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."
Pick a hobby.
For those too young to know (or those too old to recall), McEnroe's nadir is not his tennis game in the late seventies, but the short-lived period in the nineties when he went on world tour as frontman for the Johnny Smyth Band. After two painful years onstage (at some shows, audience members would allegedly chuck tennis balls at him onstage), McEnroe gave up music and returned to tennis and has become a dominating doubles player on the Senior tour. Still, McEnroe says music has long been a hobby that offers him respite from the rigors of his career. "I didn't even start playing until I was maybe 20," he says, "and just because I was traveling so much with tennis, the idea was just to kill some time." He soon found it was a great escape from the stresses of the tour and so has made it a regular part of his life ever since. "I try to play every day in fact. It's just fun to do with friends and blow off steam and relax."
Credit: Gary M. Prior