The Tour Highlights 2000-2002
John McEnroe has always had a close affinity with Ireland, and so the chance to play for the first time in Dublin was one that he could not refuse.
The match the American played against Guy Forget in the final group stage was one that will not be forgotten by those who witnessed it. Forget played brilliantly and McEnroe got so angry that he twice swiped holes in the advertising boards around the court. Ultimately, McEnroe reached a level of tennis so awesome that even Forget couldn’t live with it. McEnroe also managed to get under the skin of the normally placid Forget, the Frenchman losing his temper late on. The following morning at breakfast, Forget vowed to return to his ATP training regime to beat McEnroe in their next encounter. The American won the title.
In a 17-event calendar, the players pushed themselves into exceptional shape, culminating in the Masters in London where, for the first time in the event’s history, McEnroe lost. It was a classic match with both players rolling back the years. Cash sealed a 6-7(3), 7-5, 14-12 victory with a diving volley.
When the Tour returned to Dublin in 2001, the event was just as notable for an illness to Henri Leconte as anything else that happened throughout the tournament. As usual, the tennis on-view was sublime - McEnroe again squeezing past Forget in the final - and the entertainment was non-stop. But, after defeating Swiss Jakob Hlasek in his second round-robin match, Leconte fell ill, was taken to hospital suffering from Meningitis, and it was touch-and-go for a while. The Frenchman was bed-ridden for weeks. Happily, he made a full recovery.
Later that year, Forget came good on his promise to return to the shape and form that once took him to Grand Slam quarterfinals. In London, he beat McEnroe in straight sets, with a second set tie-break score of 20-18, equalling the longest tie-break in history. He went on to defeat Czech Petr Korda and lift the title for the first time.
The Masters Tennis in London is rightly lauded for its style and longevity, but there are several events that were played in 2002 that are still going strong today. The tournaments in Algarve, Graz, Paris and Eindhoven are perfect examples of events with enthusiastic, innovative promoters who recognise the value and appeal of many of the great champions of the past.
McEnroe won the first of his titles in the Algarve by beating Andres Gomez in the final, but he had no answer to Boris Becker, who rolled over everyone in Graz. Jakob Hlasek won his only title on the ATP Champions Tour in Paris, and then McEnroe began the Eindhoven event in style by overcoming Petr Korda to triumph. Korda wasn’t about to take that defeat lying down though, and he retaliated at the event in Monte Carlo, beating McEnroe 6-4, 6-4 in the final. The Czech then won the event in Frankfurt before ending the year on a perfect note with victory in London.