CHICAGO — John McEnroe warmed up for the final of the Nuveen Champions senior tournament in an unusual way.
The U.S. Davis Cup captain hit balls on a side court with Jeff Hughes, the 10-year-old boy whom McEnroe accidentally struck with a half-full water bottle during an argument with the chair umpire in the semifinals here.
After that, McEnroe went out and beat Mats Wilander 6-2, 6-4 Sunday to win the title in match delayed by bad weather.
"It was pretty cool," Hughes said of trading strokes with McEnroe, adding it more than made up for the unexpected blow to the stomach he took a day earlier.
McEnroe gave Hughes, a fellow left-hander, some tips and encouragement while hitting with him and playing out some points for more than 15 minutes.
The winner of seven Grand Slam titles threw the water bottle Saturday while seated during a changeover. The bottle sailed into the front row of the stands, hitting Hughes.
"Basically the water bottle ended up in his stomach, which was unfortunate," said Gordon Hughes, Jeff's father.
"Mac immediately came over and apologized. He came over again after the match and offered to hit a few balls with (Jeff). He was very generous with his time."
McEnroe was impressed with what he saw.
"He can really play some," McEnroe said of Hughes. "I think it worked out in the end. Sometimes things that appear to be bad in the beginning turn out to be good in the end."
McEnroe had his best performance of the week in the championship match, saying he finally felt strong physically at the end of what has been a tiring schedule for the Davis Cup captain.
He broke Wilander's serve in the first game of the match and again in the seventh game while cruising to a 6-2 first-set win.
McEnroe earned the only service break of the second set in the third game. He won all of his service games.
"I think I saved my best for last," McEnroe said.
Wilander has lost all four matches against McEnroe this year, including in Friday's round-robin play.