PARIS — Star players Ivan Lendl and Mats Wilander struggled through long matches to win on the first day of competition in the French Open tennis tournament Monday. John McEnroe, who didn't even play, was in the midst of a struggle of a different kind.
McEnroe, who is seeded seventh and won't play his first match until today, was the subject of a special meeting of the Men's International Professional Tennis Council. The group met on the grounds of Roland Garros Stadium, site of the French Open, to determine what action, if any, to take against McEnroe.
The temperamental American player walked off the court in his third set against Miloslav Mecir of Czechoslovakia Sunday in a World Team Cup match in Dusseldorf, West Germany. McEnroe was fined a total of $5,000 for that action, and that put him well in excess of the $7,500 limit established by the council for one player during a 12-month period. Suspension of some sort usually follows the accumulation of these kinds of fines, and talk at the French Open was that McEnroe's penalties could be invoked before June 22, knocking him out of Wimbledon.
McEnroe, however, has told officials that he did not leave the match with Mecir out of anger or argument with officials, but because of an injury. Also complicating the matter was McEnroe's right to appeal any decision. How long that would take, and how long it will take the council to rule on Sunday's events were unknown.
Lendl, top-seeded and ranked No. 1 in the world, underwent the embarrassment of losing a 6-0 set to Ronald Agenor of Haiti, a clay-court specialist who thrives on the soft, red surface at Roland Garros. But Lendl's 6-0 setback didn't occur until had won the first two sets, 7-5, 7-6, and he recovered in the fourth to win the match, 6-3.
"That was a dogfight," Lendl said, adding that he did not expect any easier time from his next opponent, Jonathan Canter of Beverly Hills. "I won simply because he (Agenor) got tired at the end."
Wilander of Sweden, seeded fourth, also played his opponent into fatigue, beating Simone Colombo of Italy, 3-6, 6-2, 6-1, 5-3. Colombo retired with leg cramps in the fourth set.
"I expected it to be an easier match than it was," Wilander said. "I couldn't really get into it."
Yannick Noah, seeded No. 6, won easily, but Johan Kriek, a semifinalist last year, was ousted by Joakim Nystrom of Sweden, seeded 17th.
In women's competition, West Germany's Steffi Graf, three weeks away from her 18th birthday, extended her winning streak to 33 matches by beating Csilla Cserepy of Switzerland, 6-1, 6-1. Unlike the three-hour struggles of her male counterparts, Graf won in 56 minutes.
Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert, seeded first and third respectively, open play today, as do top men's players Boris Becker, No. 2; Stefan Edberg, No. 3, and Mecir, No. 5.
Pat Cash of Australia matched John McEnroe's $5,000 fine with his own various tantrums during the World Team Cup competition. American Brad Gilbert escaped with $500 in fines, his for racket abuse. . . . Boris Becker, the two-time Wimbledon champion, had a scare Sunday in an exhibition match when he fell and twisted his ankle. He immediately retired from the match, but he is expected to be ready to play Tuesday. . . . Chris Evert is riding a 15-match winning streak and has won the French title seven times. . . . After No. 16 Johan Kriek lost to No. 17 Joakim Nystrom, Kriek called for rules changed that would not allow two players seeded in the top twenty to face each other in the first round.