"That guy McEnroe has got a screw loose."*
This is a guy with flair, with charisma, with the ability to make even a casual viewer and fan of tennis pay very close attention to him; years after his youthful "professional" career, John McEnroe is still able to get a person's attention; he's been nominated for an Emmy award, for his somewhat incredible tennis commentary. He's appeared in a few movies as himself, and as a result, has a Bacon number of two.
Let's call this man a sort of Wayne Gretzky-equivalent, where tennis is concerned, but where Wayne Gretzky is sort of a wimpy individual with a quiet, passive demeanor, McEnroe was (and is) a raucous, noisy, angry individual on the tennis court. Though the major part of his tennis career is over--barring senior's events, and some small doubles tournaments--and the fact that he is coming up on 43 years old, he still retains a strong presence. But where in his younger years he was prone to loud, unprovocated outbursts, he now seems to be in control. Sometimes.
His professional tennis career began in 1977. And what a career! In truth, his amount of tennis accomplishments are not quite as impressive as a person like Pete Sampras, but are still amazing. He's won 77 career singles titles (not bad; third in the world after Jimmy Connors and Ivan Lendl), and has won seven Grand Slam titles. It should be restated that these accomplishments occurred over a sixteen year period, which is very impressive. But it seems that in many ways McEnroe became an enemy to even himself, his tennis court tirades costing him much. He claims he's been to therapy, but he concludes that perhaps his antics were part addiction and part need; he couldn't stop. Or maybe it was a joke, meant to appease fans expecting such behaviour. Regardless of what it was, he is still regarded by many critics as the best tennis player to play the game.
(I tend to agree. While researching this writeup, I took the liberty of viewing several of his matches--and freak-outs--and he played with a very forward, bordering brutal style, he also had the ability to hit the most impossible of shots. Where a lot of players (Pete Sampras and Björn Borg for example, as male players, Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario and Martina Hingis as females) seem to have a very flowing, almost beautiful style, McEnroe's whole being as a player seems to be one of Kill the other player. My mother, while not a fan of tennis, loved McEnroe. She recalls his marriage to Tatum O'Neal, and their ugly divorce, and how they were all over papers like The National Enquirer. She also recalls distinctly one headline: Brat Tennis Player Divorces Brat Second-Generation Star, or something very similar.)
John McEnroe has screamed at judges, served up balls meant to hit linesmen and ball boys, broken rackets, gone into fits, babbled, hit a ten-year-old boy with a water bottle, sworn at opponents, raving and breaking television equipment, and various other things, certainly, that haven't been televised. He was the Brat of tennis. To this day, even in seniors tournaments, he displays a great deal of these qualities, but as he's gotten older, he has toned down; his tennis contemporaries see his shenanigans and shake their heads. Friend Pat Cash says that he walked the "fine line between genius and insanity." London newpapers called him "Superbrat" in 1977 when he bent his tennis racket at Wimbledon because he lost one set. In 1977's Wimbledon, McEnroe was no more than 19 years old, and even then, was prone to his outbursts, as it is plain to see. It was the startling combination of incredible tennis skill and almost childish temper tantrums that surprised and shocked everyone.
Although it is his tantrums that most remember, and remember well, there was somewhat of a reason for it, McEnroe thinks. He was always trying to reach higher. His 1984 match against Jimmy Connors is perhaps the most phenomenal display of nearly flawless tennis in tennis's history (defeating Connors 6-1, 6-2 and 6-2, with two unforced errors), and he pushed himself for it. So, naturally, when he made a mistake, he angered himself. This is not an excuse; many thought it was drugs, which McEnroe denies to this day.
Temper or not, most agree that even if Mac is not the best tennis player in history (mind you, most do), he certainly garnered the most attention. He was Davis Cup captain, but became too frustrated to do the job. He's had an incredible professional career, and more media coverage than any other tennis star.
Some stats on McBrat:
- John Patrick McEnroe, Jr.
- Born 16 Feb. 1959, Wiesbaden, Germany to John Sr. and Patty
- Left-handed, 5' 11", 170 lbs.
- Disqualified at the 1990 Australian Open for hurling abuse at court officials--he was leading his opponent, Mikael Pernfors, at the time.
- True professional career length: 12 years
- Ranked number one in the world for four straight years
- Career ranking of No. 20 in the world (!)
- Most victories in the world: 154, split evenly between singles and doubles
- Total prize money as professional: $12,539,827
- Inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame 1999
- Three-time Wimbledon champ, 1981, 1982, 1984
Mac's career is one of much debate: he's lost points because of his tempers, gained them, been fined, ousted, and as such, there are arguments as to the accuracy of many of his tennis feats. If you'd like several different opinions and views of John McEnroe, I'd highly recommend the following links, some of which were used in the preparation of this node. I have found it dificult to provide an accurate depiction and record of John McEnroe's career. As such, if anyone finds any inaccuracies in this writeup's content, please /msg dev and I will fix it posthaste.
I fully viewed his three Wimbledon championship games in preparation for this node, as well as portions of other games, and several media spots, mostly pertaining to, and containing, various outbursts.
*Beginning quote attributed to Johan Kriek, an opponent of Mac's who went into fits about Mac's antics, wanting him ousted from a tour.