John McEnroe Thinks I’m Stupid

Sep 1, 2012 by

John McEnroe thinks he pulled a fast one over on me.  Fuck that, I’m not falling for it.  I’ve played this game since I was seven years old, attended ATP tournaments throughout the country, and routinely followed professional tennis for as long as I can remember.  My father managed large tennis and fitness clubs throughout the Northeast during the tennis boom of the 70’s.  My dad also served in the role as Director of Marketing and Sales to the Boston Lobsters tennis team in the mid-70’s and even tipped a few back with Ion Tiriac.  I am also one of the few that actually watches the Tennis Channel.

Do the credentials mentioned above render me a tennis expert?  I will leave that up for you, the reader, to decide.  However, I know more about this sport than you.  (I rephrase-the majority of you.)

If my lack of humbleness has not stopped you from reading on, then let’s get to the point of the piece.

John McEnroe for the first time in his illustrious broadcast career went on air Monday night and fed the viewer a big pile of bullshit. Monday night, McEnroe, Chris Evert, Brad Gilbert and Mike Tirico openly discussed what to expect at this year’s Open, before Roger Federer’s match up against former heralded top American junior Donald Young.  They also made a few predictions of their own.

Obviously the first topic at hand was to discuss the absence of Rafael Nadal.  Nadal announced a few weeks back that he was pulling out the US Open to continue rehabbing an injured knee.  If you’ve paid attention to men’s tennis over the last few years you know that the four men who vie for the major titles are Federer, Djokovic, Nadal, and the newly crowned Olympic gold medalist, Andy Murray.  They are the far and away the heavy favorites; then there is everyone else.  With Nadal laid up at home, what player can make a deep run and position themselves alongside Federer, Djokovic, and Murray in the semifinals?  McEnroe took to the podium and began to talk about who that fourth player would be and then took it to preposterous levels.

Johnny Mac, with a straight face, began to speak.  He first stated the obvious – Federer, Murray, and Djokovic will be present on Super Saturday.  He discussed though Federer has played exceptionally well all year culminating with his 7th Wimbledon title, the US Open draw and format does not bode well for the aging tennis icon.  The US Open is the only major with men’s semis and championship on consecutive days.  McEnroe sited Federer would have a potentially tough match against Murray in the semifinals, only to turn around in less than 24 hours and play another tough opponent in number two seeded Novak Djokovic.  At 30 years of age this creates a less than ideal scenario for Federer to hoist a 6th US Open championship.

McEnroe is absolutely correct in his assessment pertaining to Federer’s age and his ability to bounce back within a day.   McEnroe mentioned Andy Murray, who waxed Roger in straight sets in the gold medal match, will make Federer earn every penny in their eventual rematch.  Plus, with Murray riding the wave of newly founded confidence, who’s to say he couldn’t do it again this time on the hard courts.   Again no one questioned McEnroe’s logic until what he unleashed from his mouth next.

McEnroe looked straight into the camera continued on with another vision for us to ponder.  He prefaced with “jumping ahead to next Saturday’s men’s semi….”  What if John Isner makes a run to the semifinals and matches up against Djokovic.  I looked up from my IPad; Mac now had my utmost attention.  Isner has beaten Djokovic before (Once to be exact – This year at the semis of Indian Wells) and what if he can do it again?  This could put him into the final against a depleted Federer tired from the energy exerted getting passed Murray.  At this point, even Brad Gilbert and Chris Evert looked up from their notes.

McEnroe continued on adding another hypothetical to his already ridiculous fantasy.  If Federer is not well rested for the final, maybe just maybe, Isner could have a chance in the match.  We could see an American champion break the drought of no major championships since 2003.  Even McEnroe couldn’t say that without cracking a smirk.

He knows all too well the sport that gave him fame and riches doesn’t mean shit to the general American sports fan if the United States can’t produce an elite player or two.  This is exactly why he had to bullshit the audience.  He knows individual sports need star power like what Tiger Woods did for golf.   Americans need an Andre Agassi or Pete Sampras to drum up any interest in the sport he so dearly loves.  It was a feeble attempt at best, especially, since America posses no player with the talents of an Agassi or Sampras.  I will say we have no one even resembling a Michael Change or Jim Courier.

I understand McEnroe’s intent.  I do not doubt his attempt was genuine in hopes to drum up interest in the year’s final major, especially amongst the non-tennis fan.  However, I saw it as empty subjectivity, desperate, and dishonest.  All things we would never attribute to John McEnroe.

John McEnroe is our country’s biggest tennis ambassador.  He knows this, understands his role, and relishes every second of it.  In fact, no one other than John McEnroe that can be the face of United States tennis to the American sports fan.  I just felt he ran a little too far with his emotions, knowing very well the future is dim concerning the next great champion tennis player from the States.

John Isner will not be playing in the championship match come next week.  McEnroe knows this as well and would admit this to anyone as long as an ESPN camera was absent.  Sure, it would be great to witness an Isner run to the finals and could play an integral part in generating American interest in tennis.  I hope it comes sooner than later, I just don’t see it happening at this year’s Open and more than likely it won’t happen next year.  It’s sad to mention, but I don’t see anyone on the horizon that could lead the next generation. (This includes Jack Sock)  I am optimistic it will happen, however, I beginning to think this person has not been born yet.  Until then, we can listen to McEnroe’s silly hypotheticals or watch American woman Sloan Stephens rise up the rankings.  I plan to sit back and enjoy what tennis currently offers.

Here is why we can’t bank our American men’s tennis future on the Greensboro, North Carolina native:

  • He has never advanced to the semis finals of a major and though I can’t say for sure but I am quite certain he’s hasn’t even made it the quarters of any major.  I’m too lazy to sift through John Isner’s match history at each of the majors he’s played throughout his career.  If anyone is willing to research this, it can be accomplished through this site:  either way, his lack of success in majors makes me to believe his fate will not change at this year’s US Open.
  • He’s too tall.  John Isner is 6’9” and his height plays a wicked role in the velocity of his serves.  This weapon of unleashing bomb-like serves creates difficulty for his opponents to break him.  However, every other aspect of his game is limited by his height.  He does not particularly move well, which if anything, separates the elite from the rest of the tour.  Lack of mobility is also a concern regarding his net game.  You would think someone who posses NBA Power forward height, would be a prototypical serve-and volley player.  However, it takes effort to run from baseline to service line to position for any easy put away at the net.  So Isner is content slugging away at the baseline with his long swooping strokes.
  • It took John Isner like 1,000 games to finally break Nicolas Mahut’s serve during his now infamous first round match at the 2010 Wimbledon.  My brother has a bigger serve than Mahut and he last competed in high school.  To break through and win a major, then follow up and consistently compete for titles, you need to return service well.  Isner serves away, comes up empty in the return game, and hopes for the best in the tiebreak.  Not a formula for success.
  • Fitness.  Fitness.  Fitness.  John Isner, no matter his opponents ranking, never breezes through a match.  To win comfortably, especially in the early rounds, is the exception and not the rule.  By the time Isner reaches the fourth round of a major; he’s running on fumes.  Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic do not even break a sweat until their quarterfinal match.  Isner needs to beat lesser ranked opponents in straight sets.  If he doesn’t turn this around, and continues to extend matches and time on the court, he will be drained and wiped from the court every time he matches up against top players in any major.
  • One dimensional game does not cut it on the ATP tour.  Andy Roddick felt this firsthand when the players finally caught up with the pace of his serve.  Roddick was exposed for what he lacked in the other facets of the game.  Most notably, shitty volleying technique and an inept backhand.  Unless Isner can improve in certain areas of his play, he might very well be heading down the same path as Roddick – Big serve and forward and nothing else.
  • Confidence – Does Isner have the mental makeup to grind it out when things are tough?

This is the longest drought for an American man winning tennis major in my lifetime and it’s more than likely to continue throughout this year and next.  I don’t see a reversal in this misfortune.  Now with Andy Roddick announcing his retirement, America is left with star power only on the women’s side.  The Williams sisters are not getting any younger.  What does the future hold for America and tennis?  I hope this can all be turned around in our country, but in the meantime, I will continue watching this great game.

I hope I am wrong about John Isner.  I would be ecstatic to see him one day hoist a US Open trophy high above his head.  I just think it farfetched.   Until then, let’s face reality and not cower down to hypotheticals with zero validity.  Actual winning brings about the masses; nothing more, nothing less.  No one knows this better than John McEnroe.

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