The crowds were out in force on a warm but overcast evening on Memorial Drive for the opening night of the 2011 WTC.
The two Ivans, Lendl and Ljubicic, were outside on autograph signing duty early on, while an hour earlier John McEnroe could be spotted knocking up with Ljubicic, and displaying an impressive sense of humour courtesy of a bright red t-shirt emblazoned with the logo, now 30 years since it entered public coinage, ‘YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS’. And in big caps it was too. Well done Mac.
There was though an early withdrawal as 21-year-old Kei Nishikori came down with suspected food poisoning, giving Melbourne’s Marinko Matosevic the chance to face the great American hope Ryan Harrison.
An even set went the way of Matosevic 6-4, both payers fully committed and sensing perhaps this was their best chance of a win this week. Matosevic took the second set 7/5 in what was an even contest
Elsewhere Michael Llodra took the first set tie break from Ljubicic, the highest ranked player here this week and retained the momentum in the second set with a 6/2 clincher.
Next up were the legends and the return to tennis of the international team’s Ivan Lendl, one of the true giants of the game. Nineteen grand slam finals don’t come by without huge dedication and talent and 25 years after his hey day, Lendl still looked the part. Lean and mean, dressed in all blue, Lendl’s famed rocket like serve showed an occasional appearance, his ground strokes as impressive as ever.
Maybe the effect of 18 holes of golf earlier in the day didn’t help but his opponent Henri Leconte didn’t offer much hope either. His serving was accurate, remorseless and he showed little sympathy for the newcomer, his drop shots regular and reliable.
It was tight though with two point s the difference in the end, 7/5 in a long set tie break and Leconte the victor 8/7.
The match of the night though was played on the parallel court as crowd favourite Pat Cash stormed into a three game lead against John McEnroe and looked unbeatable. The New Yorker though had other ideas and showed that while his body has waned a bit with the passing years, his mind is as sharp as ever. 8/4 to Mac in the end and well deserved too.
Like all champions, the competitive spirit remains intact. He knew it, the crowd knew and so too did Pat Cash.
Two great players and a very good night of legends play.
Late in the day wild card Mansour Bharami teamed up with Ivan Ljubicic to take on his habitual teammate Henri Leconte playing alongside Michael Llodra.
Leconte and Bahrami are unbeatable as a doubles and comedy act but even on opposing sides the crowd was spared none of the trick shots, entertainment and warmth that has become their trademark. A tie break went the way of Banhrami and Ljubicic 7/4 in the tie break.
Alongside them McEnroe and Harrison took on Aussies Matosevic and Cash and for the second time in an hour Mac was victorious over Cash, this time 6/3.
A great night out.