5 Minutes With… John McEnroe

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 04:  John McEnroe of the United States serves with teammate James Blake against Jim Courier of the United States and Mats Wilander of Sweden during their exhibition doubles match on Day Eleven of the 2014 US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on September 3, 2014 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Before traveling to New Haven for the Men’s Legends Presented by PowerShares, John McEnroe sat down with the Connecticut Open to talk about the next wave of Americans, love for art, bucket list of travel destinations and more!

Connecticut Open: Do you have any WTA players that you feel are on the rise and could be a top player in the next couple of years?

John McEnroe: I’m looking at Madison Keys if I had the pick. Obviously, the Americans had a pretty good showing at Wimbledon, with the Serena leading the way. But if you look at the younger ones, you’re looking at Sloane and Madison as the obvious choices. CoCo serves big and has put herself in the right position as well. Madison seems to be mentally prepared to take the next step and Sloane seems to be getting better, so I like our chances moving forward.

CO: We know that you have a passion for art and hear that you have quite the collection. Could you talk about your love for art and how it started?

McEnroe: It started because my good buddy Vitas Gerulaitis took me under his wing and took me around to a lot of art galleries in New York. I realized it was something that I could relate to as a tennis player, because you’re out there on an island by yourself getting judged. In tennis you’re trying to win, and in art you’re trying to create something that people would like. It can be pretty tough when things don’t go well. It was an appreciation for what the artist was trying to do because it’s so hard. There’s also a satisfaction to have an emotional feeling about it, like listening to great music. It inspires you to do better.

CO: You’re a New York guy, so we’re sure you know a few things about good pizza. Have you tried some of the legendary pies in New Haven?

McEnroe: I’m sure I have, but I don’t recall. I’m not sure if they match up to New York – the best of the best, but I definitely want to try. Pizza is one of my favorites.

CO: We were told that you visited Africa last week. Could you tell us about that experience?

McEnroe: Not sort of an experience that people are able to explain or share very often, because not many people get to be out there in the wild, but it was certainly memorable – up close and personal to the animals, such as lions, elephants and giraffes. It gives you a new appreciation for a lot of things, like getting out of there in one piece.

CO: Do you have a place that you’re looking to visit for the first time? What’s on the John McEnroe bucket list?

McEnroe: That’s a good question. I landed in Kilimanjaro before going on the Safari, and it made me think that Kilimanjaro would probably be a great place to hike at some stage. Dare I say bike, but that would probably be too much. I’ve never been Israel, so to see Jerusalem and the history would be great. I’ve heard that would be something pretty memorable. Those would be a couple off the top of my head.

CO: What is your analysis coming out of Wimbledon and who are your favorites to win the US Open?

McEnroe: You’re looking at the obvious choices. Serena will be going for the calendar Grand Slam. She’s doing something remarkable and extremely unusual, obviously. So that should bring a lot of great attention for her and deservedly so. For the guys, there’s a lot to gain. For Novak, it looks like he will be No. 1 either way because he already has two Majors and a final. For him it would be like icing on the cake, because he’s turning himself into one of the greatest players ever. So to witness someone rise in the all-time rankings list is pretty amazing, considering you saw guys like Federer make a claim for the greatest ever and Rafa doing the same. For me, it will be a couple of years before this group of young Americans will make a breakthrough. Just because he’s done so much for tennis, I would love to see Rafa get back to form. If he’s playing well, that would make things a lot more interesting.

CO: Could you talk about the style of play in 2015 compared to when you were playing?

McEnroe: Because of the equipment and knowledge that players get, as far as recovery, movement, maxing out your talents and a variety of other things, the game has certainly changed. More players are taking charge from the baseline and hitting the ball with spin and pace than we’ve never seen. Generally players are much more athletic now, and they have to be because things happen so much faster. You don’t see certain things that you saw in the past. The level of the game has never been so high, but it’s interesting to see what will happen in the next 10 years. I think a serve and volley can still be dangerous, but at the moment it’s so tough to break through. It’s a big change. A lot of it is technologically driven, but you never know what’s going to happen in the future.

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