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John McEnroe On Life, Tennis And Overcoming An ‘Addiction’ To Crossing The Line


Tennis legend John McEnroe made news this week when he revealed to NPR that if Serena Williams “played the men’s circuit she’d resemble 700 on the planet.” McEnroe’s fans won’t be astonished by his solid assessments.

Be that as it may, in his new book, “Yet Seriously,” a more nuanced McEnroe develops: a more settled, more thoughtful and now and again wistful adaptation of his still-obstinate self. The book is loaded with tennis legend, additionally a gander at his different advantages and interests — from craftsmanship to music to family.

McEnroe joins Here and Now’s Robin Young to discuss his life on and off the court.

By John McEnroe

5:14 a.m., June 8, 2015, Paris

I wake up in a sweat. My pillow’s damp and I don’t know what day it is. Did I miss the match? Am I playing later? For a few seconds I don’t even know where I am. Then it hits me. I already played the match. I already lost it. Jesus, it was back in 1984 and I’m still haunted by it. Even now, more than thirty years later, I’m as hot as I was in the fifth set and I can taste the red clay on my tongue.


It was a match I should have won and it turned into the worst loss of my career. I’d been playing my best tennis ever, I was undefeated that year, and although serve-volleying wasn’t the obvious way of winning the French Open on the slow clay of Roland-Garros, I was playing Ivan Lendl. Ivan had so far lost four Grand Slam finals in a row and I sure as hell wasn’t planning on breaking that run for him by handing him his first title. In fact, I was planning on beating his ass.


At first, that’s exactly what I did. After two sets, I was up 6-3, 6–2, and I was all over him. The crowd was behind me, “Allez, John! Allez.” As far as I was concerned, I was in control, I had this in the bag. But as it got hotter, the crowd started losing focus.


Then my friend Ahmad Rashad—a great former wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings—who was there rooting for me, got up to leave. “You got this, Mac! I’ll see ya back at the hotel.” Shit, the last thing I needed was a jinx. It’s an unwritten rule in sports that friends and family don’t leave until the match is over. Not that I’m blaming Ahmad for the loss, but that’s when little doubts started creeping in for the first time. I still thought I was going to win but those negative thoughts began to get to me.


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