John McEnroe: 'I Hope Andy Wins Wimbledon'

The Wimbledon legend talks Murray, memories and whether modern tennis needs more anger

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The original tennis loudmouth, John McEnroe was that rare kind of athlete whose bark was as big as his bite, leaving a legacy of seven Grand Slam victories and countless on court memories, from that epic tiebreak with Bjorn Borg at Wimbledon to that infamous catchphrase.

Now a pundit for the BBC at Wimbledon - as well as a coach to world number seven Milos Raonic - John took some time out of his schedule to talk to Esquire about the modern game, Andy Murray and the romance of The All England Club.

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Hi John, which Grand Slam do you feel is the toughest to win?

I'd say Roland Garros and Wimbledon, they're both incredibly tough. I remember when I was younger taking more pride in Wimbledon than the French. That and the U.S Open, they were the ones I wanted to win. They're different though. The French is draining, it's grueling. It requires great physicality, especially today. But they suit different styles. Wimbledon still focuses more on serving, quick points and power. Plus it has that added burden of history, and tradition. That definitely adds to your nerves.

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What, in your opinion, makes Wimbledon so special for both players and fans?

There's a certain beauty and majesty to Wimbledon. The elegance, the way the grass looks on TV. I remember watching it at home in New York, watching all the girls screaming from the stands and thinking 'this is where I want to be.' I'd never left America until I was 18. It's like the Masters in Golf, there's just something about it.

 Who is your surprise package for Wimbledon this year?

I'm not sure if you can call Nick Kyrgios (Australian world number 18), a surprise at this stage, but I think he's someone who has the tools and talent to make a deep run and maybe even win the whole thing. Then there's John Isner, the American. He has the serve and power to trouble anyone. And of course Milos, I think he has a skill set that you don't want to deal with. He's very dangerous, especially on grass.

What's your favourite Wimbledon memory?

Of course it's the tiebreak in 1980 with Borg, that's the one that everyone brings up. There 20,000 people in the stadium, but it feels like it was 100,000 with everyone who's said they've seen it. That's an iconic moment for me.

Andy Murray, what's happening? Do you think he can he make it to number one?

I think it's a case of Djokovic just being too good at the moment. Murray has peaked at a time where 3-5 of the world's greatest ever players have been around. He's done a great job, he's looking in fantastic shape this year and he leaves it all out on the table every time he plays. He doesn't seem like he's given up at  all, I think he has a very good chance in this year's tournament. I hope he does it.

You were famous for your rants and temper, do you feel like there's space for that in the modern game?

Absolutely! I don't think enough players channel the energy of the crowd. If it's done properly, and you don't let anger overwhelm and distract you, it's like a shot of adrenaline in the arm and it gets the crowd pumped up. It's easy to lose discipline when you're angry on court, but I tried to always bring my focus back to the tennis, while still showing emotion. I'd like to see more players bring back a bit of theatre and battle to the game.

John McEnroe is part of the BBC's Wimbledon line up. Catch all the action across BBC TV, radio and online from 27 June.

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