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May 7, 2004

John McEnroe


JOHN McENROE: I'm going to win the whole thing (laughter).

THE MODERATOR: Go ahead for questions.

Q. John, from the turnout here today and the amount of people that were watching you and applauding you in practice...

JOHN McENROE: Need to do this more often.

Q. Do you sense that maybe the actual tournament might not be as exciting as it could possibly be?

JOHN McENROE: No. I actually sense, because this is the first time in all the years that I've played the Seniors - whatever, Champions Tour - that we've played a tournament during a regular tournament. And it's something that I've been advocating. You've been around me enough to know that I've been talking about this for a long time - particularly at the major events, but also, almost as importantly, as an event like Rome. Because I don't think it's going to like hurt the tournament. I think maybe it can add a little bit of icing on the cake, hopefully. I mean, with these conditions the way they are, that's making life difficult just in general. But I don't see it as like a negative at all, or taking away from those players. I don't see like that real comparison. For the people that want to say, "It's gonna take away from it," I mean, I take that as like a compliment, but I don't see that as like a reality, especially when they see us play (laughter).

Q. In tennis circles, we have many tennis players - well, more than 30 in Italy. What do you think you represent for this generation?

JOHN McENROE: A lot of anger (laughter). They relate to me very much in Italy. We have like the same personalties. I'm like their older twin brother. I think that the people are very emotional here, so it's a natural sort of connection. Only wish that, you know, I had played more often in like this tournament, but it wasn't sort of -- was the most difficult surface for me, so it just didn't work out. But a lot of other places that I played, I mean, I felt the same type of intensity, and sort of we could relate to each other. It was also the best time for like Italian tennis. Panatta was playing. It seemed like it was exploding. I don't know what's happened in the last number of years, but it seems like it's the same problem here that they have in America, that there's -- we need to get more people playing. It would be better for tennis if there was -- we see that in America. Like I think it's a big, big help when Roddick is doing so well and a few other players, but especially Roddick. But here, they need to get some players. I don't know what's going on.

Q. Going back to what you were saying earlier, how important is it for tennis to market the sport as an overall product instead of the Mens Tour, the Womens Tour, the Seniors Tour?

JOHN McENROE: I think at this point it's a good idea. I mean, we need to reach out more to the fans and have a much better marketing plan. I think that seems like a slam dunk at this point, that we need to sort of -- it seems like the biggest and most successful events are when men and women are together. If that's the case, if that's what brings tennis the most interest and gets people to watch, then I would advocate it. I never would have thought I would have advocated it, you know, 20 years ago or 30 years ago, growing up. I didn't even think -- I mean, 'cause ours is the only sport I'm aware of that the men and women even play at the same time in sports. But having seen what seems to be going on in tennis, it doesn't seem to be a lot of changes have been made. It still seems like the schedule is too long - the same old tired things that have been talked about for 25 years. But it does seem like when the men and women play together, those are our biggest events. So there's no reason why not to take advantage of that, if possible. I think that the seniors could be a flavor, an additional flavor, that - for some reason that I don't have the answer to - they have not done it. This is the first time. I mean, used to be singles when I first started playing I think at Wimbledon, the Open. Didn't they have it, Richard?

Q. Yes.

JOHN McENROE: They had singles events, like senior singles events or 35s, whatever. They haven't had it for a while. I'm approaching the age, where, sadly, it's not going to matter for me because my days are numbered; I'm 45 now. Now I'm playing -- like Muster is playing. I play him tomorrow night; and Korda and Stich and Becker, these other guys. Next thing you know, they're gonna tell me I'm gonna play Sampras at Wimbledon my first match when I'm 50 (laughter). So things are looking sort of grim, sadly, for myself and for Connors, who started this more or less the second time around, and for Borg. That's too bad. But I still think it's the right thing to do. I disagree with the scheduling, though, I want to say. That dumb tournament director, I don't know what his name is (laughter). But they shouldn't be having the seniors matches on the center court at midnight (laughter). I just want to say that for the record. I don't know what his name is, but whoever he is has got to get his act together.

Q. It's a committee. It's not one person.

JOHN McENROE: It's a committee? Committee of one (laughter).

Q. There is a famous photograph where you were a "Rebel with a Cause." It was a famous photograph. How do you feel today, you're still a rebel with a cause, or it's something different? How do you feel, looking back at those years in comparison of today?

JOHN McENROE: Well, I still feel like an older rebel but with a nicer cause. I feel, like, in a good part of my life. And, you know, that was then and this is now. I'm gonna try to do a new poster, though - remind me - before I have no hair left whatsoever. So my goal is to sort of make something useful for myself the next 20 years. You know, I can only last so long with that sort of image or whatever you want to call it. But, I mean, I was fighting then in a different way. I still try to get things changed with a slightly different approach - except when I'm on the court, you know. I still have to -- you know, they pay me to get this now, so I have no choice (laughter). It's part of the requirement.

Q. Does it frustrate you, the way that your sport is being run now?

JOHN McENROE: Well, it frustrates me, but at the same time I have a lot of good things going for me. So I try to use that frustration in a positive way. I mean, for example, I'm starting a talk show in a couple months right after Wimbledon, so a lot of my focus now is on that. And, hopefully, I can, you know, get an opportunity to do some things that I haven't been able to do such as talk about other sports or music, which is something I love, art, politics, you know, sort of go off on some tangents. And that's a great opportunity to have. So on the one hand, it's frustrating, but I've been given a lot by that. There's only so much you can do or say, and then you just sort of have to throw your hands up in a way. You never give up. But it seems to like move at such a slow pace. It doesn't seem like we try to do enough things differently, or try to make changes or implement some things. I don't see much in the way of that. And from a personal standpoint, I don't see the sport of tennis using their older players the way -- in nearly as an effective way as like a sport like golf, for example. They have The Masters, and they have these older players, they can play Wimbledon - not Wimbledon, I mean The Masters there. Arnold Palmer is still playing. He's 75 years old or something like that, and he's still open arms, you know, "Arnie is the greatest." The players, it's like this tradition that I think people like. And yet if, God forbid, I went up there and said, "I'd like a wildcard at Wimbledon," the ATP would be up in arms because I'd be taking a spot away from the No. 115 guy in the world or whatever. It's like a mixed-up set of like -- that person could still get in in the qualifying. They make it seem like you've stopped this person. Go win three matches. It's so short-sighted, the way they do that. Now, admittedly, there's like a physical difference, and most players wouldn't do it unless they honestly believed they could do it. But it's like the fact that they have these outlets available and they use them is something, I think, that tennis should think a lot more seriously about.

Q. After tennis, which is your favorite sport?

JOHN McENROE: After tennis, my favorite sport...

Q. Or before tennis.

JOHN McENROE: My favorite sports are - if I had to pick three or four - I would pick boxing, basketball, American football and football - soccer, they call it in America.

Q. You've got The Masters of the Senior Tour at the Albert Hall this year. Do you see that as a boon? Are you looking forward to that?

JOHN McENROE: Well, I always look forward to that tournament. I think it's the right thing to do. But at the same time, I don't see that as changing a whole lot at this time, unless there's like more of a schedule and it's more spread out. The tournaments are in Europe only, so that's still an issue, obviously. I think it's nice and it's appropriate. But even that is something that we've talked about for many years. When there really was standing and when there really was like tournaments all over the world, it made sense. Now, to be honest, I'm not quite sure how many people would even know or care. I mean, I think this is an example, by the way, of where a step -- I mean, I think this tournament is an example of using the older players - just to go back to what I said a second ago - to sort of be around. I think the secondary issue is who wins this, in the seniors. But mainly just sort of hopefully add a little bit of the spark and just being around. I mean, I think Sergio was, you know, was pushing for years. I mean, this is not something that happened, like, yesterday. There was roadblocks put up by the ATP years ago to do something like this. They've been fighting to have a tournament here for years, so it's a strange world out there in this sport of tennis. I mean, we sort of -- despite ourselves, we need to sort of get our act together.

Q. Apart from being a tennis player, which is the thing you do best in your life and in your profession?

JOHN McENROE: In my profession?

Q. In your life and as a professional.

JOHN McENROE: Well, I try to be a good father and husband. I'm not sure that I win that award, but that's what I try to do. What I'm best at, I don't know. I mean, like let's put it this way - the more things I try, the more I appreciate tennis (laughter). But I think I can talk pretty good, so I'm hopeful that the talk show will be successful.

Q. John, I know you've asked the question of Wimbledon, why you guys aren't allowed to play the showcourts during the tournament. Doubtless, you've probably said the same thing at the US Open. Have you been given any specific answers?

JOHN McENROE: You know, you've asked me that many times.

Q. Just wondered if anything changed.

JOHN McENROE: I've never gotten a specific answer. I mean, there's a lot of sort of running around the question and not answering it, you know. They're not politicians for nothing. I mean, there's an art to not answering questions, something I'm working on - I've been working on that for a long time (laughter).

Q. Two things. What are you going to do in Rome to enjoy the city? And do you know the player Volandri? Did you get to see him?

JOHN McENROE: I've only seen him a little bit, he looks like a good clay court player. I don't know him well enough to really comment on him. I've seen him a little. He looks like he's good on clay. As far as what I'd like to do and see things, and what I could do is two different things because I'm playing and it's difficult to sort of do a lot of things and try to play well. I mean, I've tried that. So I try to put my energies into what I'm here for, which is basically be around here and try to play well. So I don't have like the time to go. If I had time, I'd love to go see some of the sites, but I don't see a whole lot of that happening.

Q. Do you see Federer and Roddick developing into the kind of personalties and talents that tennis needs?

JOHN McENROE: Well, I think Roddick has got more of the personality, and Federer has got more of like the overall ability. But that mix could be combustible in a good way. So I'm hoping - because I think that could be a great rivalry. So the key is that they play often, you know, and I don't think they've played that often. That would be a real good step, to really -- that rivalry really developing. Roger's like an incredible talent, but he does -- lets his racquet do the talking. And Roddick is much more emotional, but he's also got this incredibly powerful game. So it would certainly be good for tennis if these guys remain healthy and really started to sort of play each other in a lot of big matches.

Q. Very briefly, just on the question of Wimbledon, if you thought you would get a wildcard into the main draw of Wimbledon, would you take it?

JOHN McENROE: I could have gotten a wildcard any of the last 12 years, you know, I'm pretty confident. But I enjoy what I'm doing at Wimbledon very much, which is doing the commentary. It takes a lot of time. And I don't kid myself - the reason I stopped playing was because I didn't believe in my heart that I could go all the way. First of all, I'm not fit enough to go best-of-five sets. It's a lot tougher than people realize. You know, we're playing two sets on the Seniors Tour; we're not even playing a full third set. So the amount of effort that it would take to make that transition would be large. And I have, hopefully, respect enough for myself and for the tournament that if I chose to do something like that, that I'd have to put aside commentating. And I could lose in the first round; there's no saying what could happen. So, you know, I feel like I've had my run, it's okay. I wasn't necessarily, you know, referring to myself particularly, although I still think I can play - if I put some time. But that's a huge difference. That's one of the things that people in other sports don't have to deal with. The women, for example, you know, they don't go from best-of-three -- they play best-of-three every tournament. They don't make a change like the men do like at the big tournaments. In golf, they're still playing 72 holes even at the major events. There's maybe more pressure they put on themselves and more expectations, but physically, it's the same. And so that's an example of something where I don't know if it's ever going to change, you know, whether there's something besides, you know -- in between best-of-three, best-of-five, if that's -- if 30 years from now, we should be playing best-of-five; I'm not convinced that we should be doing that - being out there three, four, five hours, even though sometimes there are great endings. But there's a lot of times where -- there's periods during a match where it's not like ultra-exciting. Two hours of it, and maybe the last hour is great or maybe the beginning. I'm not convinced it has to be like best-of-five forever. That would open the doors to potentially older players. I mean, Edberg - I mean, I'm throwing out a name . He's - I don't know what he is - he's 38 or something. I've seen him around. He looks pretty fit to me. You're not going to sit there and tell me that if he trained and walked out at Wimbledon to play, that he couldn't beat some of these guys that don't play on grass. I could name other players that'd walk out and would -- you know, they would show them how it's done, let's put it that way. There's other guys. Sampras could close his eyes in five years and beat 90 percent of the players at Wimbledon. He could win Wimbledon if he came back. I mean, I wouldn't totally count him out yet. I'm not sure I'd count him out in five years. You know, he could lose first round; he could win the thing. I mean, that would be interesting potentially, if he ever wanted to do that. They should be, you know, opening the door for that to take pplace, for whoever it may be. And by the way, we have a substitution, right? Isn't Pioline playing for Noah, David, is that true?


JOHN McENROE: Do we have an age on him, by the way? Do we know how old is he?

Q. He's 32.

JOHN McENROE: See, he's too -- he shouldn't be permitted to play, right? Aren't there rules against this (laughter)? This is going to be tough winning matches. Muster is going to be grinding; we've got a guy who's 32. I don't know...

Q. You turn up here and you look at the draw up there and you see names like Federer, Roddick, Hewitt, Safin, Henman, and not one of them's got to the quarterfinals. I know it's clay, but does that surprise you?

JOHN McENROE: Well, it surprises me, but these conditions surprise me, too. So some of it's just bad luck. But, yeah, it does, actually. I would have thought at least two or three of them would have been in there. But it definitely has something to do with clay. You know, it does equalize things, especially the guys that, you know -- it just gives a lot of other guys a better chance. You know that sad story (laughter). We okay? Thank you very much.

End of FastScripts….

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