Mac the Mouth again: "Tennis needs rivalries!" [Archive] - MensTennisForums.com

Mac the Mouth again: "Tennis needs rivalries!"

tangerine_dream
06-20-2004, 12:51 AM
Tennis does need great rivalries

When people come up and talk to me about the old days they invariably mention the 1980 Wimbledon final that I lost to Bjorn Borg. It seems like I lost that match 20 times more than I lost any other.

You would have thought that after all these years, I’d be sick and tired of the mention of it, but I’m not. When you have a rivalry that was as good as ours, it’s an honour to know it’s still remembered.

Tennis needs great rivalries like that. Every sport does. Muhammad Ali versus Joe Frazier; Jack Nicklaus versus Arnold Palmer; while in England I suppose it would be Arsenal versus Manchester United.

Tennis needs to get back to those kinds of rivalries that I had with Borg and Jimmy Connors, or that Pete Sampras had with Andre Agassi, in order to give the sport that extra edge.

There aren’t too many obvious ones around at the moment, but I could see Roger Federer and Andy Roddick developing into a pretty good one, given time and the opportunity; while in the women’s game there are great possibilities for an exciting rivalry between Justine Henin-Hardenne and the Williams sisters.

Great rivalries depend on certain factors that usually have to include either a contrast in styles or personalities — preferably both. The only acceptable similarity, I would say, is that the protagonists have to wear tight shorts and if it is topped off with a headband all the better.

Sadly for me, my rivalry with Borg did not last anywhere near as long as many people imagine. We met 14 times in major competition — seven wins apiece — and although that was far fewer than I played with Connors (20-13 in my favour) or Ivan Lendl (21-15 in his favour), the rivalry between the Swede and myself was easily the most memorable. There was a contrast in styles and obviously a contrast in personalities.

It also helps enormously when people care who wins, when they have personal favourites, and I think that was definitely the case with Borg and myself. The clothes, the hair, even the wooden rackets — the whole picture was magical. But there was never any bitterness between us as there was between Connors and Lendl and myself.

It was one of the great regrets of my career when Borg decided to retire after the 1981 US Open at the age of 25. I know our rivalry made me a better player and I like to think it made him better, too. I just feel I could have improved more had he stayed around.

Many explanations have been put forward for why he did not. No one will ever know the real reason, except perhaps Borg himself, and I’m not even sure he knows because it just sort of happened. I think he was the first player who could afford to stop at a young age.

I remember Rod Laver was the first guy to make $100,000 but he had to play 30 to 35 tournaments to do it. If you look at most players from Laver’s time they’re still doing things, be it coaching or running tennis academies — guys who have got a real job. But Borg was the first one to be able to retire on what he had made from the sport.

Another reason, perhaps, was that he thought his game no longer matched up well against mine on the faster surfaces. The year he quit I had beaten him, I believe, on three straight occasions, including Wimbledon and the US Open.

Remember, too, that although he was still young he had been playing for a long time. He turned pro when he was 15. He expected so much of himself that I think after ten years he sort of burnt out. I think the fact that he was finally enjoying the fruits of his labour also influenced his decision.

He had led a very regimented life. When he played Wimbledon, for example, he would stay at the same hotel, eat the same food at the same time. I think the monotony got to him.

And then there was that thing where he wouldn’t shave until he lost, so that meant for four years in succession, between the French and Wimbledon, he’d grow this beard.

I still think he pulled the trigger a little too quickly. He also had a great rivalry with Connors and was dominating him the last couple of years they played.

The year after he retired, I lost in the semi-finals of the US Open to Lendl and Connors won the title. Who was to say that Borg wouldn’t have beaten him if he had still been around?

He was also shabbily treated by our own union. I remember we had to commit ourselves to certain tournaments each year and when he refused to do that, they made him play in the qualifying tournament at the US Open. Can you imagine that? One of our greatest champions and he has to play the qualies!

There doesn’t always have to be a contrast in personalities for great rivalries to thrive. Connors and I were both fairly similar types, both very emotional, like two stags locking horns. But there was a distinct difference in our style of play: he would come at you from the baseline while I would come at him from the net. Neither of us liked to lose to the other so we would each go to extreme lengths in order not to do so.

Of course enmity like that can make for great rivalries, as can great effort. Most people would say, ‘God, you’re really into this, you really try hard”, and I would always compare myself to Connors.

I don’t believe Sampras would have been as impressive a player had it not been for his rivalry with Agassi that lifted him to great heights. Rivalries can do that for you. I mean, I would have loved to have played regularly against Sampras and Boris Becker on grass in my prime, or Borg more often on clay.

I would probably have lost to most of them but that’s what you want to do as an athlete: test yourself against the best. I’m sure Tim Henman would have been an even better player had he had another Briton to extend him — Greg Rusedski turned British too late in his life to have much effect.

Agassi first played Sampras when they were ten and nine respectively, and also Jim Courier and Michael Chang were playing each other from an early age, pushing each other on.

The first rivalry that I can recall was that between Laver and Ken Rosewall. I remember wanting Rocket Rod to win so bad, which he usually did, but Rosewall often found a way of hanging in there.

Laver was my idol. He had every shot in the book long before Federer had it. Rosewall was five-feet-seven-inches, didn’t have much of a serve, and always hit his backhand sliced — he never came over a backhand — yet somehow he made four Wimbledon finals, including one at 19 and another at 39.

I remember playing him once when he was preparing for a winner-take-all tournament in Madison Square Garden. He needed a practice partner. I was 17 at the time and lucky enough to get the call. I was so pumped up, but he made me work so hard. I was completely exhausted by the end of it, having lost something like 4-6, 3-6. And I thought, ‘At least I made him work a little bit, too’. And then he says to me, ‘You wanna play another set?’ I nearly died.

Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert played each other something like 80 times — now that’s a rivalry. A lefty against a righty and a woman who never showed her emotion against one who generally did.

It would help if there was another men’s player around to duel with Federer and Roddick. But there’s only a select few who could rise to that level. An ideal type would be Lleyton Hewitt, who has this great intensity; a little guy who wants to prove he can play with the big boys. Other than him, I think there is only Marat Safin who has real box-office appeal.

There’s an element of the Ali-George Foreman mix about Roddick and Federer. The American is the one with the big shot, like Foreman, but if he doesn’t get the job done, as was the case at Wimbledon last year, then Federer has the versatility of an Ali to finish him off.

Roddick has a bigger serve than Federer but doesn’t back it up as well. And while his forehand might be better than Federer’s, his backhand definitely isn’t. When Federer gets into a rally there is a comfort level that he has that is remarkable to watch against an opponent who hits the ball as hard as Roddick, which is harder than I have ever seen anyone hit a ball.

Normally, it’s difficult to remain calm in such circumstances, but he plays with an ease that the rest of us can only dream about. Roddick hasn’t had things all his own way since the US Open, although he did win the Nasdaq-100 Open. His defeat to Federer in last year’s Wimbledon semi-final ought to have left him desperate to renew their rivalry.

THE SUNDAY TELEGRAPH

TennisLurker
06-20-2004, 01:19 AM
shut the fuck up

poundcatt
06-20-2004, 01:34 AM
Sports is entertainment (right)? Sports will be entertaining when there are entertainng players (eg Safin) or dramatic matches eg RG Gaudio v. Coria. If tennis is to exist as a non-U sport, be prepared for players in costumes shouting obscenities at the umpire. You laugh? The professional sport is for money. Nothing to do with fans or ethics.

YoursTruly
06-20-2004, 03:32 AM
First of all, there is and there has been a big rivalry on tour, it's tennis vs. INJURIES!
Second, there are a few rivalries right now, but are still young. However, we all know there are other rivalry prospects in tennis right now, but the thing is they are not getting promoted or covered due to the media or tennis coverage ignoring them and settling for American players to dominate the programming. So it's like this, on center court, there is a high-ranked American playing a plain match against some person. Meanwhile, on a packed court 8, there's this match with two players from South America (my example) that always have exciting adn dramatic matches whenever they play against each other. They are also being talked about in tennis circles as good match-ups, but they aren't shown on TV. So, that's why it seems like there aren't any rivalries. :p :rolleyes:

Lee
06-20-2004, 05:32 AM
Another reason, perhaps, was that he thought his game no longer matched up well against mine on the faster surfaces. The year he quit I had beaten him, I believe, on three straight occasions, including Wimbledon and the US Open.

lmao!

He had led a very regimented life. When he played Wimbledon, for example, he would stay at the same hotel, eat the same food at the same time. I think the monotony got to him.

Will he ever consider not everyone behave and think as he does? Tennis players travelling around the world during the season and wouldn't it be more comfortable to stay at the same hotel and eat the same food like 2 weeks out of whole year :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

hitchhiker
06-20-2004, 07:19 AM
lmao!


what he said was the truth and john can judge much better then you, what the hell do you know about borg quitting lol

hitchhiker
06-20-2004, 07:20 AM
Will he ever consider not everyone behave and think as he does? Tennis players travelling around the world during the season and wouldn't it be more comfortable to stay at the same hotel and eat the same food like 2 weeks out of whole year :rolleyes: :rolleyes:

and borg got sick of the boring life especially when macenroe began kicking his butt, got distracted by party man vilas and never treated tennis the same

Vass
06-20-2004, 11:26 AM
i think he's going crazy at the end of his commentator and analist career. Is he realy saying that tennis should be less competitive on large level and it's better that only two people battle it out?

tennischick
06-20-2004, 01:56 PM
what Mac is describing is the American history of tennis and he is prescribing it as the way for everyone. i think it's the American way but it is not a requisite for the development or appreciation of tennis in ohtre countries. just look at Argentina and Brazil where tennis is now the #2 sport, thanks not to any rivalries but to a stableful of excellent players on the one hand (Argentina) and the love of a single player on the other (Guga from Brazil). the American formula doesn't translate easily to other cultures IMO. but i respect his view and appreciate the context in which he is spouting (even if he doesn't).

Sjengster
06-20-2004, 01:56 PM
Great to see hitchhiker back offering more pearls of wisdom in this thread. Mac is, I think, still a little obsessed with imposing the conventions and styles of his era onto the modern game - witness his tongue-in-cheek suggestion that for a good rivalry both players should wear tight shorts and have headbands. OK, it's a joke, but it's also a sign of excess nostalgia on his part. I certainly hope we don't get two male players playing each other 80 times, since that would be indicative of such a total lack of competition on the tour that tennis wouldn't be worth watching. There is a good core of 15-20 players near the top who should be marketed more, it's not good enough to sell half a dozen players to the public as stars and write the rest off as faceless also-rans who are there to make up the numbers.

tennischick
06-20-2004, 02:00 PM
i would settle for the marketing of half a dozen players. anything is better than the marketing of a single squinty-eyed big-serving idiot. but of course marketing the Top 15 players would be a blessing. it ain't ever gonna happen tho' -- not enuf Americans in the bunch.

WyveN
06-20-2004, 02:19 PM
Do people really think tennis doesn't need rivalries?

There is a reason Agassi v Sampras matches got far better rankings then slam finals involving players playing above their weight for a 2 week period only to get crushed in the final (Clement, Schuettler, Verkerk etc), and no it didn't just get better rankings in America but world wide.

Coria v Gaudio was certainly more interesting because the players had a history of some controversial matches between them and after the drama of the FO final I am looking forward to their next match.

Rivalries make a sport more exciting, make the players rise to the occasion and play better and get the fans more interested.

Domination is not a good thing and is not needed but we need a group of 5-6 players building up true rivalries between themselves for them to become more exposed.

Even in South America where tennis is rising in popularity, how well are players that are not native known?

Action Jackson
06-20-2004, 02:42 PM
I found this while I was doing some research. This was an interview with former Ukranian player Andrei Medvedev and it relates to McEnroe.

I don't agree with the whole rivalry thing, it's just a marketing thing and domination sucks whether it's by 1 player or by a group of 3, then there is the lack of personality thing as well.


But you said, There are so many guys with a great personality, if you discover them. Why don't tennis fans know all about these guys?

Medvedev: I think McEnroe should seek some psychological help. What he's claiming is ridiculous. I'm very sad this comment comes from John because heâs hanging around the locker room like he's a friend of ours. And then he says shit like this and defends the women's tour. He's got power because he gets the microphone [as a TV announcer] when we play.

Then he can say whatever he wants. Instead of helping us, he smashes us. It's not the fault of the players. You can't expect players always to act intelligently when they're 18 years old and getting lots of money quickly.

When he was young, what was he doing? He was questioning all the line calls and smashing rackets left and right and criticising everything and everyone. That's personality? I think that's boring.

How should the ATP Tour promote players better to avoid criticisms like McEnroe's? They already do promote players with this Player's Zone. They film players doing things outside the court. They ask them interesting questions and find out what they like, where they spend time, what they do. I've seen some previews, and the ATP is doing a very good job. You almost have to put words in the mouths of guys because some of them would not say anything about themselves -- about their childhood, where they come from, the tattoo on their shoulder. The press should be more intelligent than us and put the answers into the mouths of the players.

Sjengster
06-20-2004, 02:42 PM
I agree to a certain extent, but given the restricting factors of depth and surface specialisation it's going to be awfully difficult to make those rivalries happen. I don't buy the argument that top players are inconsistent and not making it through to the latter rounds of big tournaments (look at the people who have won the big titles this year, Gaudio proving the recent exception), but they are meeting different players every time. It will certainly be a long while before we see Roddick and Federer duelling for the RG title and Ferrero and Coria battling it out at Wimbledon (I don't think they'll both make it to that scheduled QF showdown this year either).

denim
06-20-2004, 02:51 PM
I see Mr McEnroe stating the obvious yet again, good grief... 2 weeks of his co commentary coming up ...I need a large scotch lol

star
06-20-2004, 03:00 PM
Just to hit a positive note --- even that seems to go against the grain ... :lol:

I do think that John is correct in that Borg had multiple reasons for retiring and that even he himself may not be sure of the reasons. John knows that Borg was extremely regimented during his playing days and that after he retired, Borg went pretty wild for a time. It's not a stretch to speculate there was some burn out. Also I know that Borg himself has talked about how the ATP treated him. I thought this paragraph was apt.

He was also shabbily treated by our own union. I remember we had to commit ourselves to certain tournaments each year and when he refused to do that, they made him play in the qualifying tournament at the US Open. Can you imagine that? One of our greatest champions and he has to play the qualies!

Another great paragraph in the article is the story about Rosewall. It made me chuckle aloud.

I remember playing him once when he was preparing for a winner-take-all tournament in Madison Square Garden. He needed a practice partner. I was 17 at the time and lucky enough to get the call. I was so pumped up, but he made me work so hard. I was completely exhausted by the end of it, having lost something like 4-6, 3-6. And I thought, ‘At least I made him work a little bit, too’. And then he says to me, ‘You wanna play another set?’ I nearly died.

denim
06-20-2004, 03:03 PM
I want him to have a dig at ivanisevic during the tournment like he did in 2001 when goran kept calling mcenroe "a shit" in his interviews it was funny :lol:

Lalitha
06-20-2004, 05:54 PM
Do we need to take McEnroe seriously?

akin
06-20-2004, 10:30 PM
Mac is absolutely right and that was the most extraordinary match I ever seen in my life. I will never forget that match. I was actually talking about that match a few weeks ago. THAT WAS SUPERB!!

akin
06-20-2004, 10:43 PM
BANGALORE, India (November 8, 2000 9:11 a.m. EST http://www.sportserver.com) - Swedish tennis legend Bjorn Borg says the modern game lacks the competitive edge of his own era, due to an absence of professional rivalry between the world's top players.

"I think something special in that era was myself, Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe," Borg told reporters in the southern Indian city of Bangalore, where he is playing in a Legends tournament.

"We had a real rivalry between each other and I think that is what tennis is missing today," Borg said.

The winner of six French Open men's titles and five consecutive Wimbledon crowns said there had been no entertaining rivalry in tennis since Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi were at the top of their respective games around four years ago.

"They had a great time and good matches. If they have that it will do tennis a lot of good now. Today you need rivalries," the 44-year-old said.
Borg won 62 career singles titles along with four doubles titles. He reached the No. 1 ranking in August of 1977 and was ranked in the top 10 from 1974 to 1981.

He will retire from the seniors tour at the end of the current season. The Swede retired from the pro circuit in 1983 before making two brief comebacks in 1984 and 1992.

Borg said technology had changed the course of the game.

"It is not the fault of the players that power tennis is being played. Technology gives you more power that it used to. That is the future of tennis.
"Also, the players today are taller and stronger so the game is much faster."

After retiring from the seniors tour, Borg said he would concentrate on coaching, especially young players in his home country.

"We have players and we have more coming," he said.

Borg will be up against the likes of Ross Case, Guillermo Vilas, Pat Cash and Henri Leconte at the Bangalore tournament which begins on Thursday.

Lee
06-21-2004, 06:46 AM
what he said was the truth and john can judge much better then you, what the hell do you know about borg quitting lol

and borg got sick of the boring life especially when macenroe began kicking his butt, got distracted by party man vilas and never treated tennis the same

So you are Johnny Mac? Or you're Borg?

What the hell do you know exactly why Borg quit?

Even what JMac said was true that Borg retired because he beat him (which I seriously doubt), only a egomanic will say something like this.

hitchhiker
06-21-2004, 06:55 AM
So you are Johnny Mac? Or you're Borg?

What the hell do you know exactly why Borg quit?


i am not either one and i dont know much about why borg quit that is why i listen to john instead of laughing and rolling my eye at him like you

[
Even what JMac said was true that Borg retired because he beat him (which I seriously doubt), only a egomanic will say something like this.


we dont live in some magical place where top sportsmen dont have egos

isnt macenroes true opinion far more interesting then if he decided to be a diplomat and offer some happy bullshit answer out of a textbook

and macenroe said nice things about borg in that article yet you decide to try and rip apart the one sentence in which he isnt kissing borgs butt

Lee
06-21-2004, 07:15 AM
i am not either one and i dont know much about why borg quit that is why i listen to john instead of laughing and rolling my eye at him like you

If you want to listen to John, nobody is stopping you so please don't jump on me because I express my feeling about that statement. I don't recall when we sign on to MTF that the board prohibit posters post about their feelings.



we dont live in some magical place where top sportsmen dont have egos

isnt macenroes true opinion far more interesting then if he decided to be a diplomat and offer some happy bullshit answer out of a textbook

and macenroe said nice things about borg in that article yet you decide to try and rip apart the one sentence in which he isnt kissing borgs butt

There are top sportsmen have big ego but also there are top sportsmen without and I appreciate sportsmen who are gentlemen like.

And if you really appreciate true opinion, what's wrong with I expressing my TRUE opinion?