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Gomez Defeats McEnroe in The Challenge

June 24, 1996

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) _ Andres Gomez knows why he’s had so much success against John McEnroe on clay courts: It’s the preparation.

``John is a better player on the hard court, but I think if he puts a little more time into his game he can beat anyone on this tour,″ Gomez said after defeating McEnroe 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 Sunday to win The Challenge.

McEnroe, 37, has lost four consecutive matches to Gomez _ all on clay _ in the Nuveen Tour for players 35 and older.

``If I had been a little more match-tough it would have helped. You have to do the dirty work. I don’t really want to play every tournament, so that’s the dilemma,″ McEnroe said.

During the two-hour match against Gomez, McEnroe slipped three times on the clay and challenged numerous calls.

In the deciding game, McEnroe double faulted twice and fell while trying to reach a powerful return by Gomez.

``I haven’t caught him on an off-day yet on this surface,″ McEnroe said. ``I still think I have the ability to beat him, but I just haven’t been accurate. This surface has a way of making your weaknesses more apparent.″

Gomez, 36, is the Nuveen Tour points leader. He challenged McEnroe with his strong serve and a fast pace.

McEnroe used cross-court shots in the second set to open up Gomez’ game. Despite gaining control, McEnroe was still testy: He tossed his racket at the net after a short forehand had failed to clear it. He slammed his racket on the net after another shot was short.

Gomez commanded the third set 4-1 until McEnroe mounted a brief comeback with two straight games.

Earlier Sunday, Jimmy Connors defeated Yannick Noah 6-3, 6-3 in the third-place match of the four-player, $325,000 event sponsored by Quality Inns.

Connors, 43, set a lighthearted mood as he casually joked with spectators. Noah, 36, joined in by comically overreacting to a call.

Connors was clearly in control, using patience and excellent placement to defeat the Frenchman, who started play on the Nuveen Tour last week.

Gomez defeated defending champion Connors 6-1, 6-3 on Saturday, his first career straight-set victory over Connors.

Gomez also beat both Connors and McEnroe in February at the Corel Champions tournament in West Palm Beach, Fla.

``Believe me, it doesn’t happen very often,″ he said.

On Friday, McEnroe defeated Noah 6-2, 6-4 to advance to the final.

Gomez earned $150,000 with Sunday’s victory, while McEnroe collected $100,000.

In the doubles championship Saturday, Johan Kriek and Dick Stockton defeated Hank Pfister and Gene Mayer 6-1, 7-5.

In Halle, Germany, qualifier Niklas Kulti of Sweden won the final grass-court Wimbledon warmup tournament Sunday by upsetting French Open champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 6-4.

Kulti needed 2 hours, 3 minutes to overcome the strong serve and volley game of Kafelnikov in the Gerry Weber Open.

For Kulti, who had to play eight singles matches in nine days, including qualifying matches, to reach the grass court championship, it was his third title since turning pro in 1989.

The other tournaments were completed on Saturday.

Top-seeded Monica Seles crushed fellow American Mary Joe Fernandez 6-0, 6-2 to win Eastbourne, her first grass-court title.

A Rosmalen, Netherlands, Anke Huber of Germany downed Helena Sukova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 7-6 (7-2) to win the Wilkinson Lady singles title. Larisa Neiland of Latvia and Brenda Schultz-McCarthy of the Netherlands combined to capture the doubles, defeating Sukova and Kristie Boogert of the Netherlands 6-4, 7-6 (9-7).

At Nottingham, England, Jan Siemerink of the Netherlands won the $303,000 Nottingham Open men’s grass-court tennis tournament by downing Australian Sandon Stolle 6-3, 7-6 (7-0).

In a men’s clay court tournament in Bologna, Italy, Alberto Berasategui defeated Carlos Costa 6-3, 6-4 in a battle of Spaniards to win the $298,440 Carisbo International.

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