Sponsor of the BNP Paribas Mac1 Young Talents Team (United States), John McEnroe, present on Saturday at Roland-Garros to discover the new opus of the international deployment of the program, takes his role as sponsor very seriously. The legendary American champion also remains a keen observer of tennis and its evolution.
John McEnroe, you often say that it is important to teach young people to have fun…
Absolutely. When I started, we arrived earlier and earlier on the circuit whereas today, we can start a real career from the age of 25. At 30, we are still a very active player. In my time, when you saw someone playing at 30, you said to yourself: “Hey, he managed to go that far. It’s very different. Today, kids are given the opportunity to grow as people while preparing them to be tennis professionals. When we train young people ready to become professionals, we observe their qualities on the court, we scrutinize their movements. For example, I have been watching tennis for fifty years and I must have seen eight players with footwork as accomplished as Carlos Alcaraz. We also see if they have the soul, the panache, the heart to go on a court.
The question of the mind has come up a lot lately. Is it something you talk about with young people?
Yes. More and more young people are going through mental health crises, as we saw with Naomi Osaka last year. This year, I heard Simona Halep talk about her panic attacks. We also sometimes had to deal with complicated situations. When I was number one in the juniors and taking part in the qualifications, I found myself alone here in Paris, there was no one to accompany me and help me guide me, for example. This is the kind of support that the BNP Paribas Young Talents program tries to provide to kids so that they feel even happier on the court.
“I see my role as an inspirational leader”
How do you see your role as sponsor of BNP Paribas’ Mac1 Young Talents Team?
I have to find a way to be a leader who will inspire each of the players. You know, it’s important to find a way to communicate with these young people, so that they don’t see me as the old man who played with a wooden racket! I want to share this desire to win with them, because it still drives me, and I want them to be convinced of it. I am also surrounded by a team. My brother (Patrick McEnroe) is my right-hand man and about 40 other people are there to teach important techniques and gestures on the court. I am, for my part, alongside the young people for the remaining ten percent. I see my role more as that of an inspirational leader.
You have been watching tennis for many years, do you think the rules should be changed? Patrick Mouratoglou imagines several evolutions, with limited-time matches in particular…
I’m not too aware of Patrick Mouratoglou’s ideas to change the rules of tennis. On the other hand, I find it interesting that he tried to do something. Public attention is diminishing and we have to be able to keep this public with us. For me, a match in two sets and a tie break in ten points in the event of a tie is very good. We can even remove the warm-up period between the two players because I find it painful to watch. I even imagine that I could go so far as to remove the “let” so that the match is as dynamic as possible. All over the world, and especially in the United States, viewers are less caring, and that’s obviously not a good thing.