The Tennis Space: People of Influence:
Number 3: John McEnroe.
Sphere of influence: Tennis on television, men’s tennis, Champions Tour, the future of American tennis.
At every grand slam tournament, there are ghosts of his tantrums past, of the expletives and the foaming fury from the 1980s. In part, that is why he is so influential now. One of the most fascinating transformations in tennis was when McEnroe joined the establishment and became a television commentator.
Whether he is on the American networks, or on the BBC, he is the most influential voice on television talking about tennis. Maybe, for some people’s tastes, there are too many references during his commentary to his old bad behaviour. But you have to excuse that ‘You cannot be serious’ shtick, as almost everything else he says is lively, insightful and engaging. McEnroe’s analysis of the sport is excellent, and so is the delivery. On the air, McEnroe is full of life. Off the air, he is full of life too, with his academy in New York. There will be those who wonder whether he is rearing a new generation of SuperBrats, a new army of juniors ready to take on the umpires and the linesmen of the world. But that is ignore what good he is trying to achieve. Plus, he is the key figure on the Champions Tour (for years it was effectively the McEnroe Tour plus guests).
What next: Trying to make a success of his academy, staying angry on court, staying influential in the commentary box.