With the cancellation of Wimbledon this year there has been an absence of tennis in my summer schedule, but these biographies (along with the TV coverage culled from the archives) have helped fill the gap. After a healthy dose of Jimmy Connors in his own book last month I figured where better to go than to his nemesis John McEnroe, and his own book from 2002.
If you are coming to this biography expecting the wild bandanna-wearing loose cannon from his heyday in the early eighties, you may leave a little disappointed. Johnny Mac has chilled in his later years, and this is a reflective look at a more mellow character a decade removed from retirement. He’s aware of his faults (pun intended), and he knows the tantrum-throwing and the racquet-hurling is a large part of his schtick, and why audiences have stuck around with him for so long, and he although he doesn’t excuse his actions, he does at least attempt to explain where he was coming from.
But, histrionics aside, John McEnroe is one of the greatest players the sport has ever known. In 1984 (inarguably the best year of his career) he played 85 matches and lost only 3, which is still the best winning percentage any player has ever had.
He spends some time discussing his sometimes brutal marriage to actress Tatum O’Neal, as well as his even more brutal loss to Ivan Lendl in the final of the French Open in 1984. One thing he shares with Connors is his outright admiration for Bjorn Borg whose retirement from the game in 1981 at the age of just 26 opened the door for McEnroe to become the guy that all the others were chasing. We should all wonder how the tennis scene would have developed in the eighties had the Swede continued.
Give this one a look if you want to check out the life and career of someone who many describe as the first true genius of the tennis court.
I recently finished reading Jimmy Connors’ autobiography, The Outsider, published in 2013. It was a great insight into a fiery and fascinating character – truly one of the biggest names in tennis in the seventies and eighties.
I started watching the sport when his career was winding down, but I still caught a lot of his matches before he hung up the sneakers for good. Even as a kid who had never picked up a racket at that time, I understood his passion for the game and I admired his full-throated desire to win at all costs. Like him or not, he really was an inspirational player.
True to his image Connors had a lot to say about a lot of people – from his ill-fated relationship with Chris Evert, to his respect for Bjorn Borg. Apart from some light-hearted jabs there was little vitriol – even for John McEnroe, a player he famously butted heads with constantly throughout their professional playing careers. There is also a heartfelt chapter towards the end about his friend and fellow player Vitas Gerulaitis, who tragically died at the too-young age of forty.
Even now, Connors has much love for the game, but what really comes across in his words is how close he was to both his mother and grandmother, both of whom had passed on when this biography was written.
I don’t read many biographies, but this is well-worth a read if you enjoy the sport, and if you appreciate the insight of someone who was at the top of the mountain for longer than most.
April zipped by, and the only creative writing I have to show for it is carrying on with one of those challenge stories I had intended to finish for Christmas last year. It’s nearly there, and I can probably cross the finish line in a few days.
What I have done though is spent more time staring at a jigsaw than at any other time in my life. It’s relaxing and takes my mind off all the other shit that’s going on in the world… I just wish there wasn’t so much damn sky in every one I do!
I’ve also written a hell of a lot of quizzes for the house. For a while I was presenting one a day, and finding out a lot of things that I thought were common sense were really not all that common at all. Bats are mammals, guys. That’s stuff they teach you when you’re six.
I’m back into my reading as well, which is nice. I am currently in the midst of two books – the Jimmy Connors autobiography called The Outsider, and the Stephen King novel, Joyland. Both are very good for quite different reasons, and they are reminders that I should have been doing more of it these last few months.
Wash your hands, folks.