John McEnroe Adds Wimbledon to His ESPN Repertoire

Tennis

John McEnroe Adds Wimbledon to His ESPN Repertoire

Multi-Year Deal includes Continuing to Work US Open

John McEnroe, whose Hall of Fame career was launched by reaching the Wimbledon semifinals in 1977 as an 18-year old amateur and who later played one of the sports’ iconic matches on the famed Centre Court, will add Wimbledon to his ESPN duties starting this summer.  The seven-time Grand Slam title winner has worked the US Open for ESPN since 2009 and will continue to do so under the terms of this multi-year agreement.

McEnroe won 77 singles titles in his legendary career, highlighted by four US Open titles and three at Wimbledon.  He also won 10 more major championships in doubles or mixed doubles.  Although a loss, his five-set duel with Bjorn Borg in the 1980 Wimbledon Gentlemen’s Final – highlighted by McEnroe surviving an 18-16 fourth set tiebreak – is one of the most memorable events in tennis history.  An avid Davis Cup participant, he led the U.S. to five championships.  He also won the NCAA title while attending Stanford.

Well-known for his brash on-court behavior, McEnroe has earned a reputation for insightful and outspoken commentary on television.  The frequent pairing with his brother Patrick on ESPN’s US Open telecasts has created a unique, lively and perceptive duo. 

“We are thrilled to expand John’s role with ESPN to include the site of some of his greatest accomplishments, the grass courts of Wimbledon,” said John Wildhack, ESPN executive vice president, production.  “His rare combination of insight, candor and personality behind the microphone mirrors the multi-talented player he was on the court.”

John McEnroe said, “I have enjoyed working the past three years with my ESPN teammates at the US Open and I am looking forward to expanding my role at Wimbledon, beginning with the new expanded schedule we have this year.  Like ESPN, I am committed to working hard and giving my best to help our sport grow in the U.S. and around the world.”

Did You Know?

  • John played in ESPN’s first tennis telecast, just one week after the network debuted 32+ years ago on September 7, 1979.  It was a Davis Cup tie against Argentina in Memphis on September 14.  ESPN’s Cliff Drysdale was on the call.
  • John played in two memorable Davis Cup marathons on ESPN – the decisive quarterfinal victory over Sweden’s Mats Wilander in 1982 in St. Louis and a loss to Germany’s Boris Becker in 1987 in Hartford, Conn.  Each match lasted over six hours.
  • John’s younger brother Patrick has worked for ESPN since 1995.  John defeated Patrick in the finals for his 77th and last singles title (Chicago, 1991, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4).

ESPN – All Four Slams, All In One Place

Tennis has been part of ESPN since its first week on the air and provided many memorable moments, but it has never been as important as today, with the US Open joining the lineup in 2009, giving ESPN all four Grand Slam events, something no other U.S. network had ever done, let alone in one year. ESPN has presented the Australian Open since 1984, the French Open since 2002 (plus 1986 – 1993), and Wimbledon since 2003, with exclusivity for live television with all other rights extended added in a 12-year agreement starting in 2012.

ESPN debuted September 7, 1979, and the first tennis telecast was exactly one week later, September 14, a Davis Cup tie, Argentina at U.S. from Memphis with Cliff Drysdale on the call and John McEnroe playing.

In addition, broadband network ESPN3, now in nearly 72 million homes, carries thousands of hours of tennis annually, including all four Grand Slam events, plus ATP 1000 and 500 tournaments and WTA Premier Events, and season-ending championships for both tours.  Also, ESPN Classic shows great matches from the past and the sport receives extensive coverage on SportsCenter, ESPNEWS, Spanish-language ESPN Deportes, ESPN Radio, ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine.  ESPN 3D aired its first tennis at Wimbledon in 2011. 

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Dave Nagle

As I write this on 11-11-21, it's now 35 years for me at ESPN, the only real job I’ve ever had. I joined merely to help with the upcoming America’s Cup in Australia. I was told it would be for three months at all of $5.50 per hour. I like to say I simply kept showing up. I’ve worked on almost every sport, plus answered viewer calls and letters (people used to write!), given tours, written the company newsletter and once drove NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon to the local airport. My travels have been varied…I’ve been to Martinsville, Darlington, Indy and Super Bowls; the America’s Cup (all 3) in San Diego and College GameDay in the sport’s meccas such as Eugene, Auburn, Lubbock, Stillwater and more; the NBA Finals, Wimbledon (16 times and counting) and the “other Bristol,” the one with a race track in Tennessee. These days, my main areas are tennis, UFC, boxing, network-wide ratings (by month/quarter/year), and corporate communications documents, including fact sheets, chronologies, lists and nearly 35 of the Year in Review press releases. UPDATE EXACTLY ONE YEAR LATER: Today, November 11, 2022, I am retiring from ESPN -- 36 years to the day I began. As I ride off into the sunset – top down and E Street Radio blaring – I do so with so many wonderful memories, proud of my contributions and a heart full of gratitude for the opportunity. 
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