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Champions Cup: Ivan Lendl-John McEnroe rivalry extends to senior tour

By Mike Baldwin Published: February 5, 2014

John McEnroe was loud and flamboyant. Screamed at umpires.

During Ivan Lendl's prime, one veteran tennis writer described him as dour with a metronome-stroke.

It was a perfect setup for a classic rivalry. Fans tuned in when the brash kid from New York City was matched against the stoic, power player from the Czech Republic.

The former rivals meet against Thursday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena in one semifinal of the Champions Cup. In the other semi, Michael Chang faces Jim Courier, founder of InsideOut Sport, the company that runs the PowerShares series, tennis' version of the PGA Champions Tour.

“Lendl still likes to poke at him and get him going,” Courier said. “Nothing really changes. We're all a half a step slower, but the tennis is still good.”

McEnroe and Lendl met 36 times on the ATP circuit. Only Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have played more matches.

“It actually started in juniors,” Lendl said. “The first time was in Brazil in 1977.”

The following year they both turned pro. They constantly ran into each other, whether it was five U.S. Opens, Toronto, Dallas or the epic 1984 French Open final.

The rivalry was marked by streaks.

An elite indoor player who relied on a heavy topspin forehand, Lendl won all seven matches between 1981 and 1982. A serve-and-volley wizard, McEnroe won eight of the next nine.

The all-time series was tied until Lendl won the final six matches to finish with a 21-15 edge.

Both players finished with Hall of Fame careers. McEnroe won 77 career singles titles, including seven majors. Lendl won 94 ATP events, second most all time. Lendl won eight majors, highlighted by reaching the U.S. Open final a record eight consecutive years in the 1980s.

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