. In an interview in the January issue of World
Tennis magazine, he told senior editor Kim Cunningham that, as a
matter of principle, he had turned down $1 million to play an
exhibition in South Africa. But does McEnroe's opposition to Curren
and Kriek constitute the same kind of statement? The players are
Americans now -- just as U.S. Federation Cup team member and former
Czechoslovakian Martina Navratilova is an American -- and they aren't
identified in any official way with the policies of their former
country. As Gorman puts it, ''They have become U.S. citizens, so
they have every right to be considered for the team.''