Jose M. Romero
The tennis legend was in the greater Phoenix area over the weekend, and put on a show for fans and media on and off the court.
John McEnroe played two one-set matches this past Saturday night at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America Tennis Championships in Surprise, Ariz.
Those two matches provided plenty of time for tennis fans to cheer the notoriously snarly McEnroe, and see that he can still play some very good tennis.
McEnroe is 53 years old. But he moves like someone much younger, and he still has the same fiery temperament on the court. After beating Michael Chang, another American tennis legend, 6-2, McEnroe faced Jim Courier for the four-man tournament title.
Courier won, 8-7 (7-1 tiebreaker) as McEnroe lost a 7-5 lead in the eight-game match. McEnroe admitted that he got a little tired toward the end and lost focus.
"Coulda, woulda, shoulda," McEnroe said afterward.
It took 12 games for one player to break the other one's serve. That was McEnroe, who went up 7-5 on Courier but couldn't finish him with only one more game left to win the match.
In the ninth game, McEnroe lost a point that would have given him a 40-0 lead on a ball that to everyone in the stands was over the end line and out. But the official ruled differently, and McEnroe protested. See what happened here:
"I got burned on that call," McEnroe said. "Having said that, I still served for the match at 7-5."
McEnroe muttered at himself and even had a little exchange with Courier that drew laughs from the crowd, who could hear pretty much every word being said on the court with the intimate atmosphere at the Surprise venue.
In the seventh game with the match tied at 3, Courier couldn't get to a hard volley from McEnroe and said "Just missed that, man."
"Not in my world," McEnroe shot back, making the crowd on his end of the court laugh.
McEnroe was asked about how the crowd seemed to favor him over Courier.
"As long as they're not saying 'you suck,' I'm all right," McEnroe said. "There's times when I still get upset. You want to entertain but you also want to compete."
Courier said the event's purpose was to interact with fans, but also to win.
"We're here to compete. There's also a time and a place to connect with the fans," Courier said. "There's a competitive camaraderie out here, but we all want to win, make no mistake about it."
McEnroe is very much into live music, he shared with reporters. He's recently seen Jay-Z, Foo Fighters, the Black Keys, Neil Young, Heart and Jack White.
He's also championing the cause to get more American youngsters into tennis and re-establish American dominance in the sport on the men's side that has been missing since the days of Chang, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi.
"We have to do everything we can to get better athletes playing," McEnroe said.