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."
Take in some art.
Around the same time he began strumming blues riffs, McEnroe says he was introduced to the burgeoning art scene of 1980s-era New York City. Besides entering an exotic new world, he says, he discovered that visual art offered him real pleasure. "I love looking at art, going to museums and galleries," he says. "It sort of relaxes me and makes me feel Zen-like to look at a piece of art and appreciate what the artist was thinking when they made it." Interestingly, McEnroe says the appeal goes farther for him in that he identifies with the solitary nature of making art. "Artists and tennis players go through a similar type of thing because they're sort of out on an island by themselves." Asked whether he's ever dabbled with a paintbrush himself, McEnroe is blunt. "I'm a terrible painter, but I'm a big collector."
Credit: Leon Neal