Following last week's destined-for-the-history-books U.S. Open men's final between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, John McEnroe is only more convinced that Rafael Nadal may be The One. "He's a contender for greatest ever and is already one of the top four greatest of all time – alongside Rod Laver, Pete Sampras, and Roger Federer," he says. For McEnroe, Nadal's supremacy comes not just from talent and physicality. "The reason Nadal won the match was he was able to put aside some of the more difficult things in the match and continue to remain positive, which is extremely hard to do."
That would seem almost hilariously ironic coming from the mouth of one of the brattiest, most tempestuous athletes in the history of sport (and one of the best in the history of tennis) were it not for the fact that McEnroe always achieved greatness in the midst of his own outward volcanic turmoil. Behind every tirade was an exercise in supreme internal self-control, discipline, and an almost superhuman will to succeed.
In town to promote a Dove Men+Care deodorant campaign for which McEnroe will help five amateurs dig in and make it through the New York Marathon this November 3, McEnroe took a little time to explain his top ways of finding calm, no matter how stormy things may seem. Despite a lifetime of trying, he admits he still struggles. "I'm not sure that there's a place in the world yet where I totally relax," he says. "As U2 said, 'I still haven't exactly found [sic] what I'm looking for' but I'm doing a pretty good job [of] looking for it."
For a hall of fame athlete whose legendary career is still, decades later, overshadowed by his even more notorious temper tantrums, it comes as no surprise that McEnroe is more than familiar with the importance of self-control. In particular, he says, he has always relied on the pacifying effects of controlled breathing. "As you get older, you realize it's extremely important and I'm not good at it like when I was playing," he says. "It's something I really want to focus on a little more." McEnroe says he doesn't subscribe to any one discipline, such as yogic breathing: "It's just an awareness, a heightened awareness of your breathing.
Credit: Courtesy of The Hulton Archive