Mary Carillo, tennis commentator for the USA cable network, is sort of an expert on John McEnroe. She has known McEnroe since she was 10 and he was 8 and has played tennis with and against him.
Both are from the Douglaston area of Queens in New York City. In 1977, they won the French Open mixed doubles. Carillo's pro career ended in 1980 after three knee operations, but she and McEnroe have remained close friends.
As youngsters, they were members of the Douglaston Tennis Club. They were almost the only members, and surely the best.
"We would play five, six hours at a time," Carillo said from her home in Naples, Fla. "We rarely had to worry about anyone else wanting our court.
"These days, it's different. Because of John's success, tennis is big in Douglaston. You're lucky if you can get a court at all at the tennis club. And if you do, there's always others waiting to get on."
When Carillo and McEnroe began playing, Carillo usually won. That changed abruptly one day.
"I remember the day well," Carillo said. "I was 12 and he was 10, and he killed me. Blew me away.
"Afterward, I told him, 'Remember what I say, that someday you'll be the No. 1 player in the world.' "
Add Carillo: She's picking McEnroe, who is seeded ninth, and Chris Evert Lloyd to win the U.S. Open singles titles. The Open will start Tuesday at New York's Flushing Meadow and will end Sept. 7.
"He needs it more than anyone," Carillo said. "He has a lot to prove, and I think that gives him a slight edge.
"When he came back (from a recent seven-month hiatus) he thought everyone would welcome him with open arms. He thought people would say: 'Hallelujah! He's back!'
"But that didn't happen, and I think it bothered John. So instead of coming back all mellowed out, he jumped right back into the frying pan.
"Also, I think the Becker situation really gets to him. Boris is so universally liked and acclaimed already, while John has never gotten the acclaim he thinks he deserves. He thinks Becker gets too much attention.
"I think that will provide incentive for John."
Of McEnroe's temperament, Carillo said: "He's always been competitive, and as he rose in the rankings, there was more pressure, pressure he put on himself. He doesn't have the kind of personality that handles pressure well. But I've never had any problems with him. We've always gotten along great."
Tennis everywhere: The Open will get extensive television coverage.
The USA network will offer 50 hours of coverage, an increase of 10 1/2 over last year, and CBS will offer 37 1/2 hours, an increase of one hour.
That's 87 1/2 hours of tennis during a 13-day span.
Actually, things will get started Sunday at 10:30 a.m., when CBS presents a half-hour U.S. Open preview.
USA will cover opening-round matches Tuesday from 9 a.m. to noon and again at 4:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. USA will have coverage from 4:30 to 9 p.m. both Wednesday and Thursday, and Friday's coverage will be from 9 a.m. to noon and from 4:30 to 9 p.m.
CBS will have daytime coverage on the following Saturday, Sunday and Monday, with USA providing night coverage on those days. USA then will provide weekday coverage until the semifinals, when CBS takes over.
Also, CBS will have highlights at 11:30 p.m. on weeknights throughout the tournament.
The CBS announcing team will be Pat Summerall, Tony Trabert and John Newcombe. Brent Musburger will serve as host.
The USA team includes Tim Ryan, who usually works for CBS, Carillo and Barry MacKay. CBS will borrow Carillo during the first weekend.
Besides doing television commentating, Carillo, 29, is also a writer and works as a teaching pro at husband Bill Bowden's tennis club in Florida.
Kudos Dept.: With the New York Mets leading the Dodgers, 6-0, in the fourth inning Wednesday night, NBC switched to the game in Detroit, where the Tigers' Walt Terrell was working on a no-hitter against the Angels in the top of the ninth. NBC switched back to the Dodger game after Wally Joyner's double had ruined the no-hit bid.
NBC, in a way, lucked out. It was able to make the switch because it had arranged to pick up the feed of the Angel-Tiger game from PASS, a pay-cable service in Detroit, just in case rain or something else delayed the Dodger-Met game. NBC had no backup game of its own because it wasn't really concerned about rain in the middle of an L.A. heat wave.
Oops Dept.: Speaking of no-hit bids, Philadelphia's Don Carman was working on a perfect game against San Francisco Wednesday, and KMPC's Bob Steinbrink duly reported it while the game was in progress, but without mentioning Carman by name. Finally, after noting a number of details, he said: "I guess I forgot to write his name down."