Collected Wisdom: John McEnroe, tennis legend and commentator

John McEnroe burst onto the tennis scene as an 18-year-old amateur who reached the Wimbledon semifinals. Overall, McEnroe won 71 pro tour events, including four U.S. Open titles in his hometown. He also won three times at Wimbledon.
by Michael Baldwin Published: June 28, 2014
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Tennis legend John McEnroe captured seven Grand Slam singles titles and nine doubles championships. For his career, McEnroe earned $12.5 million.

After winning the NCAA singles title his only year in college at Stanford, McEnroe burst onto the tennis scene as an 18-year-old amateur who reached the Wimbledon semifinals. Overall, McEnroe won 71 pro tour events, including four U.S. Open titles in his hometown. He also won three times at Wimbledon.

Now a father of six and one of the game’s top analysts, McEnroe plays the guitar, is a regular on Jim Courier’s senior tour that made a stop in Oklahoma City in February and admits he’s grateful he no longer has to play the role of the obnoxious rebel who argues with officials.

Some people compare Wimbledon to The Masters in golf. Wimbledon is a huge spectacle, so there are a lot of similarities starting with such a great tradition. The way everyone treats the event it’s definitely different than any other tournament, not just the fans, but the players as well.

The All England Club in London has some aesthetic beauty similar to Augusta. Plus, it’s the only tournament still left that’s played on grass. I love the fact they’ve preserved a grass surface from the past but updated the event with modern amenities. It’s special they’ve been able to keep many traditions that date back to (the 1870s). That’s why it has always been the premier event in tennis.

My most memorable Wimbledon moment was 1980, my match with (Bjorn) Borg. We had the famous tiebreak. In our sport it was one of the more historical matches. Even though I lost I was proud to be part of history. It was one of those matches you could feel the significance of every point.

Many countries have made tennis better accessible to their better athletes, so it’s gotten higher up on the totem pole compared to other sports whereas here in the United States most of our top athletes generally play football and basketball.

If there was one thing I could change to benefit tennis it would be to find a way to allow more kids to play. It’s a sport that can be really expensive.

Tennis also needs to find ways to make the game sexier, more attractive. Ultimately it’s a competition. One example is what David Stern did in the NBA. He did a great job marketing the sport. He made sure players understood what they needed to do to help their game succeed to reach more fans. He branched out and their sport went worldwide.

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by Michael Baldwin
Reporter
Mike Baldwin has been a sports reporter for The Oklahoman since 1982. Mike graduated from Okmulgee High School in 1974 and attended Oklahoma Christian University, graduating with a journalism degree in 1978. Mike's first job was sports editor...
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