ATLANTA — John McEnroe is starting to feel comfortable again, especially after his upset victory Saturday over Ivan Lendl in the semifinals of the $500,000 AT&T Challenge tennis tournament.
McEnroe, the former No. 1 player in the world who has fallen to 12th after a self-imposed, six-month layoff from the game, beat Lendl, the current top-ranked player, 6-4, 7-5.
McEnroe will meet No. 2-ranked Boris Becker in today's final for the $150,000 top prize. Becker, the 19-year-old, two-time Wimbledon champion, easily beat Yannick Noah, 6-4, 6-3.
"I feel like I'm putting most of my matches away now," McEnroe said. "I wasn't doing that when I first came back."
He said he didn't think Lendl "played badly, although he may not have been at his best."
Lendl had few words for his performance.
"Lousy. One word. Very simple," he said.
Lendl had been the only undefeated player in the week-long, eight-player round-robin tournament with a 3-0 record.
McEnroe, who had six aces, and Lendl, who had four aces in the 1-hour 29-minute match, each had one service break in the first set until it was 5-4 McEnroe with Lendl serving.
Lendl took the first point but then lost four straight points, including a double-fault, to drop the set.
Lendl, who has lost 15 of 27 matches to McEnroe, tried to take charge quickly in the second set, breaking the 27-year-old McEnroe in the first game. However, he was immediately broken on his first serve.
Lendl broke McEnroe again for a 2-1 lead in which McEnroe lost the first point and then asked Lendl if he would rather flip for the next point rather than play for it. Lendl agreed.
The 26-year-old Czechoslovakian, who lives in Great Neck, N.Y., won the flip. The umpire asked McEnroe if he conceded the point:
McEnroe replied: "Yes," and it was counted, dropping him behind, 0-30. He eventually lost the game without winning a point.
McEnroe, who returned to tennis in August after a six-month hiatus, was in top form against Lendl.
After finally winning his serve for the first time in the second set, McEnroe trailed, 3-2. He finally caught Lendl at 4-4 when he broke the 6-foot 2-inch right-hander.
Both players then remained on serve until McEnroe, leading, 6-5, broke Lendl without allowing the Czech to win a point, for the 7-5 victory.
The Becker-Noah match was a battle of big serves, with the West German beating the fifth-ranked Frenchman in 68 minutes.
Becker never lost his serve and won five of his services by love. He had six aces and nine service winners.
Noah, who served first in each set, lost his serve each time, although he had seven aces and nine service winners.