‘But Seriously,’ Tennis Great John McEnroe Says He’s Seeking ‘Inner Peace’ – NPR

John McEnroe reacts during a Men’s Legends match against Jim Courier at the Connecticut Open in August 2015.

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images


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Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

John McEnroe reacts during a Men’s Legends match against Jim Courier at the Connecticut Open in August 2015.

Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, tennis great John McEnroe triumphed three times at Wimbledon and four times at the U.S. Open. But all his achievements on the court did not prepare him for life off of it. After his professional career ended, he dabbled as a talk show host and as an art collector and appeared in movies and TV shows.

Above all, McEnroe wanted to be a rock guitarist in his wife’s band, but, he admits: “That was not going to happen.”

His wife, singer Patty Smyth, told him, “I want to play mixed doubles with you at Wimbledon.” To which he replied, “Well, you don’t play tennis.”

And she said, “Exactly.”

During his tennis career, McEnroe became known for outbursts on the court when he thought umpires had missed a call. In one classic exchange, he yelled at an official, “You cannot be serious! That ball was on the line!”

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That line has followed him for decades. “If a day goes by where I don’t hear that at least a couple times, it’s a miracle,” McEnroe says. So he has decided to embrace it: His first memoir was called You Cannot Be Serious, and his new memoir is called But Seriously.

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On not taking himself too seriously

Believe it or not, I didn’t take myself too seriously back then. … Even though I’m extremely disappointed that the last seven years of my career I didn’t play as well as I thought I was, or get better, or keep improving, I didn’t want to quit tennis at 26 or 27.

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