McEnroe vs McEnroe: Brother You Can't Be Serious!

Harold BellContributor IIIJune 12, 2010

John McEnroe is one of the greatest tennis players of all-time. 


He was known for his great play, competitive nature and his outrageous behavior on the court of play.  His on court behavior could be explosive and it meant referee beware!


He was born in Germany and grew up in upstate New York.  His father was a military man and worked in advertising before becoming an attorney in New York City.


I met John in 1978 when he first turned pro I was the Sports and Marketing Rep for Nike Shoes in Washington, DC.  I helped Nike open up its flagship store in Georgetown.  I coordinated their “Open House.”  McEnroe was the first big name tennis player to sign on with Nike.  He was our special guest for the Grand Opening.


John was a little withdrawn and a little quiet when I first met him.  I notice after I introduced him to our invited guest he found it difficult to mix and mingle.  


I looked up and he was headed for the door.  


I followed him out and asked him if he was okay and he just said it was a little too hot in the store for him.  I walked several blocks with him and thought it best I return to the store.


He came back about an hour later and apologized to me for leaving.  He said he had just walked around Georgetown.  The next time I saw John McEnroe he was kicking ass and taking no prisoners on the pro tour.


When his storied career ended he had won seven grand Slam single titles, nine Grand Slam men’s doubles titles and one grand slam mixed doubles title. 


His matches with Jimmy Connors, Bjorn Borg, and Ivan Lendl were pure theatre.  You were never bored watching his matches.  You were afraid to take your eyes off the television screen (I don’t recall if we had instant replay) because John might make a sensational shot or call out one of the officials for missing a call.


I have watched a lot of tennis over the years to me John McEnroe was the most exciting and the best serve and volley player to ever play the game.


There was another characteristic that made John stand above the crowd, his father got him and his brothers involved in the community early in his career. 


John donated part of his earnings from the tour back to the community to support youth tennis programs in the inner-city.  He and his family cared long before the United States Tennis Association ever did about the development of youth tennis.


He singled handily revived interest in the Davis Cup when other U. S. players refuse to play like the controversial Jimmy Connors.  John joined the late Arthur Ashe and carried the team on his back and brought back respect to the organization.  He would later become the team Captain.


Patrick McEnroe is the younger brother of John and has had his own tennis success but nothing compared to his big brother’s.  Patrick was known for his doubles play and John played doubles when he got bored.


In 1989, Patrick partnered with Jim Grabb to win the French doubles and Masters doubles titles.

During his pro career he won 16 doubles championships but his single victories were fleeting.


Patrick’s best Grand Slam singles performance was at the Australian Open in 1991.  He reached the semi-finals before being knocked out by the eventual champion Boris Becker. 


His first career singles final came in 1991 in Chicago where he faced his brother John.  

John easily won the match 3–6, 6–2, 6–4.  This was only the second time in tour history that two brothers faced each other in a tournament final.  The other brother act was Emilio Sánchez and Javier Sánchez. 

They met in the Madrid final in 1987.  Rumor has it that big brother John let little brother Patrick win the first set before turning up the heat.

Patrick won the men's singles at the Sydney Outdoor Championships in 1995, to claim his first and only career singles title.  

He also had some notable Grand Slam singles results that year.  He beat Boris Becker in the first round of the Australian Open (before eventually losing in the fourth round), and then reached the quarter-finals of the US Open where he lost to Becker in an epic four-hour and seven-minute four-set marathon.

His most memorable career moment comes as a catalyst of tennis legend (and older brother John's own rival) he was a part of Jimmy Connors’ legendary run during the 1991 U.S. Open.  

In the 1st Round he was leading Connors two sets and up 3–0 in the third set, Connors came back to win in 5 sets, walking off the court at 1:35 in the morning, after four hours and 18 minutes of play.

Patrick retired from the professional tour in 1998.  He would follow his brother as the Davis Cup Team Captain after John walked away in frustration in 1999.

John was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1999.   He now works as a commentator in tennis and has regularly appeared in US national telecasts of Grand Slam tennis matches on such networks as CBS, NBC, USA and ESPN. 

Patrick would follow John into the broadcast booth and he is now one of the most respected play by play and color analyst in professional tennis, but still second behind his brother.

John also commentates on Wimbledon for the BBC in the UK.  His opinions are sometimes off the charts but they are usually true and right on the money.  According to the Times of London newspaper, “An audience with John McEnroe remains one of the most eagerly sought in tennis and in any sport that matters.”

The pattern that has developed here is it looks like everywhere John would go Patrick has followed. 

Their results on the courts of pro tennis were like night and day.  John won 77 single titles and was ranked the number 1 player in the game.  Patrick won only one singles title and never broke into the top 20 in the rankings.  John’s act on the tennis courts was a hard act to follow.

Patrick kept following him anyway, he followed him to Stanford University, he followed him into broadcasting, they both married actresses.  But Patrick recently stopped following his big brother, I wonder why?

It looks and sounds like they have a different philosophy about the direction of youth player development in tennis in America.  

During the French Open John announced the opening of his John McEnroe Tennis Academy at a new $18 million dollar, 20-court facility on New York’s Randall Island.  The Fat cows at the United Tennis Association became the first naysayers.  Instead of following his brother John, Patrick joined the naysayers.

Patrick has been the General Manager of the USTA’S $15 million dollar player development program since 1998.  John had suggested to the USTA to set up a youth academy at the Tennis Center in Queens with his brother.  Patrick and the USTA pretended to be deaf, dumb and blind to John’s pleas.

During the press conference he called out the USTA and his brother.  He said, “The USTA clears $110 million annually at the U. S. Open along.  They are sitting an obscene amount of money, call my brother and ask him why the USTA is not funding my venture?”

According to a story in the May issue of Sports Illustrated Magazine, John all but laid the blame for the lack of talent at Pat’s door.  He asked the question, why does the USTA’s portfolio have $150 million in it?  Are they saving it and what are they saving it for?  Why don’t you check that out?

The question was put to John, “Do you hope to work with Patrick?”  His response, ‘I have not spoken to him yet about it specifically, but he has not called to congratulate me, I don’t know what that means!’ 

The writer for Sports Illustrated thinks it means, “That the calmer less quotable, less tempestuous Patrick-as usual-has found himself in yet another no-win situation with his beloved brother.

The fact is, though he was never in John’s league as a player, Pat, 43, has since proved his equal in retirement, establishing a solid broadcasting career, a far more successful tenure as a Davis Cup Captain and a root to branch program to jump-start American tennis.

Here is what Patrick has to say about the future of American Tennis, “We are looking at this as three-, five-or 10 year plan.”  Here is the real deal every door that Patrick has walked through John has open.

This is what I think Patrick’s non-support of John  means, the USTA and the Tennis Gods can control Patrick.   He has used his brother’s backbone, courage, integrity, honesty and character to help him open up doors for his own success. 

He is now saying, “I have sold out and I am officially a Fat Cow and the grass is definitely greener here on the USTA’s side of the tennis court.”  

One of the first things Patrick did when the USTA put him in charge of its youth development program he fired Rodney Harmond and Zina Garrison.  Rodney and Zina were long time main stays of the organization's youth development program. 

Billy Jean King brought Zina into the organization to replace her once she steps aside but Patrick had other plans.  He hired Mary Jo Fernandez to replace Zina in a fire one get one sale.

Zina carried the USTA to court.  The case has been settled out of court with the USTA giving Zina another position in its backroom broom closet.

The real difference between John and Patrick, John marches to his own drum beat and Patrick marches to any orchestra in the building.  I am calling a footfault on Patrick and picking John to win this tennis youth development program match 6-0.  

John carried Patrick for years, he was heavy, but he was also John's brother!


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