Holding court, McEnroe quick with the quips


November 13, 2005

Hall of Famer John McEnroe, who will be in town Monday for Pam Shriver's Mercantile Tennis Challenge, won seven Grand Slam singles titles and 10 Grand Slam doubles titles during his career and is the all-time winningest U.S. Davis Cup player. He plays on the over-35 Delta Tour of Champions and is a television tennis commentator for CBS, NBC, USA and ESPN. Once one of professional tennis' biggest bad boys, he is now the father of six and even counts a Father of the Year Award from the National Fathers' Day Council among his many awards. Via telephone from his home in New York, he answered a string of mostly lighthearted questions from Sun reporter Sandra McKee.

If the pro tour had instituted the use of the Hawk-Eye [replay] when you were playing, would it have made it harder to argue?

It probably would have been harder to argue with officials. But there would still have been plenty of other opportunities with fans and players. There still would have been things unresolved. And I'm still hopeful we'll see that - replays - in the men's and women's games.

Several years back, you played yourself in the Adam Sandler movie Mr. Deeds. When Hollywood makes Mr. McEnroe, who plays you then?

Sean Penn. He played high school tennis and he's pretty fiery. And we're the same age. He might be beyond playing a younger me now, though. But we've discussed that. He would have been perfect.

Are there any younger actors you see playing the role?

Hmm. I don't know any. If I think of someone, I'll get back to you. But Sean Penn, he seemed ideal.

If you had to pick one person right now, who would be the pits of the world?

I'd say Mugabe [Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe]. He seems to be about the lowest guy out there.

You cannot be serious. [Silence. Then a chuckle.] First of all, you have to say it better than that. You have to say it with meaning. I wasn't the first guy who ever said it. But I said it with meaning, I do believe.

At this point, would you give a better guitar or tennis performance at Wimbledon's Centre Court? I'd have to say, without a doubt, tennis. My tennis is far better - still - than my guitar playing.

Wooden racket or acoustic guitar? I'd like to go with wooden racket. It's a beautiful thing. They make fine guitars, but there is something special about a wooden racket.

Do you think your old headband and curly-haired look will be making a comeback?

I don't see that happening. I did go to a Halloween party last week and I dressed as myself 25 years ago. It was a big hit. People responded to my hair. It must have been a lot worse back then than I thought it was. I don't see it ever coming back.

Speaking of looks, you've seen the Rafael Nadal clam-diggers. You've worn the clam-diggers. Now, what do you think the next great tennis style should be? Let's go back to short shorts. Nice and tight.

If you had your old TV show back on the air, who would you like to put in The Chair? Politicians.

All of them? I would start with the administration [in office] right now. That would be a good place to start.

Which tennis player's portrait would you not want hanging in your gallery and why?

I'd have to say, probably, Ivan Lendl, because I've seen enough of him already. He's a great player, but to my knowledge he was never known for his looks - though you could do something with the Darth Vader concept.

Jack Nicholson reportedly once told you, "Johnny Mac, don't ever change." You ever get any better advice than that?

No. But I've changed with age. I have kids. I'm married. I like to think I've changed for the better. However, you can't get better advice from a cooler guy.

What do you think of the exhibition field [McEnroe, Jim Courier, Martina Navratilova and Martina Hingis]? It's an experienced, veteran field that still has passion. It should be good tennis.

Are you willing to predict that you'll beat Courier and that you and Navratilova will beat Courier and Hingis in your matches?

Let's put it this way: I'm not coming there to lose. I'll give everything I can. They'll want to win, too, but, yeah, the plan is to come there and do very, very well. smm2me@aol.com

Tennis Challenge

What: Pam Shriver's Mercantile Tennis Challenge; 20th anniversary of an exhibition that benefits area children's charities through the Baltimore Community Foundation.

Where: 1st Mariner Arena

When: Monday, 7 p.m.

Tickets: $20 to $100; available by phone at 410-547-SEAT (7328), at TicketMaster outlets or at the 1st Mariner Arena box office.

Matches: Legends of Tennis mixed doubles: Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe vs. Jim Courier and Martina Hingis. Women's singles: Navratilova vs. Hingis. Men's singles: McEnroe vs. Courier. Orioles Challenge, featuring Orioles players Melvin Mora and Bruce Chen, coached by Ravens players Adalius Thomas and Chris McAlister.

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