Jun/17

29

Do You Believe McEnroe In His New Book, “But Seriously?”

310917_255560254494254_1440198522_nJohn McEnroe is back with a new book, “But Seriously, which just came out on Tuesday, 15 years after his iconic and No. 1 New York Times Bestseller, “You Cannot Be Serious.” And here is my question to you, do you think Johnny Mac still wakes up in a cold sweat sometimes because he lost that 1984 French Open finals against Ivan Lendl, even though he was up two sets to love, had three break points at love-40 to break Lendl at 3-all in the third set and had a forehand volley to go up 5-3 in the fourth set?

I mean, it may not be on a par (it is to me though), I once lost a match in college, a doubles match at Potsdam College somewhere way up in upstate New York near Canada I think, where my partner and I had match points and I remember on one I duffed a return from the ad court, that lost my college, Cortland State, the match, and I never played doubles again in a college match, but even so, I never wake up in a cold sweat re-playing that match.

What’s quite amazing is Johnny Mac said in 2015 when he played Lendl on the Senior Circuit in Paris, he was jonesed to go out and revenge the loss. Really Johnny Mac, on the senior tour to a fat Lendl? But that is the competitive mojo Mac brings to the court even at 56 (now 58)

Here’s the excerpt from Mac’s new book: (What do you think? Is Johnny Mac being absolutely truthful with us? And what’s the big deal with Mac saying Serena would be #700 on the men’s tour? I think Johnny Mac was being kind with that assessment.

Book Excerpt: ‘But Seriously’

By John McEnroe

5:14 a.m., June 8, 2015, Paris

I wake up in a sweat. My pillow’s damp and I don’t know what day it is. Did I miss the match? Am I playing later? For a few seconds I don’t even know where I am. Then it hits me. I already played the match. I already lost it. Jesus, it was back in 1984 and I’m still haunted by it. Even now, more than thirty years later, I’m as hot as I was in the fifth set and I can taste the red clay on my tongue.

It was a match I should have won and it turned into the worst loss of my career. I’d been playing my best tennis ever, I was undefeated that year, and although serve-volleying wasn’t the obvious way of winning the French Open on the slow clay of Roland-Garros, I was playing Ivan Lendl. Ivan had so far lost four Grand Slam finals in a row and I sure as hell wasn’t planning on breaking that run for him by handing him his first title. In fact, I was planning on beating his ass.

At first, that’s exactly what I did. After two sets, I was up 6-3, 6–2, and I was all over him. The crowd was behind me, “Allez, John! Allez.” As far as I was concerned, I was in control, I had this in the bag. But as it got hotter, the crowd started losing focus.

Then my friend Ahmad Rashad—a great former wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings—who was there rooting for me, got up to leave. “You got this, Mac! I’ll see ya back at the hotel.” Shit, the last thing I needed was a jinx. It’s an unwritten rule in sports that friends and family don’t leave until the match is over. Not that I’m blaming Ahmad for the loss, but that’s when little doubts started creeping in for the first time. I still thought I was going to win but those negative thoughts began to get to me.

Everything suddenly became a distraction. At the next changeover I couldn’t help but notice the noise from a nearby cameraman’s headphones. Someone was obviously trying to get this guy’s attention. The third set had barely started when, I swear to God, I heard something like, “When the match is over, we’ll focus on John and then stick with him through the trophy ceremony. He’s got this, so make sure he’s in the shot.” In English. In Paris. It was the American TV cameraman listening to the producer’s instructions in his headphones, but they
were so loud I could hear them too. Unbelievable! Now I was feeling even more jinxed. So I walked to the guy’s chair, grabbed the headphones off his head, and screamed as loud as I possibly could into his mic: “SHU T UP!” I knew immediately that my frustration wasn’t a good enough reason for me to do this, and while I didn’t care about the cameraman, I did care about the crowd. I needed them. But they sure as hell didn’t need me and my bad attitude. That was the point when they turned on me. They just wanted the match to go on—who could blame them—and what better way than to change corners and root for my opponent? After all, that French crowd was known for being fickle. I tried to block them out. I was still the best tennis player in the world and there was no way I was losing to Lendl.

I failed to break his serve at 2–2 in the third, despite him being 0–40 down. No matter. I still had my mojo. I was still convinced I could win this thing, all I needed to do was stick with my game plan: serve-volley, and break him—as soon as possible. Except he won the set 6–4.

I had to pull it together. I reminded myself I was two sets to one up; better than him. “Don’t panic. Don’t let the heat get to you. Don’t let these people get to you. They know I can beat this guy. I know I can beat this guy.” But it didn’t happen.

In the fourth set, I found myself serving, 4–3, 40–30. I’d broken him and was five points from the title. I really thought I could close it out. But in the heat of the moment, my normally soft hands pushed my first volley a fraction beyond the baseline. Somehow, in the blink of an eye, the set was over. He’d won it 7–5 and we were now two sets all.

In the fifth, the heat became stifling, Lendl’s confidence ignited, and the crowd got behind him. My legs felt more and more like Jell-O and, with my strength draining fast from my body, I lost my grip on the match. I tried and tried, but in the end, I was the one walking to the net with my head down, while Lendl was smiling goofily, his hands up, jumping around as he
sealed his first Slam title.

Does it surprise you that I still have that nightmare, all these years later? It wakes me up every year when I’m in Paris, commentating on the French Open—at least once, usually twice. But every time I have this bad dream, it’s a little easier to get over. Maybe I’ve gained some perspective on this dark moment in my career. Maybe time does heal all wounds. But any way you look at it, this was the closest I ever came to winning this clay-court major.

Thankfully I’ve had a couple of small chances for revenge since then (although let me be clear: nothing could EVER EVER EVER make up for what happened that day). The first was in October 2010. And it was in Paris. That morning when I awoke I didn’t have to have the nightmare, because after eighteen years, I was finally going to be playing Ivan Lendl again. For me, it was a big deal to meet him on court once more. My chance to get one back on him. I’m not kidding. That 1984 Roland-Garros defeat still burned my guts. We’d come up against each other on a number of occasions since then; sometimes I’d won, mostly I’d lost. We’d last played each other on the main tour back in 1992 in Toronto, but by then we were both on the downward slope of our careers, so it hadn’t felt like a proper opportunity for payback. Once I started on the seniors circuit, there was a long period where Ivan was kept off the court because of a clause in an insurance policy that looked like it would stop him from ever playing again. But somehow that got ironed out. So now, in the city where I’d suffered the most painful loss of my career, I finally had the chance to lay that ghost to rest—the one that had been haunting me for twenty-six years.

Excerpted from BUT SERIOUSLY © 2017 by John McEnroe, Reprinted with permission from Little, Brown and Company.

facing-mac

 

54 comments

  • the AntiPusher · July 1, 2017 at 1:19 am

    Yes..I believe him..he just lost his focus..There are certain circumstances that can cause you to wake up in a cold sweat. I still agonizing over my upper level statistics course..hardest class I ever encountered because my professor was the closet thing to the AntiChrist..

  • catherine · July 1, 2017 at 2:11 am

    catherine writes:

    Ashleigh Barty can slice and dice a bit BTW, but I don't know how good she can be. I believe Bouchard had something vital knocked out of her in that Wimbledon thrashing she got from Kvitova. She was young, maybe lacked the resilience to get over it. We'll see. Interesting betting odds from Coral in the UK reported in DTel. Struggling to find any sure bets in the women's draw and has poor Angie on her way home before the 3rd round. If I was a betting person I'd stick to the horses.

  • TP Blog Guest · July 1, 2017 at 2:11 am

    catherine writes:

    What's this spam doing here ? Go, please. Ashleigh Barty can slice and dice a bit BTW, but I don't know how good she can be. I believe Bouchard had something vital knocked out of her in that Wimbledon thrashing she got from Kvitova. She was young, maybe lacked the resilience to get over it. We'll see. Interesting betting odds from Coral in the UK reported in DTel. Struggling to find any sure bets in the women's draw and has poor Angie on her way home before the 3rd round. If I was a betting person I'd stick to the horses.

  • catherine · July 2, 2017 at 9:58 am

    catherine writes:

    catherine writes: Now I'm completely confused. I'm not spam and I wrote TP Blog Guest's post. I know it's a superlatively wonderful comment but I don't believe it deserves posting twice.

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