John McEnroe

“The end of marriage and career was a lot to handle”

Former American tennis icon and current commentator John McEnroe turned pro in 1978 and won his first-ever Grand Slam title at the 1979 US Open. His last Major also came at Flushing Meadows in 1984.

The legendary player was one of the most impactful players on the tour during his time but was also known for his emotional outbursts on the court, whether he was shouting at his opponent, line judges, or the chair umpire.

In an old interview on In Depth With Graham Bensinger, the 63-year-old talked about how his life was in shambles in 1994. The American decided to hang up his racquet as far as the singles category was concerned. To add to his woes, he was getting separated from his first wife, actress Tatum O’Neal, at the same time, which he stated was difficult to handle.

“Not only was I losing a part of my identity, which was tennis or so I thought, turns out I’m still obviously a lot more involved than I thought I would be at the time,” John McEnroe said.

“What I basically thought I was stopping for in a way was to allow my ex-wife to sort of have the opportunity to go out and do her thing and then take care of the kids, which I thought that’s not a bad thing, they ‘re young and that would be a good thing. So then to have neither one of those in a way, like the end of the marriage and the career, that was a lot to handle. That seemed a bit overwhelming,” he added.

McEnroe once again fell in love later, with singer and songwriter Patricia Smyth. The two married in 1997 and have been together ever since.

The only guy that has ever tried harder on a tennis court than Jimmy Connors is Rafael Nadal” – John McEnroe

Jimmy Connors (L) and John McEnroe at the ATP Seniors Honda Challenge in London in 1999
Jimmy Connors (L) and John McEnroe at the ATP Seniors Honda Challenge in London in 1999

In the same interview, John McEnroe spoke about his rivalry and relationship with compatriot Jimmy Connors. McEnroe said that although they didn’t like each other, there was a lot of mutual respect for making each other better players.

The seven-time Major winner also remarked that Rafael Nadal was the only player to put in more effort on the court than Connors.

“We don’t like each other and I think if we were in a room now, we could talk. We always had respect for each other. I always respected Jimmy Connors. The only guy’s that ever tried on a tennis court harder than Jimmy Connors is Rafael Nadal in my book, and he’s not far behind,” McEnroe said.

“Everytime I look in the mirror before I play him or someone else, I say to myself, ‘Am I trying as hard as Jimmy Connors?’ I hope that I made him better and I know he made me better,” he added.

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