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July 22, 2008

John McEnroe

Q. When you played here last year, you played really well. Was it fun?
JOHN McENROE: Well, some of it depends on how you play, obviously, and if your team wins. That makes it easier to have fun.
We're in a pretty good position. We've sort of sewn up what our playoff situation is basically, so we're trying to -- for me I was pretty tired after Wimbledon, and it's taken me a while to start to come around. I've been out here about a week. I'm just starting to feel like I'm coming around physically because it takes it out -- I'm used to hopefully some type of routine where I go to the gym and then every other -- Monday, Wednesday, Friday. Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, practice. You get into a routine at home to try to prepare for events just generally.
So when I go -- I mean, it's incredible. Obviously no one needs for me to -- I've already said it, if anyone watched Wimbledon, that it was incredible to be a part of what I consider to be probably the greatest match in history. But there's a letdown afterwards, so it's a bit of a crapshoot.
But I like playing as a team. I did enjoy when I was younger playing in the soccer team, basketball, I loved doubles when I was younger. Davis Cup was a baby of mine. So it's nice to get out there.
This is the type of thing where it's unpredictable obviously. It's short, so that could benefit me. Of course, if I get off sitting on the seat and my body has gone into like deep freeze, then it may not benefit me. So you never know.
I look at it like Billie Jean King is still so passionate about this, I think it deserves a place for this. Where that is it's not for me to say, although I think it deserves a spot. But at the same time, if she's that passionate, at least I can try to help her out a couple matches if it helps bring some people out.

Q. How is your game?
JOHN McENROE: Game is unknown. You know, my game was the best I've played in a couple years a few months ago, before the French. Since then I haven't been able to sort of get back on the type of routine I would want. I'm just feeling like I'm starting to come around. I'm hopeful that I'll have a good couple matches today, and it's unknown.
I feel like I'll get better. I feel like in the next few weeks I'm going to start to play better again when I can get into a bit of a regular schedule.

Q. You touched on the final match at Wimbledon. How about your thoughts on Nadal and how well he's starting to play on other surfaces besides clay, because he was known primarily as a great player but he wasn't going to beat Federer on grass or maybe win a major on hard court. Is that going to change now?
JOHN McENROE: I think that he showed what he was capable last year on grass. He played a fantastic match last year in the finals, and you could make an easy argument that he should have won that. So I think that you saw signs in the last year or two that he could make that transition on grass.
He obviously has done an incredible job of adding variety to his game as well as being able to position himself in different places on the grass court. Now I'm hopeful because we need this guy around. I mean, that the transition that he'll make to hard courts, he'll be careful with his schedule, and that the pounding that he takes on hard courts will not injure him as it appears to have fatigued him in the last couple years.

Q. In your opinion who is the one to beat in New York?
JOHN McENROE: Well, in my opinion Rafa Nadal is the No. 1 player in the world, quite probably for the year. I would say it would have to be almost like a meltdown, which I don't see happening, for him not to finish the year No. 1.
I don't know the speed of the court. If the court was like this, I would say -- the speed is pretty slow here -- I would pick Nadal. If it was quicker, I'd perhaps lean towards a Federer or perhaps Djokovic on a faster court.

Q. That match and that rivalry, what do you think that did for tennis overall?
JOHN McENROE: Well, I understand that there was a lot of people here that may not have normally watched a tennis match that were watching this one, especially as the drama sort of continued late into the day and into the afternoon here, later in the day in New York, and the last game they could have played in London before dark would have stopped it. And I think there was a lot of people I heard talking about it. A lot of people have come up to me. So I'm hoping that that type of boost is something that we can take and use to our advantage.

Q. You've been here a lot of years.
JOHN McENROE: I've been here a few times. I love this area. I have a home about an hour north in Malibu. I love the beach. This is as close to the beach as we've ever played, so it's pretty hard to complain about this type of area. It makes you want to go out to the beach maybe instead of play tennis (laughter). Besides that, it's great.

Q. Billie Jean was here last night, and she of course appreciates all the hard work that players have put into this. Can you talk about that?
JOHN McENROE: The continued success in my opinion is going to rely upon Billy to find a niche in the schedule where the focus can be on this for a couple weeks, two, three weeks, whatever that is, and that there's not a bunch of other tournaments or people preparing for the Masters Series or just after Wimbledon. That's the difficult part. Then you would get a lot more players that were actually out playing on the tour and you might have even the -- you would be able to, I believe, play in even perhaps bigger venues if you were able to get the top players on a more regular basis.
That would be the way to actually make it work. Otherwise you're going to see it be -- there's a lot of heart and soul that goes into it, a lot of people that are trying very hard to make it an event and an evening that people feel entertained, and you'll be able to continue to have that. It will be sort of like -- it's not at that level where it would make an impact into sort of people talking about it as much as it perhaps deserves to be.

Q. I think many others have been outspoken that there's too many tournaments on the pro tour.
JOHN McENROE: Well, as you may or may not be aware, there's a lawsuit starting yesterday with pretty much that very thing, that the very core of the issue is trying to change the schedule. The schedule is too long.
Players have to put their feet down. That's the bottom line. They have to decide -- these players of today, if they have the right leadership, which is obviously -- the ATP has been an absolutely deplorable union as far as I'm concerned, one of the worst unions I can imagine. If they had proper leadership it would go a long way towards improving our sport, I believe, to hopefully bridge the gap with the players of today and players that were around like myself and a business person that would -- the type the thing that would be needed for this to be taken care of in a way that would be beneficial for tennis.
Not everyone is going to be happy when you make decisions. As far as I'm concerned, players should be allowed to play where they want. They should not be told where to play. There's too many tournaments, so why do you have to tell them to play -- it's politics is what it is. These people are in bed with these people with the ATP, these tournament guys, I'm not going to mention names, and because it's so obvious I don't need to mention the name.
It's like an old boys network. Why do they get it? What makes them -- there's plenty of other people that are chomping at the bit, I hope. We'll see.
So far in 30 years virtually nothing has changed except the players have less power than they had when I was playing, which to me makes no sense whatsoever. Players should have more power, not less power.

Q. When you played here last year, you played great. You also made several uses of the challenge rule. Do you like that rule and should we expect that?
JOHN McENROE: Well, more importantly, the fans like it, and it's a tool that's used in a way that's taken some pressure off umpires, and people seem to get a kick out of it. And why would it be bad if you're able to challenge something you think was a mistake? I mean, even I can't complain about that (laughter).

Q. U.S. men's tennis, maybe give me a couple things you would do to get the next McEnroe --
JOHN McENROE: Have a tennis academy at the National Tennis Center near where I grew up, have training facilities where all the kids have to play against each other similar to what we did in the old days. There's so many things that I would rather leave it at that for the moment.
I don't know where all the dollars have been going. Obviously coaching is important, but you should take a look at some of the other places where it's been more successful, obviously. Just because someone was hungry and was in the middle of a war zone in Serbia doesn't mean that that's the only way to get a champion in tennis. Look at Federer and Nadal; I mean, they come from Mallorca and Switzerland. Those are two perfectly good upbringings, and they're the best players in the world, incredible players. So someone found something inside of Nadal that is remarkable. And try to get better athletes in our sport.
Thank you.

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