When fans think of the absolute best tennis player, they think of the one who was truly the most inspiring to watch. He was the one who fans loved and who fans hated – equally. He was the one who smashed his racket, and attempted to smash the umpires, referees, and just about anyone he came in contact with on the court.
There was a day when an announcer brought to the court, Roger Federer. The crowd in NYC, at Arthur Ashe stadium, cheered for this tennis player. But, when the next announcement came for Federer’s partner to join him, Johnny Mac strode out to the court and the crowd went wild!
The fans cheered for their ‘bad boy’ with all their hearts; they never assumed that something even bigger was on the horizon. Then, out of the darkness of the tunnel, came a man with his trademark tennis uniform – snug shorts and a hallmark sweater vest. The crowd was beyond excited. Standing up, they went crazy as they looked out at the two men they truly loved the most, standing directly in front of them. Jimmy Connors arrived on the other side of the net, as Johnny Mac yelled his famous catchphrase, “You cannot be serious!” Jimmy, Mac’s longtime rival sauntered in – Connors and McEnroe – the duo who packed people into every venue they’d ever played in were about to give the audience a tantalizing taste of the longtime duel that just would never be forgotten. Jimmy smiled, waved at Mac over the net, and said: “Just wait and see.”
That’s how it was for Mac and Jimmy. Now, we’re talking about two players who were each marked as bad boys throughout their lifetimes. Connors had the crowd, Mac had the flamboyance of a kid who really wanted to start trouble. Their matches were unmatched in the world of sports, and their rivalry is still watched over and over again on sports channels across the globe. These are the men who made all others want to be tennis players.
As is Jimmy Connors, John Patrick McEnroe, Jr. is a former World #1professional tennis player. This is a man who won seven Grand Slam singles titles (three at Wimbledon and four at the U.S. Open), nine Grand Slam men’s doubles titles, and one Grand Slam mixed doubles title. McEnroe also won a record eight season ending championships, comprising five WCT Finals, and three Masters Grand Prix titles from twelve final appearances at these two events, and the list goes on.
No matter what ever happened during Mac’s career, he will always and forever be remembered on that court for his truly flamboyant attitude. He could volley as if he were playing with the Lord above, never making a mistake. Mac owned the absolute undeniable artistry of being able to make a shot that literally had his opponents flailing in response, trying to reach a volley they simply couldn’t get. And his on-court behavior was a sight to behold. Well…not for the umpires and tennis authorities, who didn’t always appreciate Mac’s devil-may-care attitude and his constant catchphrase, “You cannot be serious!”
It was 1979 when McEnroe won his first Grand Slam singles title at the U.S. Open, by defeating his good friend in straight sets in the final to become the youngest male winner of the singles title at the U.S. Open since 1948. Then, in the Wimbledon Championships, McEnroe reached the Men’s singles final – his first – in 1980, when he faced Borg who was then gunning for his fifth consecutive title. At the start of the final, McEnroe had to face the wealth of ‘boos’ as he stepped onto the court. Why? For the simple fact that he had won the semifinal victory over Jimmy Connors and made a whole heck of a lot of umpires really, really mad. Perhaps the anger of the crowd got to him, because McEnroe would go home the runner-up and the Swede would go home with the title. Of course, that wasn’t the end for Mac. He would take his revenge out on Borg at the 1980 U.S. Open*, knocking the Swede out of number one and becoming the “best there was.”
Being controversial never ended for Mac. At *Wimbledon* in 1981, Mac ended up being fined $1500, and came very close to being thrown out of the championship game altogether, when he called the umpire “the pits of the world” and then swore at the referee. Add on to that his, “You can not be serious!” shouted over and over again at the umpire’s calls during each and every one of his matches. But despite being labeled by the British as the “SuperBrat” of the tennis world, Mac prevailed!
Of course, the British remained uptight where Mac was concerned. In fact, the *All England Club*, for the first time ever, would not grant McEnroe honorary club membership, which is an honor normally given to singles champions after their first victory. Mac was unfazed. He did not attend the traditional champions dinner that evening, and told the press, “I wanted to spend the evening with my family and friends and the people who had supported me, not a bunch of stiffs who are 70-80 years old, telling you that you’re acting like a jerk.” After Mac won the championship yet again, the *All England Club* bowed to the master.
Borg and McEnroe had their final confrontation at the *1981 U.S. Open*, where Mac once again won it all. But old Jimmy Connors was still around, even after the Swede had said goodbye to tennis, and Connors beat Mac in the 1982 *Wimbledon* final. McEnroe’s wins went on and on, however, until his 1984 season when his mouth, yet again, got in the way of his tennis. While playing and winning the tournament in Stockholm, McEnroe had an on-court outburst that became notorious in sports highlight reels. After questioning a call made by the chair umpire, McEnroe demanded, “Answer the question, jerk!” He then slammed his racquet into a juice cart beside the court, and was suspended for twenty-one days for exceeding a $7,500 limit on fines that had been created because of his behavior.
But…suffice to say….that is why Mac is still loved today. The rivalry between he and Connors – the fans booing, hissing, and then turning their support to the “SuperBrat” – was a never-ending sports anomaly. Mac had something in his heart and soul that spoke of a passion so deeply felt for tennis, that it was unmatched by any other opponent – except, perhaps, the one who would never go away…Jimmy Connors.
The world has changed. Now, John McEnroe is a much quieter man, who opened the John McEnroe Tennis Academy, which offers a truly talented staff of world-class teaching and fitness professionals in order to help the next Mac win! This non-residential tennis academy in New York City develops world-class players; excites New Yorkers, especially kids, about the game of tennis; and, provides opportunities to motivated and deserving NYC area kids – young players who would not otherwise have the resources to reach their full potential as the next ‘Mac.’
John McEnroe’s passion and belief goes on to this day, and he is sharing his knowledge and skill with the next generation of great players. But, let’s be honest, his court antics, his catchphrase, the bandanas that were a great part of his *tennis uniform*, are what everyone loves Mac for!
In the end, there is just no one like him!