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November 13, 1986

WEMBLEY, England (AP) _ John McEnroe’s highly publicized return to singles play in Britain after a 17-month absence lasted just over two hours Wednesday as he tumbled out of the $375,000 Benson and Hedges indoor tennis championships in the first round.

McEnroe, the No. 5 seed., was defeated by Australia’s Pat Cash 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 in an error-ridden match at a packed Wembley Arena, then apologized to his foe.

″I expected more of myself, but I could not get going,″ McEnroe said. ″I was playing so badly that in the second set, I pulled him down to my level. I had no intensity. My game needs intensity. I could have played right-handed today and done better.

″I hope that when I come back here, I will play as I should. That was not the real me out there.″

In another upset, Jakob Hlasek, of Zurich, Switzerland, defeated top seed Stefan Edberg of Sweden 7-6, (8-6), 3-6, 6-4. No. 4 seed Miloslav Mecir of Czechoslovakia defeated Eric Jelen of West Germany, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2.

While Hlasek played steady if unspectacular tennis, Edberg’s game was littered with unforced errors, including seven double faults.

″I’ve played a lot of tennis and I’m tired,″ Edberg said. ″Eventually, the body finally says no.″

McEnroe, playing singles in front of a British crowd for the first time since losing in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon last year, received a rapturous ovation from the 6,000 spectators, a record for the second evening of the annual Nabisco Grand Prix tournament which the American has won five times.

But he disappointed his followers with a listless, sluggish display that was in stark contrast to the days when he thrilled tennis fans across the world as the undisputed master of the game.

Apart from the occasional grimace and gesture, the 27-year-old New Yorker, watched from courtside by his wife Tatum O’Neal, kept his notorious temper in check.

For most of the match, he was expressionless, chewing gum continuously as he tried to find the shots to put away the determined Cash.

But apart from the occasional moment of magic, when he took the ball characteristically early and wrong-footed his opponent, there was little of the vintage McEnroe.

Instead, his timing was wayward, his positioning slow and his volleying and groundstrokes sloppy.

Afterwards, McEnroe, who has fought his way back to No. 12 in the world following three Grand Prix tournament victories since his six-month layoff from the game, was furious with himself.

″I didn’t feel too well. I just did not have the energy. It was a pathetic match,″ McEnroe said. ″The tennis was simply horrible.″

Cash, whose recent good form has taken him back up to No. 34 in the world despite a season wrecked by injury, paid tribute to the vanquished McEnroe.

″To me, he’s still the greatest player of all time, although he was not up to standard today,″ Cash said.

The Australian, who had not taken a set off McEnroe in their two previous meetings, added: ″I think he was tired. I should have won it in the second set. If I’d blown it, I’d have been feeling pretty disappointed.

″To be realistic, you cannot expect to beat McEnroe. That’s why I entered the doubles here, too, to get some practice.″

Earlier, Israel’s Amos Mansdorf, a 21-year-old army sergeant from Tel Aviv, upset the world’s fifth-ranked player, Henri Leconte of France, after coming through the qualifying competition.

Mansdorf had to borrow a ball boy’s shoes when his own were stolen.

The Israeli won 6-2, 6-7, 6-3 against the tournament’s No. 2 seed, his first victory over a player in the world’s top 10.

Yannick Noah, the No. 3 seed., kept the French flag flying with a 6-2, 7-6 success over another qualifier, Mike DePalmer of the United States.

Joining Noah in the last eight were Kevin Curren, Johan Kriek and David Pate.

Curren, the No. 7 seed, stopped Sweden’s Peter Lundgren 7-5, 3-6, 6-3; Kriek, like Curren a South African-born naturalized American, followed up his first-round upset over sixth-seeded Emilio Sanchez by coming from behind to beat American Scott Davis 4-6, 6-3, 6-2; and Pate, who eliminated eighth- seeded Thierry Tulasne of France on Tuesday, defeated South Africa’s Christo Steyn 6-1, 6-2.

In a delayed first-round match, Yugoslavia’s Slobodan Zivojinovic, a Wimbledon semifinalist this year, downed Jan Gunnarsson of Sweden 7-5, 6-4.

But the most notable performance in the first session of play was that of Mansdorf, who stayed remarkably cool under pressure despite his relative inexperience.

Ranked 83rd in the world, Mansdorf was the steadier, more relaxed player.

″That was the first time I’ve beaten anyone in the top 10,″ said Mansdorf. ″After losing the (second-set) tiebreaker, I just knew I had to hang in. To beat guys like Leconte, you have to keep trying. They don’t give you any preents.″

Mansdorf said his playing shoes were stolen from the dressing rooms just before the match, along with two of his rackets.

″I had to borrow one of the ball boy’s shoes and take one of my rackets that had just been restrung,″ he said.

Asked if he would keep the shoes as a good luck omen, he replied: ″I haven’t any choice. They’re the only ones I have now.″

Leconte said he was tired after having to fulfill a number of commitments added to his schedule because of a long illness early in the year. He was out of the game for more than three months and said he had been forced to make up too many tournaments by the game’s administrators.

″They should make allowances for people who are sick or injured. I was all the time up and down today although I tried to keep my mind in shape,″ he said.

Leconte, who has already qualified for the year-end Nabisco Masters tournament in New York, said he was looking forward to taking a rest afterwards.

″The Masters and a holiday are the only things I am thinking about at the moment,″ he said.

Noah said he, too, felt tired, but he did not show it against DePalmer.

He was broken early in the match but hit back in style with a series of dashing winners to take the opening set. DePalmer stiffened in the second set, forcing a tiebreaker, which the Frenchman won 7-5.

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