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May 13, 2007

John McEnroe


THE MODERATOR: John will be playing against Renzo Furlan a little bit later today, and he's here to answer your questions. Go ahead.

Q. We're at a fascinating juncture in men's tennis with the No. 1 deciding to part company with his coach at an interesting moment. What do you make of that?
JOHN McENROE: I just heard about it a couple minutes ago so it's sort of surprising. But, you know, it's hard to know what to make of it right now. I mean, obviously he needs a little bit of a jolt. So for him he's like sort of human right now.
I'm sure he's a little concerned, because it's the first time he lost to someone else besides Nadal and he's got to step it up. To me, if he's going to win the French it's going to have to be real soon: This year, next year.
He's not a natural clay court player. He's an all-around player. So it's somewhere where I think there's a sense of urgency. I don't know why, for whatever reason they decided to move on. I mean, the irony was that he hired Tony because Tony had won the French in a way.
So it's -- I don't know. Maybe it's -- one thing I thought that he needed to do was to take more chances and be more aggressive, and I haven't really seen him do that against -- with his clay court game. He seems pretty determined to play a clay court game.
So I don't know what this will mean moving forward. It's difficult to say. But I just -- if Nadal plays well, I just -- it's hard to see him losing to anybody. I watched him play Djokovic and I thought, The guy is just -- because this guy is the really deal, Djokovic. He's a great player and he's going to be up even higher. He looked un beat believe.
But yesterday he looked -- it looked like at least he was human, like he was capable of missing some shots and that he might tighten up at times. So I think that gives people hope at times. I think he got a little worn down possibly from a couple matches and then played another one on Friday night and come back and played a tough match.
I don't think you'll be seeing him do that again, especially leading up to the French. To me, he'll probably suck it up for this match and try to get through this, and I would be surprised if he played next week, to be honest. Because he's played enough tennis and maybe he's a little mentally -- I've never seen the guy physically tired. I don't know, it's like he's not capable of getting tired. I'm tired in a warm up, you know.

Q. You've been there in French Open terms. Can you get sorted of a complex about it in if you don't win it?
JOHN McENROE: It's about sort of when you see guys like Volandri, I mean, those are the type of guys that if they get hot they play that sort of, you know, classic clay court style. The difference now being that guys really go after a lot of balls and when they get hot they can not only play some good defensive tennis, but they can turn around and hit winners, too.
There's a bunch of guys like that, so if makes it that much more difficult. There's a small window to me. He had set himself up where everything, to me had worked in his favor last year, for Roger.
He had lost a couple really close matches to Nadal. Looked like the next step was winning it. He had -- the draw fell in his favor, guys -- Djokovic played a couple sets, retired. I mean, Nalbandian in the semis was beating him a set in the break and he retired in the third set.
So everything -- and Nadal played a first set very uncharacteristic. I don't know, it's not going to be -- that was a great chance. So then you do start to think -- you start to -- I mean, I thought, Okay, when I blew the one that I should have one I thought I'd get another couple chances. But you don't know what can happen in the future.
I didn't realize two years later I'd I have a kid or these type of things. So things change. I thought I could have won it the next year and he certainly can. It's not like there's a bunch of guys that are going beat him. And now that's it's best-of-five it may be even more difficult. He looked flat when he played to me. He didn't look like he was ready it really dig in against a guy who was playing well.

Q. Do you think in view of his results this year the people that he's lost to that the a slackening of the grip might extend to Wimbledon?
JOHN McENROE: Not necessarily, because the guys that he lost to are the guys that make you beat them. They don't beat themselves. They're not going to be able to get away with that at Wimbledon. Guys like Cañas and Volandri and even Nadal to an extent. These guys that are incredible counterpunchers.
I mean, they get hot, but they play with a lot effort. Effort can win you, to me, on clay, but talent, striking ability, the ability to hit great shots comes out more in Wimbledon where it's quicker.
It's harder to beat a guy like that. But, you know, at the same time, sooner or later he's got to lose. I mean, the guy has one what, four in a row?

Q. I don't know if you saw Monte-Carlo final, but do you think Federer has fallen further behind Nadal this year?
JOHN McENROE: I saw the second set. I heard he had some breakpoints at 4-All. I missed that. I heard he stayed way back and sort of did his usual: Got himself in the point and never really had a chance to break. He had two or three breakpoints.
That's why where I think guys, you have to take that chance. You're not going to get a lot chances. It's really tough to play this guy. I watch this guy play every time I come here for this tournament. This guy is unbelievable on this surface. He's one of the best -- he's like the Borg of this era.
Borg was incredibly fit and fast and you didn't win any free points against him. He just had this mental edge. In those days when guys used wood racquets, it wasn't as if you could get the ball by him.
His is like a different style. Same sort of end result. Just seems like he's unbeatable. I just can't see the guy losing. But having said that, yesterday he looked vulnerable. I mean, he could have lost that match.
So that's -- I think that's a reason for hope for some of these other guys. Davydenko definitely had him, just didn't look comfortable for whatever reason. I think some of it just caught up with him a little bit, even for him physically. I think he's going take a couple weeks and he'll be a lot fresher again.
He'll be -- it's going to be pretty tough to beat the guy. I mean, I'd like to see that: Some guy beating him, just to see how that could be done.

Q. He's playing a lot doubles, which is something that you used to do probably to improve his volley, yeah?
JOHN McENROE: Well, the irony, at least to me, is that to me he's serving and staying back. So it's like -- I mean, I guess a couple times he's come in, but four the most part it looks like he's practicing for singles instead of working on parts of his game that he may need to improve, because that's what most guys do.
Okay, I'll play some doubles so I can work on my volley or the return. He's not doing that. He's just out there continuing to do what he does. So it's like, Why in the world does he needed to that?
I'm sure that it's not easy for some of the guys that he plays, but to me if he's going to play doubles he should try to do -- because his serve and his volley have improved. He's got some pretty good hands. He's got some -- you know, he volleys pretty well. His serve has gotten some more pop and he's gotten better there.
So it seems like there's no reason why he shouldn't, if he's going to play doubles, do that. But I don't know.

Q. Do you think there's a danger in playing doubles, because you did that, rather than practice? That he's overextending himself?
JOHN McENROE: Well, I think he did yesterday. I think he felt that a little bit. So I think even -- I was sitting next to Moya during the Djokovic match and he was saying, I mean, Look you don't need to play this match. Don't worry about it, or whatever. No, no, no, I want to play. Like he's really eager to play. And he was like, You are?
He was sort of surprised at how into it he is. So it's unbelievable in a way. But I think they're just going to really tell him like, Look you're not playing doubles, and as a matter of fact -- I mean, I don't know what's going to happen.
I don't want to be the reason that he -- but I could definitely see where he's got more than enough to be ready to play in Paris already, and he doesn't want to lose to anybody. He's that type of guy. He's going to go there and try to win it. So they may be -- I don't know, we'll see. We don't have long to wait.

Q. Who would be a good coach for Federer be, except you?
JOHN McENROE: Of course. Yeah, I don't know. It's difficult to say. There are some guys out there that have --

Q. What kind of coach does he need?
JOHN McENROE: He doesn't need much coaching, that's for sure. Someone that he would respect enough that he would alter his tactics against some of these players on clay, that he'll believe that he needs to do that.
Someone maybe bigger than him so they can put him up against the wall and tell him he's got to come in. You know, someone -- really do something different. Because he's getting a little stuck back there, and that shot, that's tough on clay.
You get up there and -- I mean he's obviously comfortable on clay. It's not -- he's great on clay in a way, but he's making it more difficult. I think he needs to try to do something that makes people more uncomfortable, the best guys, use that ability to hit those shots, to three people off.

Q. Has it become a bit of -- I mean he's won Hamburg three times. Does it almost become a one-person phobia? He's thinking about Nadal all the time and he's forgetting to play to his strengths?
JOHN McENROE: To be honest, he's been playing this way, though. He's better than everyone pretty much playing that way, so he hasn't had to really alter anything. I think one of the first times that I remember where -- I mean, Gasquet beat him in Monte-Carlo a couple years ago. Occasionally he'll have matches like this.
But this guy basically played that sort of classic high percentage, wait for a chance, go for a big shot when you have it, and just played within himself. And then came -- when he had a ball he really stepped into it, that type of guy.
That type of guy, there's a fair amount of guys -- there's ten, twenty guys like that that can play that level that are going to cause him problems if he's flat. He just didn't seem like he was ready to dig in enough.

Q. Who do you think could be the new No. 1 after Roger, a player in the future?
JOHN McENROE: I think the window is basically Roger is there, sort of up in the air what's exactly going to happen. Nadal, there's a window if he can keep this consistency here and do well enough on some other surfaces.
If I had to pick a guy it's Djokovic. This guy has got game. He's got some pretty good hands. It's -- I'm playing like a horse's ass so I'm not one to say, but -- and physically I can't move at all.
But with him, you see sometimes like he had some Love-30s and some breakpoints. That's when you got to push in, to me, and I'm not even saying like come right in, because I know guys don't do what I did or whatever.
But standing closer and put pressure, because Nadal has a tendency -- which is smart. When he gets in those positions he'll put up a first serve, not at much on it, get it in. That's the one you got to be aggressive on. So guys sort of get back, let him in the point.
That, to me, is small tactics, but the guy's got all the game, the attitude. People gravitate towards him. He'd have to be the guy I would pick if it was the next guy.

Q. Where do you rate Murray?
JOHN McENROE: I think he's showing a lot of headway, but I just don't think he's in the same -- I think he's certainly -- I don't know what his ranking is, but I think he's 10 in the world. Pretty high up there.
He's certainly got a lot going for him also, but that's a level that -- I don't know if he's at that level. And I think he gets -- I mean, I did too -- but he's getting too negative to me on the court. He should be -- for all he's got I'd like to see him for positive generally.
Again, that's easy for me to say. I know I had my run-ins, and sometimes you can use negativity in a positive way. But it's like he's, I mean, come on. I'd like to see him more positive out there. He's yelling at everybody and this, that, and the other thing.
I don't know. I mean, I like Andy a lot. I just don't like to see that that much. It's like the guy is making some obscene amount of money. He's 10 in the world. He looks like he just isn't very happy about it. I'd like to see him feel better about it, for God's sake. It's incredible.

Q. Were you happy at your time?
JOHN McENROE: I was happy -- I think people -- I don't see Andy a lot of the court. I certainly didn't show it as much. I'm saying that partially because I wasn't enjoying it as much as I would have liked to, even know.
But I think off the court I was feeling pretty good about life and aware of like -- I think people around me saw that I was -- and I can't speak for Andy as much off the court. I don't know. He seems to be, Hey, how you doing, and friendly.
Just a piece of advise from someone who could have enjoyed it more himself then. Let's just leave it at that. I wish I had been more positive. He's twenty or whatever he is. I hope he enjoys it more than some of the other times that I should have enjoyed it more. That's a good point.

Q. What was Sampras' comeback like?
JOHN McENROE: I'll tell us, it's getting increasingly unpleasant to play matches on this tour. I mean, Leconte was serving 205 yesterday. I'm like, What in the hell is going on here? So my days are numbered.
I'm not going to be playing on clay anymore after this event. I know that's a big bummer for all you journalists. But I think Rome is an incredible city, and Barcelona actually as well. There are some great cities in Europe, and I want to tell myself, You know something, let's go give it a try.
But I'm here to officially announce you're not going to see me at any more of these events other than to putting my arm around somebody to take a photo maybe. Maybe they'll pay me to be a statute or something. And maybe to come to watch some of this, because it's fun to watch.
Sort of like, Wow. Wish I could do that. Try to pick my spots a little bit. But, see, the problem is if I go to the other surface which I'm a little bit more comfortable moving on, you know at 48 -- these guys are 35, 36. I played Costa in Madrid, he's 31, Rios, now Sampras.
I mean, the guy -- I'll tell you, and I'm not kidding, there's -- I would seed him in the Top 5 in Wimbledon without a doubt. Name five guys that could going to beat this guy at Wimbledon. I'd be hard pressed to name a couple. Two out of three. Three out of five is a different animal.
The guy absolutely just cranks the ball still, and just makes you so uncomfortable and uneasy. Now obviously I know that it's not maybe Davydenko who's 4 in the world and wouldn't be intimidated the way I was after a few games, or unsettled.
But there's not -- the way he plays is just -- I tell you, on grass, I wish in a way -- to tell you the truth I'm sort of tempted to push him to play it, because it would be interesting.
You realize how -- you forget until you see him because he hurts you with one shot. It's like the opposite of Nadal. Nadal you just feel like you can't get the ball by. This guy just hits winners from anywhere and goes for second serve aces and hits the outside of line. You're just like, Who even tries that?
But I mean, he's going get careless because he almost -- so guys are going to be, you know, waiting to try to get him.

Q. Was he physically --
JOHN McENROE: Physically he's fit. He's not superfit, not best-of-five fit, but he's best-of-three fit. I know they're exhibitions, but he's had wins over Ginepri, Mardy Fish he beat a couple weeks ago, Roddick. He's practicing with Federer and Tommy Haas. So I don't think he was intimidated by my pace when we played. (Laughter.)

Q. Do you think there's another Grand Slam in Roddick?
JOHN McENROE: I don't want to say no, but it's not getting any easier obviously. With a serve like that I'm not going to say no just simply because it's such a weapon. But there's guys -- you know, there are four or five guys that -- Djokovic is the clear favorite, and Murray is probably at the moment second, Gasquet, Berdych.
I mean, it's close with these guys. These are guys are coming on, and there are probably guys we or I don't even know about. And some of those older guys are going to make one last ditch effort to stay in this mix, Roddick presumably being one of them.
I think he's going to have one more run at certainly a Wimbledon or US Open. He seems to have packed in the clay court thing. I think he pulled out of Hamburg, as far as I know, and he didn't play Monte-Carlo. Came here and lost in the third round.
I don't think he's doing anything terms of the French a whole a lot, so he's obviously trying to gather himself for Wimbledon is the way I see it.

Q. Speaking of intimidation, how much do you think the losses of Federer have hurt his image in the locker room? Do you think people have less fear?
JOHN McENROE: They touch him now to see if he's human. They go, He is a human being. I think he's -- sooner or later it happens to everybody. I mean, the guy has had an unbelievable -- probably the greatest three years in the history of tennis.
Certainly I can't -- I don't know offhand of a better one. Were Laver when he won the Slams, but then he turned pro. He's had this incredible run. Sooner or later, if nothing else, there's a let down.
So if -- in a way, losing to like Volandri, I'm not saying that -- it certainly gives people room for hope, but at the same time it may wake him up and realize, Hey, wait a second, it's not just Nadal. I've got to be ready.
So it may have shaken him up. He made this move. It may work out that the sense of urgency will be there at the French.
Also, I'm not court at 5:30, if you're interested, following the men's final you'll. See a pace that you won't even believe. (Laughter.)

Q. There is still something that make you angry when you play?
JOHN McENROE: I get paid to get angry now. I have to get angry whether I like it or not. I have bonuses for yelling at umpires and breaking racquets.

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