John McEnroe is perhaps the most iconic player in tennis history, and one of only a handful from his generation to have transcended his sport. As famous for his temper as for his precocious talent, McEnroe is without doubt one of tennis’ all-time greats.
He took the tennis world by storm as an 18-year-old in 1977 when he made it through the qualifying tournament into the main draw at Wimbledon, losing in four sets to Jimmy Connors in the semifinals. It was the best performance by a qualifier at a Grand Slam tournament and a record performance for an amateur in the open era. Later, John turned professional and in only his second year on the senior tour he won a total of 27 titles in singles and doubles, an open era record. One of the titles in that tally was at the US Open, McEnroe’s first Grand Slam victory, and a trophy he went on to lift a further three times throughout his career.
In 1980, McEnroe reached the men’s singles final at Wimbledon for the first time, where he faced Björn Borg, who was gunning for his fifth consecutive Wimbledon title. Though McEnroe won the famous fourth set tie-break in that match, Borg eventually triumphed in five long sets. McEnroe only had to wait a year to exact his revenge on the Swede though, beating him in four sets in the 1981 Wimbledon final. McEnroe’s best chance of winning the French Open came in 1984, when he led by two sets to love in the final against Ivan Llendl. The Czech completed a stunning comeback to win in five sets. The loss still hurts McEnroe to this day. That year was still arguably McEnroe’s best. As well as finishing the year atop the rankings for fourth time in a row, McEnroe won 17 tournaments including his third Wimbledon and fourth US Open title.
After taking a short sabbatical from the Tour in 1986, McEnroe struggled to recapture his success of the early ‘80s. Though he never won another Grand Slam title, McEnroe persevered on the Tour until 1992, winning some notable titles, including his fifth mens doubles title at Wimbledon in 1992 partnering Michael Stich.
Since retirement, John has married singer Patty Smythe, and now has four daughters and two sons. In between playing regular tennis on the ATP Champions Tour and working as the most respected commentator in tennis for both British and American television networks, John has written his autobiography ‘Serious’ and made numerous appearances on television shows. He also hosts his own radio show during Wimbledon – Six-Love-Six on BBC Radio 5 – in which he takes listeners’ calls.