Tennis - McEnroe begins Legends defence with victory

John McEnroe defeated Jeremy Bates 6-4 6-1 in a triumphant start to his Masters Tennis Legends title defence at the Royal Albert Hall.

Four years ago at the venue, McEnroe lost 11-9 in a final set champions’ tie-break to Jeremy Bates, and decided that it was time to bow out of his favourite ATP Champions Tour event for good.

But on Thursday, McEnroe avenged his defeat to Bates and knew that he had made the right decision to return to the event, which now sees an older ‘Legends’ tournament, alongside Pat Cash, Henri Leconte, Mats Wilander and others.

“It’s incredible to play here, it’s the best spot on the Tour, and I thought I was done (four years ago),” said McEnroe afterwards.

“A couple of years away gave me some perspective, my legs felt healthier to let me get back here again, and I hope I can lift something up - a cup or a trophy - at the end.

“If I can have a bit of fun, compete still, play like I think I can and serve like I did today, it’s going to be pretty tough to beat me.”

Elsewhere, Henri Leconte produced a fabulous display to defeat Pat Cash 6-3, 6-2.

Leconte faces Wilander on Friday, with McEnroe up against Guy Forget.

In the ATP Champions Tour tournament, Thomas Enqvist surprised the 2010 champion, Goran Ivanisevic, with a 7-6(6), 6-4 victory.

On Friday, former world number one and current South African Airways rankings leader, Carlos Moya, will make his debut at the tournament. He will take on his closest challenger in the rankings, Mark Philippoussis.