John McEnroe moved a step closer to winning his first European clay court tournament Friday by eliminating Switzerland's Claudio Mezzadri, 6-1, 6-7, 6-3, in the quarterfinals of the $495,000 Italian Open.
"It was unbelievable the reception I got from the crowd, especially playing against an Italian," said McEnroe, making his debut in the Rome event.
Mezzadri, a native Swiss who formerly played as an Italian before quarreling with the national tennis federation, seemed in awe of McEnroe at first, but his quick forehand soon caused problems for the three-time Wimbledon champion.
McEnroe slumped during the second-set tiebreaker, which Mezzadri clinched with an ace, but McEnroe's touch and placement returned in the third set of the 2-hour 10-minute match.
McEnroe, seeded No. 6, will play No. 2-seeded Mats Wilander of Sweden next. Wilander rallied from a 5-4 deficit in the second set to defeat No. 7-seeded Andres Gomez of Ecuador, 6-1, 7-6.
In other matches, No. 15 Joakim Nystrom of Sweden upset his No. 8 countryman Kent Carlsson, 5-7, 7-5, 6-1, in 3 hours, and No. 11 Martin Jaite of Argentina eliminated Paolo Cane of Italy, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4.
Wilander, who has lost 6 of his 11 matches with McEnroe, has beaten him in two of three meetings on clay. He defeated McEnroe in straight sets in the semifinal of the 1985 French Open, McEnroe's last clay court tournament in Europe.
At West Berlin, Steffi Graf of West Germany routed Nathalie Tauziat of France, 6-2, 6-1, to post her 30th consecutive victory and advance to the semifinals of the $150,000 women's West German Open.
The 17-year-old defending champion won the quarterfinal match in 52 minutes.
Graf, the world's No. 2 player, next meets Sandra Cecchini. The Italian beat Louise Field of Australia, 6-2, 6-2, in the quarterfinals.
In other matches, Claudia Kohde-Kilsch of West Germany defeated Raffaela Reggi of Italy, 7-5, 6-3, and Patricia Tarabini of Argentina downed Nicole Provis of Australia, 6-2, 6-1.