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August 28, 2015
NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT
THE MODERATOR: Thanks to John and Jim for joining us. We'll open it up for questions.
Q. John, can you talk about why you do events like this. Do you love tennis, want to keep on promoting it?
JOHN McENROE: It's a combination of a lot of things. I think it helps me even with my commentary. You forget when you're up there how difficult it is. Obviously it gets even more so as you get older.
I do love to play. You never get that spirit of competition, but you can have a little more fun with it, make sure you get the right guy that gets with the program, take it easy on the old man.
JIM COURIER: I don't know what you're talking about (smiling).
JOHN McENROE: You want to go out there and show you have something left. If you can add a little flavor to the semifinal evening, it would be awesome.
Q. Is it more fun when you're interacting with the crowd rather than just letting your intensity show on the court when you played back in the old days?
JOHN McENROE: It's more fun to sort of at least feel like you're playing well and holding up reasonably well. Then the other stuff sort of falls into place.
People expect certain things, I suppose. I can't imagine what (smiling). So you try to obviously realize, having been on the other side, doing some commentary the last 20 years, you realize that for a tennis player and a tennis fan, you sort of want to be entertained at some level as well.
When you're trying to win Wimbledon, or Serena is trying to win the Grand Slam, she doesn't know about anything except herself, to try to go out and try to win it. Or whatever top player, whatever male player comes out on top, that's a totally different situation than what I'm in now or what I was in before.
Keep it with a grain of salt here.
Q. Does it give you just as much satisfaction to analyze and commentate when you're out there playing?
JOHN McENROE: In a word, no. But it's nice. It's nice to be part of it in a way. There's nothing like you realize winning, being the only guy left standing at the end of a major event.
You can tell your kids one year you finished the No.1 player in the world. Walk out onto center court at the US Open or Wimbledon... Unfortunately that last happened for me when I won it at 25, which is quite a few years ago. You don't realize at the time that this will never happen again.
So maybe in retrospect what I admire about Federer, for example, is he seems to just truly love it so much. Even though he hasn't won as much the last five years, he only won one major the last five years, yet it seems like he loves it as much or more than ever. I'm envious of that. I realize that.
Me personally, Jim can speak for himself, I'm in an incredible position in a way. Life is pretty darn good for the most part. It's nice to add a little bit of flavor. I always looked at commentary work‑‑ my mom always used to bake me chocolate cake, these great desserts when I was a kid growing up. Those tasted really good, but they tasted even a little bit better if you put some nice vanilla icing on it.
So commentating is like the icing on the cake a little bit. The cakes, the players, it's going to be very good either way, but you hope they have that little bit.
Q. What are your recollections from New Haven the last time you were here?
JOHN McENROE: I remember, if I remember correctly, that it didn't end the way I wanted it to. There were some things that in some ways I was very unlucky and in other ways I was lucky, from what I recall.
I came out of it somewhat unscathed considering what could have happened. I'll leave it at that (smiling).
JIM COURIER: I'm curious. What happened?
JOHN McENROE: I don't remember exactly. But I remember, as was wont for me in the past, there were times when I was fine to some degree on the court.
JIM COURIER: Shocking.
JOHN McENROE: Hard to believe the way I am now. There were some potential problems that could have arisen financially, as well as the fact I didn't do as well as I would have liked to. I believe that was way back in 1992. That's a long time ago.
Conveniently my memory has left me to some degree.
Q. How much do you both you guys look back on matches and intricacies of matches?
JIM COURIER: I probably remember losses more vividly than I remember victories. The victory can sort of get washed out in the adrenaline of the final point. I remember losing a very close call in the Wimbledon final that I played against Pete Sampras in the second set tiebreaker, that was a pivotal point. It was set point for me.
That is one that I don't wake up in the middle of the night anymore screaming, but there were times when I did. I don't really ever recall waking up remembering the match point of a match that I won.
It's interesting how the mind works in those scenarios. I hope most other players have it the other way around. For me the losses are the ones that are a little bit more vivid than the wins.
JOHN McENROE: I mean, I agree with Jim. I mean, for whatever reason, human nature, you sort of think of what you could have done as opposed to what you did do.
My job, even as a commentator, as a father for example, as a human being, has hopefully gotten some better perspective as I've gotten older. Make sure you're dwelling on the positives as opposed to sort of thinking about what you could have done differently in certain key moments.
At 18 if you would have told me I would have won four US Opens, I would have taken that in a second. The fact that I didn't win one that I felt I should have won, or won the French Open, these other events, there are times where you obviously think about it.
But it's my job, I believe in a way, to make sure that I show others that I'm able to sort of look at the glass half full than half empty. If I can't look in the position I'm in and think my life is a hell of a lot better than I thought it was going to be, I'd be crazy.
Q. Since these matches are more kind of about entertainment and showmanship, how does the level of trash talking change?
JIM COURIER: I think it will amplify. I hope it will amplify (laughter).
When you're in a very serious match for ranking points, for a prize on the line, trash talking will happen, but it won't be a planned thing. It will be something that might happen. It's also something that is a fine‑able offense. You kind of have to walk that line.
I think we'll give each other some needle tonight. Some of it will be probably real if it's coming from him. Some of it will be a little more planned if it's coming from me.
Both of us have done a lot of this, particularly together in settings like this. To understand that the crowd also wants to hear us as well as see the shots we hit. They feel connected to John in a way they didn't feel probably when he was younger because they've listened to him commentate now for so many years, which gives you an insight into how his mind works. They want to feel that connection a little bit.
They'll see a tremendous semifinal in front of us, right? So we can't try to replicate that kind of level of intensity. We could, but it would be silly to. We have another role to play tonight, which is to play a high level of competitive tennis.
Don't think for a second that we don't want to win. Both of us have learned that in between points there are times to engage the crowd and possibly infuriate the other.
Q. To that end, could you talk about the PowerShares Series line calling?
JIM COURIER: Yeah, we're going to do that tonight. On the PowerShares Series, we use Hawkeye technology for all the line calls, a little bit more of an elevated level than you'll see them using it in the WTA event here. John and I will both be calling our own lines tonight.
There will be a chair umpire to call the score, deal with any rules infractions, anything along those lines, but we'll be responsible for calling our own lines with unlimited challenges. So once and for all, John will be able to prove definitively that he has never been wrong on the tennis court when it comes to line calls ‑ or maybe not. We'll see.
That's something we've employed in the PowerShares Series, which is the more formal Champions Tour that we play on throughout the year.
JOHN McENROE: In order for this to work long‑term, which I think would be unbelievable for tennis in general, doubtful it will happen, nonetheless I think it would be great, would be to have more fan involvement.
90% of the time, if not more, we know right away it was out. Sometimes the players don't even call it out and the fans are unsure of whether it was in or out. You don't get that energy. We would prefer, because we've experimented with this a little bit, to me the one thing that's lacking so far is that people seem confused 'cause they're waiting for a call and in some cases not getting it. We forget sometimes to call it ourselves.
Hopefully we'll figure out a way to get people calling it for us.
JIM COURIER: God, he's so lazy in his old age.
JOHN McENROE: Save my energy for the tennis.
JIM COURIER: It will be something different for people in the audience tonight to check out. So I'll just make sure I verbalize when you miss all those shots.
JOHN McENROE: Keep missing my first serve (smiling).
Q. Jim, why do you do all these events? Is it because it's a business? You want to continue to give back to tennis?
JIM COURIER: I love the sport. Along the lines of what John said, I'm so lucky to still be involved in it in a few different ways. Playing is the purest form. Obviously to have a chance to come and play against someone I respect so much like John and compete is something that I don't know how long I'll get to do that in a public forum.
I'll always compete with friends and peers as long as I'm capable of playing tennis. To do it in this setting, I don't know how many years I'll get. I want to take advantage of these opportunities.
Anne has been wonderful having me here for the second year. Last year was against James Blake. This year is against John. To play against quality players like this in this setting and environment, hopefully it adds something to the fans who are seeing great WTA action, maybe they get a little different flavor from us. I think it's a really nice combination.
This is not the first tournament that we've done this together. John and I played in Canada, in Charleston, WTA events as well. It's always been well received. I think it will be well received tonight.
Q. John, do the competitive juices flow tonight?
JOHN McENROE: My competitive juices always flow. I don't step on the court that often. A match like this is way more meaningful for me than it appears. I don't know how many matches I'll do this. I played on Jim's tour. I played 10 nights there. I probably played a total of 15 to 20 days the entire year. So it's not as if I've been playing tons of tennis.
These matches for me, the last match, singles match, I played was before Wimbledon. The next one I have scheduled is not for another month. So I think less is more in a way as you get older. It allows me time to mentally and physically train and get ready and feel like I'm going a give it my best shot, convince myself that I can actually play a little bit.
JIM COURIER: Message: McEnroe pumped up, ready to go.
Q. When you say you don't play, you don't play in competitive matches, but does that include at a home court or friend's court?
JOHN McENROE: No, it doesn't include that. I feel like you can't pick up a racquet after having not played for two months. I have a tennis academy on Randall's Island in New York. I try to get out there on a regular basis.
I've had some type of injury issues recently that feel a lot better now. But that makes it at times, obviously if you're hurt, you got to do some rehab, you're not on the court as much as you'd like. I haven't gotten quite as many reps recently the last few months. But I'm heading in the right direction, that I'm optimistic for the rest of this year.
For me an ideal situation would be sort of two to three days a week where I was off court doing some type of training, two or three days a week where I'd be on court, where I'd be doing something five, six days a week.
Q. Is it more fun now for you guys? Is there something fun about the fact that this isn't your livelihood per se? You can compete and have a good time win or lose?
JIM COURIER: I can't speak for John. He'll do that I'm sure in a second. For me, I think it's easier to be relaxed in this setting. It's easier to appreciate the opportunity.
Losing and winning will never quite feel as intense as it was when you woke up in the morning, and if you'd lost the night before, you felt like your world was over. I'm glad, frankly, that I have more perspective in my life right now. I feel much more balanced when I go out. I really do love to compete. I love to go out there and play.
But I think this is a much more palatable way for me to survive within the sport 'cause, you know, when you're a kid growing up and you have no perspective, you don't think about anything else other than the result. Doesn't matter if you play well. If you lose, it's a heartbreak. Now it's not quite the case. You don't have the highs, but you also don't have those lows. I call it a win for me at this stage.
Q. Can you give a little bit of a commentary for the US Open.
JOHN McENROE: Well, I think this is a special moment obviously with Serena going for the Grand Slam. It's a nice shot in the arm for our sport. It's historic. I'm hopeful that it's going to generate the type of attention that I think it will. And it's exciting.
As far as the men, it's pretty much already been determined that Djokovic is going to be the No.1 player for the year based on his record up to it. That doesn't mean there's not a lot riding on it for a lot of guys. Nadal, for example. For his standards, a miserable year. It would be incredibly important for him were he to be able to win. Murray seems to have positioned himself where he looks that he's as ready as he's been for quite a while to win it. Roger is defying age in a way. He's positioned himself as well as he possibly could to win another one. Then you have obviously last year with Cilic and Nishikori getting to the finals. What, how the hell did these guys get there?
That would be inspirational I would assume for any of the outsiders. Any of the other picks you may have, obviously people like the upstarts that we were expecting to make the breakthrough, like a Dimitrov, for example, has taken a serious turn for the worse, for him. It would be unbelievable for someone like that if he could turn it around.
There's a lot of upside for players, even though the rankings on both sides, both of those two players, Serena and Novak, are going to be No.1 for the year regardless of what they do. But if Serena were to win the Slam, I think that would just be a great shot in the arm. I mean, it would be great for her, but it would also be great for tennis.
Q. What are the biggest challenges for Serena?
JIM COURIER: Serena. She showed this year if she plays B level tennis, she's winning these tournaments. She's found a way in the last three or four years a way to win without her best stuff, whereas before she could beat herself with a lot of errors.
I think history is a huge opponent for her. She has to feel the weight of pressure. Her coach is talking a lot about it in the press right now, which is probably smart. He's trying to disarm some of that pressure that anyone in her shoes would feel. No matter how great she is as a champion, if she gets tight, she comes back to the field.
Someone could have a chance. Could be Sloane Stephens in the third round. Sloane has the wheels. She can play defense. She can hold off some of that firepower. I've got that one circled. I think that's a really critical match for Serena to get past. If she gets past that, she may have some momentum.
Obviously if she plays the way she's capable of, it will be rendered moot anyway. She's just better than anyone else by a pretty good margin right now.
Q. You said Serena obviously doesn't owe anything to anybody, that she's playing in that big moment for herself, for history, rightfully so. Do you feel like you owe anything to tennis right now? Is that why you're still playing? Or have you given so much to the sport?
JOHN McENROE: I would twist it a little bit. I would say that tennis has given me a lot. My perspective has gotten a lot better in that regard.
So I feel, if anything, I owe it to the sport of tennis to try to sort of bring it back to the level of excitement, press attention, for example, that it got back in the day when I was lucky enough to come in at a time when it seemed to be exploding. We had incredible rivalries. It went on.
Then there was this incredible group, Jim, Pete, Andre, Michael Chang. It's a combination of things that we don't have time to get into, but we kept expecting, were spoiled, thought it would keep happening.
Now we see that the best players, obviously on the men's side, not the women's, Serena's the best I've ever seen in the women's. We've had one major title in the last 12 years. Roddick won the US Open in 2003, I think.
We have a lot of work to do. I would be proud at my tennis academy if I were able to bring in some younger kids that would have the opportunity to play that may not otherwise and down the road we have some future champions. That's my main goal at this stage. That would provide me with the biggest satisfaction.
Q. How many challenges are there per match?
JIM COURIER: Unlimited challenges.
JOHN McENROE: You weren't listening (laughter).
JIM COURIER: It's like a buffet.
JOHN McENROE: Maybe you could hang around the service line and make the calls.
JIM COURIER: He doesn't like to get verbal. Maybe you can help him with that (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, everybody.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports