His impressive sporting success and uncontrollable temper on court have made him one of the sport’s all-time legends. LookOut had the chance to meet up with the legendary American during the Senior Masters Cup in September here in Marbella.
Winning seven Grand Slams and being World No. 1 in the ATP rankings for 170 weeks, along with a host of other sporting merits has made John McEnroe a living legend in the world of tennis. His mythical clashes and outbursts with chair umpires and the all too well-known “you cannot be serious” screamed at Ted James during Wimbledon in the 1980s or that “ball was in” in a TV ad that will forever linger in the memory banks of many a Spaniard.
It doesn’t look like you’re not planning on hanging up your racket anytime soon?
No, I love playing with the seniors. Obviously, it’s not the same as before, but it’s great to meet old friends on the senior circuit as we don’t see each other so often these days. You get to choose where you play, where you want to go and this is great. I’d love to stay playing as long as my body holds out, especially on clay courts which are my worst surface.
Nobody likes making comparisons, in fact, we all hate them, but I have to ask. Which generation played the best tennis? Yours with Lendl, Borg and Connors or Nadal, Djokovic and Federer?
Tennis nowadays is very different to what I played when I was younger. It’s probably better than ever before. Today, they are better than we were. But, I also think that if we had all the knowledge about equipment, training, and know-how that’s available today we would have been better players. The guys playing today are incredible, and during the last ten years, we’ve seen some amazing stuff on the courts. These guys are exceptional players who can motivate others to do the same. It’s fantastic to see how good they’ve become.
Who do you consider to be the best player of all time?
Right now I’d say Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer, but Novak Djokovic is getting pretty close lately. I’ve always been a big fan of Rod Laver. He was my idol, and Pete Sampras, of course, the best fastball player without a doubt. Rafa obviously has a better record playing against Roger, but this is down to his dominant play on clay, on grass, it’s another story. I thought Rafa would beat him on fast court, but injuries and a lack of confidence have held him back a little… And Novak is there fighting hard to be number one. It’s a tough one to call.
What do you like most about Spain?
There’s no doubt about it, the food is just amazing. But I also love the weather here. It’s quite diverse just like in the U.S. I mean, in Barcelona, you can live in the mountains, if you’re more of an islander with milder weather you go to Mallorca, or if you’re after something closer to California you can always spend a few days in Marbella. I’d love to spend more time here in Spain.
What would John McEnroe have ended up doing if he hadn’t been a tennis player?
That’s easy, a guitarist, I’d have been a rock star.