Mac is back: McEnroe wins in return to doubles

Updated: February 16, 2006, 3:04 AM ET
Associated Press

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- John McEnroe made a triumphant return to the ATP Tour, teaming with Jonas Bjorkman to win his first match in 12 years, 6-3, 6-3 over Wayne Arthurs and Stephen Huss on Wednesday night in a match that ended 19 minutes before McEnroe's 47th birthday.

"The old dog wanted to teach the young guys new tricks,'' McEnroe told the crowd before a birthday cake was wheeled out and the fans sang "Happy Birthday.''

His hair grayer, his temper tamer and his opponents more powerful, McEnroe still showed off some of the skills that helped him win 77 career doubles titles as one of the game's greatest players.

He hit a forehand lob winner on break point to take a 2-1 lead in the second set and then held his serve at love. He held at love again at 4-3 before he and Bjorkman broke Arthurs' serve.

McEnroe got a standing ovation and waved to the crowd of 7,158 as he was introduced at a tournament he won five times in singles and eight in doubles in his career.

He hit a volley winner on the first point of the match and held his serve all four times despite having less power than the other three players. He did serve up a 107 mph hour ace in the third game and poached a return by Huss for another volley winner to make it 3-2. His fastest serve of the match was 119 mph.

McEnroe and Bjorkman advanced to the quarterfinals where they will play Ashley Fisher and Tripp Phillips on Friday.

"One day, hopefully three to go,'' McEnroe said.

McEnroe became the first 46-year-old to win an ATP doubles match since Mansour Bahrami teamed with Cedric Pioline to do it in October 2002 in Basel, Switzerland.

McEnroe, who now plays on the Champions Tour for players 35 and older, has not played an ATP event since February 1994, when he and Boris Becker lost to Bjorkman and Jeremy Bates in the semifinals of an event at Rotterdam.

McEnroe, who won 10 of his 17 Grand Slam titles in doubles, is playing this event to try to give a boost to the declining state of doubles. It worked for one night because thousands of fans stayed almost until midnight to watch a first-round doubles match -- something that's usually unheard of.

The ATP has adopted a new doubles scoring system to help generate interest. There are no ad-games in the first two sets and if a match is tied at one set apiece, the teams will play a tiebreaker to decide the match. The first pair to get 10 points, with a two-point advantage, will win.

It took a while for McEnroe to get on court. The day session lasted 11 hours, 4 minutes and third-seeded Lleyton Hewitt didn't start the featured singles match of the night session until 9:20 p.m.

Hewitt, playing his first match since injuring his left ankle in a second-round loss to Juan Ignacio Chela at last month's Australian Open, made quick work of former Stanford star Paul Goldstein, winning 6-4, 6-2 in 58 minutes. Hewitt won 23 of the final 28 points of the match, taking advantage of frequent errors by Goldstein.

"The wait didn't fuss me too much,'' Hewitt said.

Bjorkman lost his singles match earlier to Dmitry Tursunov, who came back to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 to advance to the second round.

Vincent Spadea won the only second-round match of the day, beating Travis Rettenmaier 6-2, 6-0. Spadea took advantage of the injury to second-seeded Andre Agassi, who pulled out on the eve of the tournament with a bad back.

Rettenmaier, a former star at UCLA, took Agassi's spot in the tournament and beat Scoville Jenkins in the first round Monday before losing to Spadea.

In other first-round matches Wednesday, Mark Philippoussis beat fourth-seeded Tommy Robredo 3-6, 7-5, 7-5; Kristof Vliegen topped Rainer Schuettler 6-3, 6-1; Kenneth Carlsen edged Lukas Dlouhy 3-6, 6-2, 6-1; and Arthurs defeated Bobby Reynolds 4-6, 7-5, 7-5.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press