Former tennis champion and bestselling author John McEnroe brings his uncompromising commentary from the sidelines of Wimbledon and other Grand Slam tournaments to his new book, “But Seriously” (Little Brown), a brutally honest memoir in which he writes with characteristic brazenness about the sport, broadcasting and fatherhood.
In the excerpt below, McEnroe replays his 1984 French Open match against Ivan Lendl, which would prove to be one of his worst days on court, in no small part due to his behavior and how it soured the crowd.
- Don’t miss Susan Spencer’s profile of John McEnroe on “Sunday Morning” June 25!
5:14 a.m., June 8, 2015, Paris
I wake up in a sweat. My pillow’s damp and I don’t know what day is. Did I miss the match? Am I playing later? For a few seconds I don’t even know where I am. Then it hits me. I already played the match. I already lost it. Jesus, it was back in 1984 and I’m still haunted by it. Even now, more than thirty years later, I’m as hot as I was in the fifth set and I can taste the red clay on my tongue.
It was a match I should have won and it turned into the worst loss of my career. I’d been playing my best tennis ever, I was undefeated that year, and although serve-volleying wasn’t the obvious way of winning the French Open on the slow clay of Roland-Garros, I was playing Ivan Lendl. Ivan had so far lost four Grand Slam finals in a row and I sure as hell wasn’t planning on breaking that run for him by handing him his first title. In fact, I was planning on beating his ass.
At first, that’s exactly what I did. After two sets, I was up 6-3, 6-2, and I was all over him. The crowd was behind me, “Allez, John! Allez.” As far as I was concerned, I was in control, I had this in the bag. But as it got hotter, the crowd started losing focus.
Then my friend Ahmad Rashad — a great former wide receiver for the Minnesota Vikings…