Sunday, February 18, 2018
Sports

John McEnroe on tennis' golden era and best of all time

TAMPA — John McEnroe rarely held back during his playing days, the colorful and combustible tennis legend's oncourt outbursts earning him the nickname "Superbrat."

But the sassy and brassy New Yorker backed it up as one of the game's best players of all time. At age 53, McEnroe remains a big part of the sport, whether it's promoting it to youth or providing insightful or irreverent commentary on television.

McEnroe also continues to compete. He joins Michael Chang, Jim Courier and Mats Wilander tonight at the Tampa Bay Times Forum in the Champion's Challenge, part of the 12-city PowerShares Series tour.

To preview the event, McEnroe chatted about his style of play and the state of the sport today:

You've been part of this tour for a while now; with your busy schedule, what keeps you playing?

It's sort of a no-brainer. It keeps me close to the game so I can get an appreciation for how tough it is while you're commentating. I'm not pretending it's the same, but at the same time you get a sense for what nerves can do to you. Also, just for me as a person, it just physically makes me feel better.

Most people identify you — other than being a great player — by those animated arguments with the umpires (not to mention the line, "You cannot be serious!"). Where did that come from?

I think that basically I grew up in an environment where being loud and noisy just seemed common. Growing up in New York City, I've said to people before, I take a cab from the airport, you'd be lucky if 10-15 people weren't calling you an a-hole on the way home. There's such an energy, it's incomparable to most places I've been to. In some ways, it's a culture thing. My parents are still together. They loved each other, but it's a loud dinner table. Let's just say that. It's almost like it was second nature. And then when I finally started having to have umpires, all of a sudden these calls were so bad, at least to me, why wouldn't you go up there and question it? The guys I was really watching at that time, the best guys were (Jimmy) Connors, that were questioning authority more. It didn't seem like an abnormal thing to do.

Who is the best men's player of all time?

If I had to pick one person, I'd pick Roger (Federer). Generally, I put (Rafael Nadal) as the greatest claycourt player, I put Roger all-around, I put Pete Sampras the greatest grasscourt player, and Rod Laver was my idol. Those would be the top four. But I think Roger is the best all-around. He's the most beautiful player I've ever seen. While he has a losing record against (Nadal), he's been so consistent, has DiMaggio-like records, incredible streaks like 22 semis in a row. … Roger, he can do everything, and makes it look easy. That's always the first step of a great player.

Are we in a "golden era" of men's tennis right now?

I believe so. I think in the last five, six years, when (Nadal) came along, they pushed each other to a lot higher level. (Novak) Djokovic started to storm through, and (Andy) Murray finally made the break — you're looking at a very special period. Then again, I wouldn't have expected someone to break Pete's records. I don't think Pete did either, that someone would come along as quick as Roger did and annihilate his records. You never know, but it seems like this is one of the golden periods we're seeing.

How would the current players have held up in your era?

They would have been terrible (joking). It's hard to compare, but (Bjorn) Borg was the Nadal of my time. He was a phenomenal athlete. I still think he's faster than Nadal, not stronger but faster. … (Ivan) Lendl would have fared very well, and I think the style I play would have unnerved a lot of those guys. They're so used to seeing the same thing all the time, they wouldn't have got the same old thing. I would have forced them out of their comfort zone. It would have been incredibly difficult against those guys, Federer and Nadal, those guys are incredible players. It would have been a tall order, all the top guys. But I would love to see how would they do, my best against their best.

Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]

Comments
Flashy trades not always the smartest moves

Flashy trades not always the smartest moves

TAMPA — When it comes to the trade deadline, everyone wants the big names. They dream of blockbusters.Lightning fans would love Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson or Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh. Maybe even Rangers wing Rick Nash.But if you ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Dotchin working on ‘inconsistencies’

Dotchin working on ‘inconsistencies’

TAMPA — Lightning D Jake Dotchin was scratched Saturday against the Devils, making it the fifth time in six games that he did not play."Obviously the playing time is down a bit," Dotchin said after the morning skate. "I just got to keep working...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Winter Olympics: Americans had brawn. Russians had more goals.

Winter Olympics: Americans had brawn. Russians had more goals.

GANGNEUNG, South Korea — It was a game for Cold War nostalgia and present-day geopolitical angst, for feisty, post-whistle scraps in the corners and for cheap jokes on Twitter. It was a game drenched in history at the start and simmering with ill fee...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Florida blows double-digit lead at Vanderbilt

Florida blows double-digit lead at Vanderbilt

NASHVILLE — If Florida has a label, it's inconsistency.Up by 11 with just less than 14 minutes left Saturday, the Gators seemed poised to bounce back from Wednesday's overtime loss to Georgia with a road win over SEC also-ran Vanderbilt.But wit...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays trade Odorizzi to Twins, acquire Cron from Angels, DFA All-Star Dickerson

Rays trade Odorizzi to Twins, acquire Cron from Angels, DFA All-Star Dickerson

The order from ownership to cut payroll stymied by the same market freeze that has stalled transactions throughout the game, the Rays on Saturday night burst into action with a series of somewhat confusing moves that saved them around $10 million.The...
Updated: 2 hours ago

District wrestling: Lake Gibson tops Brandon again

LAKELAND — No longer is Brandon dominant in its budding rivalry with Lake Gibson. The host Braves, coming off narrow losses to the Eagles in last season's region and state championships, won the Class 2A, District 7 title Saturday.That giv...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Winter Olympics: Perseverance breaks U.S. speed skating drought

Winter Olympics: Perseverance breaks U.S. speed skating drought

GANGNEUNG, South Korea — At the center of an arena still pulsing with life, under the watch of a hundred cameras and the parents who had winced and ached at every near-miss, John-Henry Krueger (right) found a place to rest his head.He slid down the w...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Sunday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYAutosDaytona 5003 p.m.Fox; 102.5-FMBowlingPBA: 60th Anniversary Challenge1 p.m.ESPNCollege basketballWomen: USF at UCFnoonCBSSN; 1040-AMWomen: Wake Forest at N.C. StatenoonESPNUWomen: Miami at Virginia12:30 p.m.Fox SunDuke at Clemson1 p.m.Ch. 44...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Who was right in Archer-Honeywell exchange? How about both?

Who was right in Archer-Honeywell exchange? How about both?

ROSTER REPORTFirst of our weekly semi-educated guesses at the makeup of the 25-man opening day roster, projecting that Jake Odorizzi and Denard Span will be traded:PITCHERS (12): Jose Alvarado, Matt Andriese, Chris Archer, Alex Colome, Nathan Eovaldi...
Updated: 6 hours ago
For Rays Wilson Ramos, horrors of 2011 kidnapping remain

For Rays Wilson Ramos, horrors of 2011 kidnapping remain

PORT CHARLOTTE – Lying on the floor of a Venezuelan mountain hideout as his kidnappers and would-be rescuers exchanged gunfire for more than five minutes, Wilson Ramos, understandably, feared the worst."Everything I was thinking in that moment ...
Updated: 7 hours ago