The BioFile: John McEnroe

Tale of the Tape: Age 48, from New York, N.Y.

Childhood Heroes: “Joe Namath, Rod Laver, Mickey Mantle.”

Early Tennis Memory: “Playing Tommy Buford – the tournament director’s son – in a 12 & under in Tennessee. I won 6-3, 6-2 in three and a half hours. After he started moon balling me.”

McEnroe Playing for NY Sportime (Photo by Brett Weinstein)
McEnroe Playing for NY Sportime (Photo by Brett Weinstein)

Favorite Movies: “One Flew Over The Cuckoos’ Nest, On The Waterfront, Rebel Without A Cause.”

Musical Tastes: “Rock, blues, guitar, Rolling Stones.”

Pre-Match Feeling: “Be prepared. In condition. Have a number of different game plans. For me, it’s preparation to be ready to play. To be ready right at the beginning. It’s actually going back to basics. Making sure you have things in order. I used to take little cards out – very basic things. I might look at to keep my mind focused…ball toss, to keep the wrist firm on the volley.”

First Job: “Paperboy for the local Queens paper. Don’t remember the name actually. You stumped me [smiles].”

First Car: “Early 1970’s orange Ford Pinto. Cost me $100, sold it for $50.”

Favorite Meal: “I’m pretty flexible actually. But I think Italian is my favorite. Pasta. But I eat everything.”

Favorite Breakfast Cereal: “Wheaties. Not that I’ll be on the (box) cover real soon or anything. I don’t know if I deserve to give it to them that, but Breakfast of Champions.”

Favorite Ice Cream Flavor: “Cookies ‘n cream.”

Funny Tennis Memory: “I guess playing Nastase at the U.S. Open 27 years ago (’79). Funny now, when I look back on it. It wasn’t funny at the time. Just having the referee default him and then have (the umpire) thrown out of the chair, and someone else come out. And people throwing stuff on the court and it was just complete chaos [smiles]. That’s sort of the way I liked it, so it was fun.”

Greatest Sports Moment: “I don’t think I could pick one. It’s a combination of the obvious – Wimbledon, Davis Cup and The Open. The basics. (Your favorite wins?) Connors in ’84 at Wimbledon, I felt like it all came together, I mean he didn’t play his best, but I felt like that year and particularly that match it all came together. In ’92 a very emotional time for me at Davis Cup final when we played Switzerland, (I was) in the process of going through my separation and subsequent divorce from my first wife, very difficult emotionally for me to even be there, but probably to me is the greatest team ever assembled: Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Pete Sampras and myself. Pete and I played doubles, and we were down two sets to love, and I try to rally Pete to get him going so something good could happen. And it did, and we turned it around and ended up winning in five sets. Pete, he may not admit this, but he hugged me and he told me he loved me [smiles].”

Most Painful Moment: “Losing the French in ’84. That definitely was. I was totally outplaying Lendl on clay. Up two sets to love. And I let my emotions slip away from me. Cost me the match (6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 5-7, 5-7 – Lendl’s first major). It turned around his career. He won six or seven (actually eight) majors. What I did was make someone I basically despised, a great champion.”

Mac On Federer: “Federer plays tennis the way I dreamed of playing.”

Mac On Nadal: “His energy level and intensity are incredible.”

Mac On Roddick: “He has a personality. He enjoys being out there. The key – to me – it’s the energy of the crowd. And how into it the players are. Because a lot of guys can play. The key is to bring something extra to the match. Not enough people are doing that – to make a lot of exciting matches. That separates the people that people want to see and the people that are just good tennis players.”

Embarrassing Tennis Memory: “Playing the Stockholm Open, semifinal against Anders Jarryd. Late in the third set, there was a line call that didn’t look so great. I went ballistic. Called the umpire a jerk. Whacked a ball into the stands. Then smacked a soda can with my racket, and got soda all over the King of Sweden who was sitting in the front row.”

People Qualities Most Admired: “In general, people – it’s not easy to go out there and give 100%. And run the risk of losing. I respect that the most in athletes. The guys that go out there and play hard. They don’t give up on it. You can’t be a loser if you go out there and give it your best. You’re a winner if you go out and do that. Most people can’t do that, shockingly enough. They find ways to quit. To me, that’s the biggest quality. And the other one would be honesty. To be honest.”

On the current state of professional tennis: “I think tennis is on the upswing, particularly in the men’s side. I think you’re seeing signs of allowing the players to be more themselves and to encourage actually, God forbid, personality on the court. Which was discouraged because of guys like myself and Connors and Nastase. Tennis has a lot of players now who will show their personality on the court – Nadal, Hewitt, Venus and Serena, Roddick, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Jelena Jankovic, Ana Ivanovic.”

Career Accomplishments: Former world No. 1; Three Wimbledon titles; Four U.S. Opens; 41 singles and 18 doubles victories in Davis Cup play; 31-20 career record vs. Connors; 10 Major doubles titles; 77 career singles titles; 77 career doubles titles.

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