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Postcards From the French Open: Cheering John McEnroe in Paris Never Gets Old

Postcards From the French Open

John McEnroe, above, played alongside Cédric Pioline at the men’s legends tournament for players 45 and up at the French Open in Paris.CreditPete Kiehart for The New York Times

PARIS — It looked like an easy shot for John McEnroe: a forehand sitter, lined up just right.

He held his old-school, leather-grip racket with a familiar lightness. He turned his hips and uncoiled. When he struck the ball, the packed crowd on a stadium court here at Roland Garros expected a glimpse of the old magic.

Instead the ball dribbled into the middle of the net, and the crowd groaned.

So did McEnroe, who stamped a foot and cursed. He wore the grimace of a man forever aware of what he once was. Aware, too, of what is expected from those who still pay to see him play: a touch of tennis genius, and the old fire.

These days, McEnroe, 59, is as well known for his commentating on tennis events as for his Hall of Fame playing career. At this French Open, he has manned the booth for NBC and worked for Eurosport. But he continues to play in senior events like the one held this past week at Roland Garros. And he does it with a vigor for the game held by few from his era.

“I…

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