Tennis players change. They adopt media-friendly smiles and work on their backhands. They get married and run summer camps. They calm down. One guy, however, remains unapologetically the same: John McEnroe. He’s still feisty, still outspoken and still as braggadocios as ever. Holding court at a Delta Airlines event commemorating great moments at Madison Square Garden, McEnroe explains his most searing Garden memory: It’s his first match in the arena and he’s beating Jimmy Connors and feeling pretty damn good about it. Then Connors defaults to end it.
“Son of a bitch wouldn’t even give me the satisfaction!” McEnroe barks, nailing the punchline, but also betraying the fact that he’s still pissed.
In the lead up to his McEnroe Challenge for Charity, which takes place this weekend, and the BNP Paribas Showdown at MSG on Tuesday night, McEnroe spoke with MAXIM about how to develop the next great American star, why parity spoils the sport and giving up on the Knicks this year.
If you were the czar of American tennis, what would you do to develop the next great talent?
I’m biased, but I don’t think there’s any question that in a lot of people’s minds, including my own, that New York City is the best city in the world. So we have this ability to sort of change the way people think now, which is more along the lines of what my bother felt, which is, ‘Everyone’s got to move to Florida when they’re 12 because you have access to 24/7 tennis and you live and breath it.’ I think that there’s been studies done that disprove that. I think that’s unhealthy for a lot of kids.
So you want to see kids on courts in the city.
I look at a place like Harlem and other tough neighborhoods, where I’m assuming there’s a lot of great athletes that I’d like to try to be able to bring in and create a buzz and an energy that over time would bring that sort of cache back to playing. This is a long-term project. If you look at basketball 30 years ago, there were some tough times. Baseball’s not in the place it was. Football is bigger than ever. There’s nothing to say that it can’t turn around, but you’ve got to provide options; you’ve got to make the game cooler to people; you’ve got to try to make changes in order to excite kids. Tennis is a game that requires a lot of concentration and these days peoples’ attention span is less than it’s ever been.
So there’s a lot of great things about tennis, but there’s a lot of things that have to be confronted. You combine what we have already and then you’ve got to keep tinkering. We don’t do any of that.
Does tennis have to find a way to be cooler and more fun for kids?
II think it’s fun, but it’s tough when you’re out there by yourself. If you look at the average …read more
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