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Tired, Frustrated McEnroe Takes a Rest From Tennis

January 22, 1986|From Times Wire Services

PHILADELPHIA — John McEnroe, whose game has deteriorated the last few months, Tuesday was granted a reduction in his tennis workload by the Men's International Professional Tennis Council.

"John is overplayed and is unhappy with the level of his play," said John McEnroe Sr., who acts as agent for his son. "It is not what people expect of John and it is not what John expects of himself. He is going to take some corrective action by taking a rest."

It was not immediately known exactly how long McEnroe would remain off the Nabisco Grand Prix tour, but he reportedly told French tennis star Yannick Noah last week that he "won't be playing again until the baby's come."

McEnroe's fiancee, actress Tatum O'Neal, is expecting their first child around the middle of May. Earlier this month, the London Daily Mirror reported the couple planned to be married Feb. 17, one day after McEnroe's 27th birthday.

McEnroe, who fell to No. 2 in the world after reigning as the top player the past four years, petitioned the council Monday for the reduction, which was granted Tuesday.

McEnroe will bypass the Grand Prix tour but will fulfill contractual obligations in exhibition matches over the next three weeks. He beat Mats Wilander in an exhibition Tuesday night at Tucson, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4.

His absence from Grand Prix matches is expected to last at least 60 days.

Under the rules, a player ranked in the top 10 in the world in singles must commit to playing 14 tournaments during the year. But any player may petition for a reduction for several reasons, including extended rest or injury. That rule states:

"A player who, for any reason including rest or injury, does not compete in any professional tennis event for a period of sixty or more consecutive days during 1985 may petition for a reduction of his commitment."

"We decided yesterday (Monday) to request the reduction," the elder McEnroe said. "John just wanted some time off to practice on his game."

McEnroe's game has slipped lately as he suffered three losses in the space of a week. In all of 1984 McEnroe lost only three matches.

McEnroe's last defeat was a startling first-round loss to Brad Gilbert in the Masters at New York. Days earlier he was beaten in exhibition matches by Stefan Edberg and Ivan Lendl.

After the defeat in the Masters, the New Yorker acknowledged that his play needed improvement.

"I don't know exactly what I might do," McEnroe said after the loss. "Physically, I'm not feeling too good. If I continue results like this, I would stop playing tournament tennis and get myself in shape because I have no business being on the court playing like this."

The first tournament McEnroe will miss is the Philadelphia Indoor Championships, which begins Monday. McEnroe is a four-time champion of the tournament.

"Of course we're very disappointed. John is one of the greatest players of all time. Anyone who keeps up with tennis is aware he is extremely tired and in need of a rest," said Marilyn Fernberger, tournament chairwoman.

The elder McEnroe also said a myriad of ailments had helped his son decide to reduce his schedule. Among the problems are ailments to his shoulder, foot and upper leg.

"He is not moving the way he likes to," said McEnroe, who added he was not sure what his son would do with the extra time.

"I don't really know if John knows what he is going to do. I don't know if he is going to practice four hours a day, lift weights, jog or eat special foods."

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