Two five-setters between two players don’t happen often in relatively short period of time. The older brothers of tennis families, McEnroe & Sanchez not only produced two marathon encounters within 16 months, they created a lot of drama too – McEnroe withstood two mini-match points in New York (4 hours 20 minutes), and saved three match points in Melbourne (4 hours 42 minutes). That second meeting was absolutely amazing: it’s one of extremely rare cases that the winner was within a few points of losing 3 out of 5 sets he won – 3, 2 & 1 point respectively. Their rivalry was special: admittedly they played against each other just five times, but each of those encounters went to the distance, and four times the loser was at most two games from winning it. Besides those matches mentioned on the ATP website, they played also in the Hopman Cup final 1990, and the Spaniard prevailed 5-7, 7-5, 7-5.

US Open 1990: Sanchez No. 7; McEnroe No. 20
The opening set McEnroe almost finished 6-3 with an ace, in the following game he wasted another two set points and found himself at 2:4* in the tie-break; at *5:6 saved Sanchez’s set point with a forehand stop-volley. In the 4th set “BigMac” withstood two break points at 4-all: the first one when Sanchez’s FH-passing-shot went a few centimetres out, the second with a volley winner – up to that moment Sanchez had won all games creating break point opportunities. The decisive break for the American occurred as he led 3:2 in the final set.

Points won by each set: | 43-38, 19-30, 25-29, 44-38, 28-18 |
Points won directly behind the serve:
36 % McEnroe – 57 of 158
37 % Sanchez – 58 of 154
Points won at the net:
McEnroe – 93/157 (59 %)
Sanchez – 43/58 (74 %)

Aussie Open 1992: Sanchez No. 9; McEnroe No. 28
51°C at the level of the Rebound Ace as the match kicked off! There was one break of serve in the opening set, in the 11th game. In the mid-2nd set both players traded breaks of serve, then Sanchez led 5:4* (30/15). From the beginning of the 3rd set, Sanchez changed his tactics moving forward behind his serve. McEnroe led 3:2* (deuce) when Sanchez took three games in a row. In the decider McEnroe led 3:0 (break point), 4:1 (30/0), but the Spaniard leveled at 4-all. In the 10th game Sanchez faced a triple match point, but won five points in a row, he saved match points that way:
– unreturned 2nd serve
– FH-passing shot on a run with a flick of the wrist
– ace down the T
McEnroe led 30/0 on serve in the following game, but Sanchez won four consecutive points, and led 40/15 at 6:5 on serve. McEnroe saved the double match point that way:
– Sanchez’s double fault (the first one after 4 hours 25 minutes of play!)
– FH-shank by Sanchez
The Spaniard squandered his third match point making a BH-volley error.
McEnroe held easily at 6-all and jumped to a 40/15 lead on Sanchez’s serve in the 12th game.
– good Sanchez’s rally at the net forcing an error
– FH-passing shot inside-out
McEnroe converted his sixth match point playing FH winner down the line, certainly his best forehand in the entire match! Sanchez is one of the best Open Era players among those without a major semifinal. He played only twice in the quarterfinals (both in 1988), lost 9 times in the fourth round.

Points won by each set: | 42-39, 48-43, 34-32, 17-27, 51-42 |
Points won directly behind the serve:
26 % McEnroe – 44 of 166
22 % Sanchez – 47 of 209

In his another match (Davis Cup, two weeks later) Sanchez turned the tables defeating Cristiano Caratti 7-6(3), 4-6, 3-6, 7-5, 7-5 on fifth match point after exactly the same amout of time – 4 hours 42 minutes!

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