Superbrat no more,McEnroe gets ready for life after 50

He was once the raging,wild-haired,enfant terrible of men’s tennis who blew like a hurricane into the All England Club...

Written by Agence France Presse | Paris | Published: February 18, 2009 11:38:39 pm

He was once the raging,wild-haired,enfant terrible of men’s tennis who blew like a hurricane into the All England Club,sending shivers down Wimbledon’s genteel spine.

Now he sports well-tailored,conservative suits,deals in modern art and is an articulate,widely-respected father of six. And he still plays. It’s hard to believe that former superbrat John McEnroe has just turned 50.

The American reached the landmark birthday on Sunday,just a day after playing fellow old-timer Pete Sampras in an exhibition event in Boston.

“At 50,he still plays great,” said Sampras of McEnroe,who won the first of what would be 77 singles titles at the 1979 US Open. McEnroe broke records and shattered conventions during his stormy career,which officially ended in 1992. Four US Opens,three Wimbledon titles and five Davis Cup titles came his way as did a remarkable 1984 season where he was pipped for the French Open title in what was just one of three defeats in a year of 82 wins. “I don’t feel troubled by being 50,but I’m feeling fine,” said McEnroe.

“It’s good to feel the work that I have been doing in the gym for the past five or six years has helped me. It’s great to see the benefits both on the court and off,” McEnroe said.

Unbreakable bond

He’s never far away from the tennis courts,either playing on the seniors tour or commentating for television. It’s a bond he has found hard to break. “Tennis has given me a lot. But sure,I’d like to do something more important,” he told L’Equipe magazine. Although he has yet to be directly tempted by politics,he admits that he was one of many to welcome the election of Barack Obama.

“It’s a great moment for our country. It’s a period full of hope. Obama inspires but a lot of people who I’ve met have inspired me.”

McEnroe has been the inspiration for many to start a tennis career and although it’s been 17 years since he played as a professional,friends and rivals have warm memories. “It was a wonderful time,an exciting time to be a tennis pro,especially to be a tennis pro with John McEnroe,” said his former doubles partner Peter Fleming.

“In the early 1980s he must have been one of the five most recognisable people in the world. There was Mohammed Ali,Pele,Ronald Reagan,but John was right up there.”

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