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July 21, 2009

John McEnroe

THE MODERATOR: If you want to start with any opening comment.
JOHN McENROE: No, no. Go ahead, shoot.

Q. I wanted to get your opinion on who would you say is the greatest men's tennis player of all time.
JOHN McENROE: Roger, I guess. I would have to go with him. Laver is my idol. Pete may be the quickest, best grass court player. Roger's the most beautiful guy that I've ever seen, watching him.

Q. Where would you rank yourself?
JOHN McENROE: I'm slipping in the rankings, but hopefully I'm still in the top 10. I'm struggling a bit recently. A couple guys moving past me.
If you combined everything, hopefully they combine like doubles, singles, Davis Cup, seniors, maybe I'd go up a little higher.

Q. What would you say you were great at?
JOHN McENROE: Playing at net, putting pressure on people. I think hopefully I would be a handful for guys because I made them come up with tough shots. My placement and feel was pretty good. I used their power against them, take the ball early, not give them the time.

Q. How many years have you been doing this, WTT, about nine?
JOHN McENROE: This is about the eighth or ninth. Played one year many, many years ago. Played eight or nine years in a row, to some extent, a couple matches, two, as many as six.

Q. Why do you keep doing it?
JOHN McENROE: Like to play as a team, and Billie Jean is so gung-ho, she loves it. I think the concept is nice. Get to look at tennis a little different way. The format would potentially suit me. Obviously you're not playing that long. Just for spurts. If I'm feeling pretty good, I can do some damage.

Q. What was it like for you to see the last two Wimbledons?
JOHN McENROE: The last three have been five-setters, great matches. The last two in particular. Last year I think was the greatest match that I'd ever seen. And this year was very, very dramatic, obviously. It was quite memorable. So it was just nice to be there, no doubt about it. To see Pete and Rod, Bjorn in the front row, was amazing, some of the other great players. That made it to me even more special.

Q. Can you look ahead at the summer series in the U.S. a little bit and talk what we should expect at the L.A. tournament and also where men's tennis is in the U.S. right now?
JOHN McENROE: That's a good question. I'm not sure who is even playing L.A., I have to be honest with you. That's a little bit difficult to comment on it. Hopefully they got a good field. Who is playing?

Q. Sam Querrey, Mardy Fish.
JOHN McENROE: Well, it's not what it used to be, I suppose. But at the same time, you know, it's an opportunity for Sam to really get back on track and maybe take a step forward again, from that standpoint. Obviously there's something for players to gain.
As far as American tennis, I think that really tennis in general seems to be on an upswing, particularly the men's game. I would like us to somehow take advantage of that in the States, get more people playing, hopefully take advantage of this sort of really memorable matches, historic matches. Roger has broken the record, what's been going on the last year or two in tennis, which I think has been pretty spectacular. And Andy obviously has really stepped it up.
Hopefully that will lead to something. I can't speak too much about the younger ones. Been trying to become more a part of that myself in some way, having an academy. It's still something I'm hopeful to be part of. But at the moment, it hasn't taken place yet.

Q. If you were promoting a tournament like L.A., how would you sell it when you don't have Andy or Roger?
JOHN McENROE: Great beaches (laughter).
Some of it's obviously money, timing. I mean, this is one of the rare years where I think there's eight weeks between Wimbledon and the Open. For a European, that makes it a little more difficult because it would be five weeks and then two weeks. They're talking like six, seven weeks if you get to the end of the Open. So that makes it more difficult.
And also some of it's politics. Let's be honest. I have a second home in L.A. I spend a fair amount of time here over the year. If you're asking me where would I rather play a summer tournament, L.A. or Cincinnati, it's not like for me personally -- and I played Cincinnati a bunch of times, but it's not that difficult an answer for me, and it probably wouldn't be for a lot of other players.
But they have a lot more money and they've got more connections. That's why that tournament is there. It's like anything: there's a lot of politics in tennis as well as everything else.

Q. You played seniors recently. What are your tips for people who are interested in playing who are over 50?
JOHN McENROE: Well, first of all, hopefully they like what they're out there playing. I like the fact that you're still out there, you can get vigorous exercise, you have options whether it's singles or doubles, even different surfaces potentially. I think there's a lot of options. It's nice being able to go out and compete on some level, test yourself, know that you're having fun ultimately. Obviously, people want to play some tennis, but also get something out of it.
Obviously, there's a big problem with health in our country, in the whole world, but particularly here. It's a shame that people don't exercise more regularly. I think that's one big thing we have. People say golf. Golf, they're in a cart, walking around. In tennis, you're really out there and you're working particularly hard.

Q. (No microphone.)
JOHN McENROE: We call it the Champions Tour because Seniors sounds a little old. I don't really have anything to do with it except I've supported it because I think it's good to do something else for the retired players. It's like World TeamTennis, I think it's something different that people can appreciate. They're more accessible, closer to the action, smaller stadiums like this. I don't own any of the seniors events or run them, I just play in them. Keeps me young. Gives me something to push for. Gives me a reason to maybe keep working at it and keep myself in shape.

Q. World TeamTennis gives people an opportunity to see men's singles and doubles, women's doubles and singles all in one place at one time.
JOHN McENROE: Yeah, if people are into that. I'm not sure a whole lot of people are into that. But that's the idea behind it. And it happens fairly quick. You got a pretty good idea, it's about two and a half hours. It's like anything, people's attention spans are so short now. Tennis matches used to go a lot longer. It's more difficult to justify, particularly something like this. Football game goes five minutes over three hours, people are freaking out. In baseball, all sports, this is an issue.
You have no-ad scoring, things that happen quickly, you get to see as a tennis fan, I think it's a good thing, you can come and see different things.

Q. Watching Andy at Wimbledon, he's really made himself over in the last year. How hard is that to do when you're in the middle of your career?
JOHN McENROE: I'm not sure, I think he's a very smart guy, Andy. I think he realized that if he didn't really get himself in tip-top shape, slowly but surely it was going in the wrong direction. I think Larry Stefanki was able to get in his head a bit, make him more keenly aware of that, to sort of point out a few things, such as the fact that he weighed 15 pounds more than he did when he won the Open.
He's still only 26. It's not like he's 60. You have all those other years where you have to turn it around and get yourself in tip-top shape. I think he really did what he needed to do. Now I think it's nice to see, you can see in his eyes, the way he acts, you can tell he knows it's paid off. All of a sudden he doesn't -- to me he is more sure of himself and maybe not panicking in certain situations that he may have before against someone who's pretty easy to panic against, like Roger, or Nadal. He didn't have to play Nadal at Wimbledon. These type of matches where he's more confident, waiting a couple more extra shots if he needs to. He's also hits the ball harder off the ground than I've ever seen him, I think.
He sort of got back a little bit to what he was before, which is like really penetrate with the forehand. He started to let go on his backhand more, picks his spot a little better at net, positions himself better. But the serve still is obviously the key. The guy just has a monster serve. The fitter you are, the better chance you are going to pull that off.

Q. Seeing a lot of changes in the game, the surface, change from wooden racquets, what is your observation if today's players went back and played tournaments in your generation?
JOHN McENROE: You can't play the same type of game in conditions where there's a lot poorer bounces, a lot smaller frames. Balls are even different. It wasn't that long, balls came out of a cardboard box. Strings are different. The synthetic gut, which allows more spin, but doesn't -- you really have to take a big swing at it. At the moment there's been a rather drastic change the last five to seven years.
Physically they're in better shape and stronger than ever. They pay more attention to what they're eating, training, all that sort of stuff. While, yes, most players play a similar style, the better ones have adapted and added a little extra. That's why they're the best to me. That and heart and will. But they've added a few wrinkles. Nadal became a better volleyer, a better server. Roddick's backhand is hit better, a little more comfortable at net. Roger got a bigger serve. The best guys add more. They're all-around players, the best guys.
But obviously when the ball in the old days at Wimbledon, similar to the match you saw a few weeks ago in the final, part of the reason it was tougher having rallies because the court was so beat up, and conditions were hot and playing faster. That was more old school. But it wasn't a lot of rallies, the way you saw maybe the year before.
At times you have to adapt to the situation. If you get a lot of bad bounces, we were taught to take the ball in the air, take a shorter backswing, because you couldn't afford to take a huge swing, you'd miss-hit the ball. Now the courts are generally slower and there's generally a firmer bounce.

Q. It would be interesting to go back and see how today's players playing by those particular conditions.
JOHN McENROE: Well, you're not gonna see it, so just dream about it. Worry about how Babe Ruth would fare against the top hitters of today or how Bill Russell would do against the top basketball players. We could go on and on.
But the bottom line is it's someone's opinion. I would love to play with a wood racquet. It was beautiful. But it's not going to happen.

Q. Do you have memories of playing in L.A.
JOHN McENROE: I played in L.A. when it was after the Open. That was one of my first -- the first time I ever played doubles with Peter Fleming was the L.A. event the week after the 1977 US Open, the first time I played. I went off to college after playing L.A., San Francisco. I played at the Forum when they had it there. I played at the L.A. Tennis Club. That was the name of it, right? I think that's where Gonzales and those guys played in the '60s, as well as UCLA. I'm trying to think if there was another location. That might be about it. Yeah, I played all those places.
I mean, L.A., I visited here when I was looking at the colleges, Stanford, UCLA, USC. Those were the three schools I applied to. My girlfriend was a tennis player, went to SC, lived out here. At that age, 18, 17, 19, I was out here. Certainly I go way back.

Q. Do you think it's important to have a tournament in L.A.?
JOHN McENROE: I'd rather have it in L.A. than Palm Springs, but that's just me. In a second.

Q. Do you plan to be back here next year?
JOHN McENROE: I'm not planning on that. I'm hopeful I will be. I had a pretty good year this year. This is my fifth match. I feel pretty good.
It's difficult to say. Billie Jean asks me back, she's hard to say no to, very difficult. I feel like I'm still legitimate, still playing well. We're in first place. We're going to be in the playoffs. We'll see what happens.

Q. I know it's not your sport, do you think Michael Vick should be able to play in the NFL again?
JOHN McENROE: I think so. I think he's completely lost his career at the moment. Spent a couple years in prison. There's a lot of guys that have made mistakes that have been given other chances. In my opinion, if he plays well enough, there's not people knocking his door down, he's going to have to prove a lot of things. It seems like to me personally he's lost 10s of millions of dollars and spent a couple years of his life in prison. Only in the last six, seven years I became a dog lover because of my kids. I see it in a different way. But obviously people have strong feelings, but I still think he should be given a second chance.

End of FastScripts

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