Extract: Serious by John McEnroe

Some people talk about my 6-1 6-2 6-2 destruction of Connors in the 1984 Wimbledon as my greatest match ever, but the truth is – between you and me – I thought Jimmy was just a little flat that day.
I was also having one of those days, when everything seemed to be going almost too right. I got out of bed in the morning feeling great, and in my practice session, the ball looked as big as a cantaloupe. Since I always manage to worry when things are going well, I stopped the session early – I was afraid of leaving my best stuff in practice.

But it just kept getting better.
In fairness, Connors had had a tough semi against Lendl, a four-set slugfest on a very hot afternoon,while I had won in three agaisnt that feisty Aussie whippersnapper Pat Cash. Cash was a tough serve-and-volleyer in that great Down-Under tadition, still a little green at nineteen, but a great athlete and a fine tennis player. I thought he was a comer – especially after he shouldered me on a changeover during the second-set tiebreaker. That, I felt, was a very interesting move: here I was, number one in the world, a two-time Wimbledon champ, one of the game’s grand old men at twenty five … This kid’s got the right attitude, I thought.

Meanwhile, my attitude had utterly changed. I had wasted too much energy at the French by getting angry, I realized; from the first match at the All England Club that year, I was determined not to do anything that would derail me from avenging Roland Garros – my only loss in fifty-two matches so fa in ’84 – and winning my hat-trick Wimbledon. I was on a five-match winning steak against Jimmy, and I felt confident I could make it six.
I just didn’t know it would be so easy.

The heat wave had continued, but I was hotter than the weather that Sunday afternoon. From the start, Connors just couldn’t find his rhythm, while I was serving unbelievably well – slicing it wide, popping it up in the middle, doing whatever I wanted. I hit seventy-four percent of my first serves in the match, with ten aces and no double faults. I had three –three – unforced errors in the match.

That’s the best I ever played

I said in the press conference afterward. It was also the best I’d ever acted at Wimbledon: The London tabloids dubbed me ‘Saint John‘.

From McEnroe‘s autobiography Serious:

Connors was never intimidated by anyone – at least he never looked that way – and he was in the midst of an amazing year. From the jump, we played a very aggressive final, nothing like either of my last two against Borg, where the play had been more consistently fine, but also more subdued.
Every match I ever played against Jimmy was like a prizefight. At Wimbledon that day, I was ahead two sets to one, we went to tiebreaker in the fourth, and then I was three points from winning the match. Yet somehow, I just could’t dig deep enough to pull it out – maybe Jimmy was just hungrier. In retrospect, I should’ve said to myself, ‘Don’t let it go to a fifth set – stop him here or you’re finished.’

But I didn’t stop him, and when we went to the fifth, I think my body language showed what I was really feeling: between my ankle and my state of mind, I had done well just getting this far in the tournament. And that was as far as I went in the longest final in Wimbledon history.
Connors pulled off an amazing feat – he won his second Wimbledon eight years after his first – and I would have to wait another twelve months before I could prove I wasn’t a flash in the pan.”

Wimbledon Centre Court

All Wimbledon 2012 posts are tagged Wimbledon and are listed up below:

The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club:

Wimbledon guided tour – part 1
Wimbledon guided tour – part 2
Wimbledon Centre Court roof
Court 3 : a new Show Court at Wimbledon
Waiting in the Queue to Wimbledon
Wimbledon Museum: The Queue exhibition
The Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum: Player Memorabilia

Fashion and gear:

Caroline Wozniacki adidas outfit for Wimbledon 2012
Rafael Nadal Nike oufit
Roger Federer Nike oufit
Maria Sharapova Nike dress
Serena Williams Nike dress
Petra Kvitova Nike oufit
Li Na Nike oufit
adidas players outfits: Ivanovic, Kirilenko, Murray and Tsonga
Kim Clijsters Fila Collection

Marketing

Wimbledon 2012 Sponsorship Activation
Evian launches the ball hunt for fans to win tickets to Wimbledon

A trip down memory lane:

Wimbledon Trivia
Wimbledon past champions: stats and records
Wimbledon ‘s biggest upsets
Rod Laver – John Newcombe Wimbledon 1969
Bjorn Borg – Ilie Nastase Wimbledon 1976
Virginia Wade, Britain’s last Wimbledon champion
1981: First Wimbledon title for McEnroe
1982: Jimmy Connors defeats John McEnroe
1984: John McEnroe defeats Jimmy Connors
Wimbledon 1991: the first Middle Sunday
1992: first Grand Slam for Andre Agassi
1993: Pete Sampras defeats Jim Courier
2000 Wimbledon SF: Pat Rafter defeats Andre Agassi
2000 Wimbledon Final: Pete Sampras defeats Pat Rafter
2001 Wimbledon 4th round: Federer defeats Sampras
The Spirit of Wimbledon: a 4-part documentary by Rolex retracing Wimbledon history

Recap and analysis:

The biggest upset in tennis history: Rosol defeats Rafael Nadal

Polls:

Who will win Wimbledon 2012?

McEnroe and Lendl, Roland Garros 84

Extract: Serious by John McEnroe

It was the worst loss of my life, a devastating defeat: sometimes it still keeps me up nights.

It’s even tough for me to do the commentary at the French – I’ll often have one or two days when I literally feel sick to my stomach just at being there and thinking about that match. Thinking of what I threw away, and how different my life would’ve been if I’d won.

Connors had two Wimbledon titles and five US Opens at that point, but he’d never won the French. Borg had won the French six times, and Wimbledon five but never the US Open. Besides the Masters – which, because of the limited field, was a different kind of test than a regular tournament – Lendl had never won a major. Lendl choked away majors. Everyone knew that.
I had two Wimbledons and three Opens. A French title, followed by my third Wimbledon, would have given me that final, complete thing that I don’t have now – a legitimate claim as possibly the greatest player of all time.
Looking back, I try to see the glass as half-full rather than half-empty – otherwise I’d tear out what little hair I have left, and work myself into a tizzy every day of my life, playing that match over and over and over again in my mind. I try not to do that, because? god knows, I’m an intense enough person as it is.

It was meant to be mine – even though the French is on slow red clay, which favors baseliners like Borg and Lendl, even though I’m a serve-and-volley player, and my best surfaces were always grass and hard-court, where my serve came off the ground fast and I had that extra fraction of a second to get to net and punch the volley. On red clay, the ball bites into the surface, and you lose that fraction, even with the fastest serve: the receiver gets extra milliseconds for a passing shot if you come in.
But I was at the top of my game that spring, and my game plan was this: don’t change a thing. Serve and come in. I knew my volley was the best in the business. I knew I couldn’t lose. Peter Fleming was planning a victory party even before the match began.

When I was introduced on Center Court at Stade Roland Garros, I got the greatest hand I’d ever received at the start of a match – a huge roar!

And by the end of the match, in my own inimitable way, I had somehow managed to get the entire crowd against me once again.

I had not only won the first two sets, I was ready to take over the third. Everything was perfect – it was astonishing how well I was playing – and then it happened. An NBC cameraman had taken his headset off, and it was sitting there, squitting, while I was trying to play. […] I know the squawking headset was an innocent technical glitch – it wasn’t as if anybody had said ‘Let’s screw McEnroe up’, but that’s how I took it – and, just like that, my concentration was shot.
I got very angy, because nobody was dealing with the situation. On the changeover, I went over to the headset and screamed into the little mike, ‘Shut the fuck up!’. Then , as I went over to my side, I thought, What the hell am I doing? If you start lashing out when things are going well, you may be letting your opponent think that you’re not as sure of yourself as you seem. […]

I went from two games to love in the third, to losing the set 4-6. But then I was up 4-2 in the fourth, serving a 40-30. And that, to me, is where I really lost the match.

Tony Roche had been coaching Lendl for a while , and they had worked on how to play me. They knew my left-handed slice serve in the ad court was a killer for most right-handers – the guy would be in the stands before he got his racket on it. Even Lendl, as good as he was, couldn’t drive that serve back.
So he and Roche determined that whenever I served wide to his backhand on the ad side, he was jus going to chip it crosscourt. The ball would be sinking, with backspin on it, and I’d have to hit my volley up instead of punching it deep. That let hil stay in the point and try to take back the offense with his big goundstrokes. That was his plan, and I knew it. So I served wide, and sure enough, he chipped crosscourt, and I was right there. My first inclination was to hit a drop- volley and go to the winner, but then I decided, no, no, just play it a little safe, because even though I’m known as someone with pretty good hands, a soft touch, the drop-volley is a low-percentage shot. I decided just to float the volley deep, make him pass me. I went against my gut. And I missed the volley. I pushed it the tiniest bit, and it floated out.

I don’t remember the points after that. It goes in a blur. It’s now eighteen years ago, but I’ve never watched that match once. I can’t bear to. So I can’t tell you the exact details of what happened next. It’s too sickening to me.

[…] Against most other guys, I would have won that French anyway. I have to give Lendl (grudging) credit for being who he was, and for being fit enough to be able to get better as the match progressed. It’s the only match in which I ever felt I was playing up to my capacities and lost.
But he didn’t beat me. I beat myself. Lendl got his first major, and I took his title, Choker-in-chief, away from him.
Temporarily.

When Novak Djokovic cut his ties with adidas in favour of agreeing a 10-year deal with Sergio Tacchini in November 2009, many saw the announcement as being no great loss. Particularly when you consider that a player of similar stature (at the time) Britain’s Andy Murray signed a long-term, multi-million pound deal with adidas shortly after. Since that point however, the man they call ‘Nole’ has been formidable, blitzing all those that come before him, winning Grand Slam titles in the process and building a huge global following. In contrast, Andy Murray has now lost in three Grand Slam finals, and until recently has been struggling for form, casting doubt over his potential to achieve his ultimate ambition of winning a major championships.

For now however, the focus has to be on Djokovic and indeed Sergio Tacchini. The Chinese-owned brand has quite rightly bombarded the homepage of its central website with images of the tennis superstar, highlighting his position as global ambassador, referencing his third Australian Open win and even launching his own clothing line. A recent post I published on the Insight Sport blog touched upon the benefits of sponsors of major sporting events such as the Olympic Games aligning themselves with a portfolio of athletes as opposed to ‘putting all their eggs in one basket’ so to speak and focusing on one specific athlete – for a company the size of Sergio Tacchini it has little choice.

With an annual revenue of less than $50 million, the sportswear brand is reliant on Djokovic continuing his excellent form, whilst it can also fall back on his long term tennis heritage, having sponsored players such as John McEnroe, Pat Cash, Martina Hingis and Goran Ivanisevic in past times. In comparison, the likes of adidas and Nike are in a different league, with both sponsoring a number of high profile tennis stars across the men’s and women’s games. And with Nike recording revenues of $2.55 billion and the adidas $4.7 billion in Q3, 2011. At this point, one can only wonder at the impact Novak Djokovic could have had as an ambassador for adidas should it have retained the World Number one as an ambassador.

However all is not lost…

Adopting a long-term perspective, should Britain’s number one win a Grand Slam – he is showing signs of improvement under new coach Ivan Lendl – the effect could go beyond that of his close friend and nemesis. Given his nationality and the popularity of tennis in the UK, his appeal would reach out not only across his homeland, but also globally, given his delay in achieving what many say is his destiny. Djokovic meanwhile has hit his mesmeric heights now, there is evidence to suggest that Murray is slowly closing the gap, whilst Djokovic’s relatively small home market of Serbia is not one of significant importance to the adidas brand.

For now, one thing is clear, Djokovic is the driving force in men’s tennis, and deserves the accolades he is receiving, and Sergio Tacchini is revelling in his successes. Until Andy Murray wins a Slam, adidas must simply face up to the fact that they missed a trick in releasing Djokovic, although should that day arrive where Murray comes face to face with destiny, expect adidas to turn around and give a big ‘I told you so’ in the direction of those who doubted.

By Andreas Plastiras

Check out Andreas’ blog Snap Shot Sport