By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com
NEW YORK -- John McEnroe had planned to break out his short-shorts from the 1980s that he was wearing underneath his longer shorts at some point during his match with Ivan Lendl during the opening match of the BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden on Tennis Night in America between two Hall of Fame legends.
However, unfortunately, he had to break them out a little earlier than planned and during his on-court press conference after an ankle injury he sustained in practice before the match forced him to retire while leading 6-3 in the eight-game, pro-set match.
As McEnroe talked on court to his younger brother Patrick McEnroe, a broadcaster for ESPN, he expressed his sincere disappointment at having to retire from a match he was looking forward to so much in his hometown and at the Garden, a place he comes so often. And then he dropped his shorts to reveal the tight short-shorts he wore while competing in the 1980s to loud cheers from the capacity crowd.
"This meant so much to me to come play here," McEnroe said. "I was so psyched. I was hitting the ball clean in practice with Pete (Sampras). I tried to do everything I could to get ready. I am so bummed right now, but at least I showed you I can still fit into my shorts circa 1985."
McEnroe was leading the match and hitting a good variety of shots, from lobs to drop shots, while limping between points
"I have no idea why it happened," he added of the injury. "It was the end of practice. I was warm. I was hitting the ball good. Anyone who knows me knows how much it meant to me to play here. I was feeling ready. I was hitting the ball pretty clean. It is nice to feel you can go out there and still do it (at an older age)."
As the match progressed, Lendl’s play picked up, and he sympathized with McEnroe’s injury, knowing how hard it is to play when you are not at your best.
"It is unfortunate John was hurt," Lendl said. "When he got his racquet on it, he was putting it away."
"It was great to play here again," he added of Madison Square Garden. "I just hope it is not another 20 years before we play on this court. How about next year we do the short-shorts and wooden racquets?"
Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi are now playing in the evening’s final match.