The Tennis Greats: John McEnroe

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Although tennis is commonly seen as a “gentleman’s sport”, one of its finest exponents in the men’s game is a man who few people would have referred to as a gentleman. John McEnroe’s career is remembered by casual observers of the sport as being notable as much for his tirades and confrontational approach to umpires and line judges as it was for the tennis he played and the tournaments he won.

Now retired and in his early fifties, McEnroe himself admits that this reputation was well-earned, and indeed he was once nicknamed “Superbrat” in reference to it. It is a shame that people should remember this because on his day, McEnroe was a tennis player of incredible skill and grit. While casual fans might remember his “You cannot be serious” outburst at a Wimbledon umpire, aficionados of the game will also point to his seven Grand Slam titles and his even rivalry with the great Bjorn Borg.

McEnroe may also be seen as the greatest exponent of serve-and-volley tennis, a tactcial style exemplified by a player serving wide to get their opponent to move to one side of the court, and then dispatching their return into the open court on the other side. As this style of tennis has decreased in popularity, he may be seen as its last great exponent – and so much more. McEnroe now makes a living as a tennis commentator, an arena in which he is considered, much like in his playing days, as individual and highly skilled.

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