ESPN / Wimbledon Conference Call with John & Patrick McEnroe, and Pam Shriver


ESPN / Wimbledon Conference Call with John & Patrick McEnroe, and Pam Shriver

ESPN’s Exclusive Coverage Begins Monday; All Day Every Day

 ESPN tennis analysts John and Patrick McEnroe and Pam Shriver spoke with media Wednesday, previewing Wimbledon.  ESPN’s exclusive coverage – from first ball to last ball – begins Monday, July 3, with 140 hours on TV and 1,500 on ESPN3 and streaming live on the ESPN App with action from all 15 televised courts.  The action will climax with the Ladies’ Championship and the Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Doubles Championships on ESPN on Saturday, July 15, and the Gentlemen’s Championship on Sunday, July 16, followed by the Mixed Doubles Championship.   Highlights of the call, followed by the transcript:


John on:  His Serena Comments

  • This is not something that has been earth shattering, that I feel there’s a difference in the level of the women and the men, though I was trying to say how great I thought Serena was and how good she’s been for American tennis.John McEnroe

On:  Can Anyone Break the 14-Year Stranglehold “The Big Four” Have on the Title?

  • “But your original premise of one of those guys would be where I would stand.” – John McEnroe
  • I would agree with the premise of John that we’re going to be likely talking about two of those four guys on Championship Sunday.” – Patrick McEnroe
  • I agree it’s going to be one of the Big Four.” – Pam Shriver

On:  Brad Gilbert Said 40 Women Could Win….?

  • On a grass court, you don’t have 40 players that are comfortable enough to win…I think probably that 10 to 15 number is better at Wimbledon.” – Pam Shriver

Q- John, I was curious if you thought that the comments you made about Serena, I’m sure you’re tired of hearing this, but if you thought it would make as much of a stir as it has? Also, if you do think so, why do you think this is a relevant conversation?
JOHN McENROE: The first part of your question was, no, I didn’t. This is not something that has been earth shattering, that I feel there’s a difference in the level of the women and the men, though I was trying to say how great I thought Serena was and how good she’s been for American tennis. The second part of the question was whether or not this had relevance, is that what you asked?

Q. Yes, how the men would go to the women.
JOHN McENROE: I don’t think it’s relevant. That’s part of the frustration that I’m having, that people keep talking about it. It doesn’t seem like we hear about it in other sports. I know Bobby Riggs played Billie Jean 45 years ago, but I continue to sort of not understand why this is such a topic of conversation. If so, have the men and women play together. If the women want to do that, if that would be good for tennis, I’m all for trying things that would be good for tennis. I don’t understand why tennis seems to be the only sport that this is talked about.

PAM SHRIVER: And the women would not want to do that.

Q. What is your feeling about the conversation, Pam, on that?
PAM SHRIVER: Well, I think it’s a conversation that we all revisit and have every so often. I think it’s fine to have it. I think it’s two different divisions. It’s the women and the men, just like it’s singled, doubled, mixed. You don’t mix up the divisions.  Great tennis matches are great tennis matches regardless of which division you’re talking about. So women will always play women at the majors. There might be some exhibitions that are kind of fun that brew up. I can remember playing doubles with Martina against Bobby and Vitas Gerulaitis back in the mid ’80s. It’s good for our sport that it’s still a part of the conversation, but it’s really not relevant where Serena would be ranked in the men’s game. It’s just not relevant.

Q. The group of Federer, Djokovic, Nadal and Murray has controlled Wimbledon for about a decade and a half. I’m guessing the three of you think the likeliest outcome this time around is again one of that quartet winning the title. If I’m wrong about that, please say so. If someone outside of that group were going to emerge as the men’s champion, which man or men would you give a reasonable chance of winning the title instead and why?
JOHN McENROE: Well, having worked with Milos last year, him getting to the finals, one of the reasons I worked with him was I believed he could win it. I would say he would be high up on the list of one of the most likely to win it.  Wawrinka obviously has three majors. Anyone that’s got three majors, three different ones, would have a career Grand Slam if he won Wimbledon, you’ve got to take seriously. Although I do feel that Stan struggles with his movement more on grass than he does, and his confidence, more than on any other surface.  I’ve seen Dimitrov play the best match of his life in Australia, losing 6-4, 7-5 in the fifth to Nadal. I thought, Okay, he’s back to where he was when he was in the semis. Looked like he was going to win some majors. Then he’s tailed off again. I think his game can translate to grass better than any other surface. He wouldn’t totally shock me, even though I don’t feel like he seems to have mentally found that next gear in order to deal with these guys.

After that, I’m hoping Zverev is the guy in a year or two. I think he will be, but I don’t think he’s ready to win it yet.  Kyrgios would be the most talented guy. I don’t know what’s going on with him. I know I get frustrated with his lack of effort at times. The talent is enough to win multiple majors. The raw tennis talent. But you have to combine everything.  But your original premise of one of those guys would be where I would stand.

Q. Patrick?
PATRICK McENROE: I would agree with John. Raonic to me has been a bit disappointing this year. Maybe that’s because he doesn’t have John helping him. But he certainly would be the most likely guy.  Kyrgios, grass would be his best surface, his best chance to win one. There’s just so many question marks with him, not only mentally, but physically as well.  Thiem would be another guy, although grass is probably going to be the trickiest surface for him. I think he’s — of the young generation, he’s the guy who has the best chance to wi n a major, until Zverev gets stronger physically, which in my opinion is going to take another 18 to 24 months.  In general, I would agree with the premise of John that we’re going to be likely talking about two of those four guys on Championship Sunday.

PAM SHRIVER: I agree it’s going to be one of the Big Four. I don’t think Wawrinka on grass. It’s his worst surface. I can’t see him winning. I just look to a guy who might catch fire with his serve and go through two weeks, if not dropping serve, just dropping serve once or twice. You look at the big servers that can back it up. The one that’s most fascinating has already been mentioned, Kyrgios. I always like to see a lefty. When you look at what the over 30s are doing, another outsider with the Spanish Lopez who just on grass can do some incredible things. If you’re looking for a real outsider, I would just throw in a tricky lefty who can serve well a lot and knows a grass court.

Q. Yesterday Brad Gilbert said he thinks there’s 40 women that could win Wimbledon. Do you think the same thing, are there that many possibilities? I don’t know if he was exaggerating, but he said to bet on the field basically.

Also, in March earlier this year, one of the junior players in Maryland wrote about how she personally experienced a lot of widespread cheating in junior tennis. Do you think this is a serious, widespread issue? If so, has it gotten worse?
JOHN McENROE: The cheating, Patrick is at my academy now, he ran the USTA, has a lot of experience with this with his daughter playing a lot of tournaments as well. The cheating in the game is to me worse than ever. I guess the stakes are higher. It’s a shame that these poor kids feel so much pressure, they cheat in practice at the club when we play. It’s crazy. That is an issue that definitely has to be belt with.

Brad, amazingly enough, does exaggerate sometimes. But I think his point was, I’m guessing, that because Ostapenko, who won the French, was like 40 something in the world, I believe, 40 to 50 in the world when she won it, that that would lead you to believe that would make it equally unpredictable.  I think his point is somewhat well-taken. No one would have ever, that I’m aware of, have picked this girl to win the French. That would subsequently lead you to believe that normally we throw out sort of 10 names, but that you could add a bunch more, maybe 20 possibly, up to the number he’s referring to.  I doubt it would be that big, but then again, who would have thought this girl would have won the French.

PAM SHRIVER: My son has been playing for about two and a half years, not that many tournaments, maybe six to eight a year. I find the burden on young junior players to be out there on their own, in charge of keeping score, calling lines, managing their game, and are supposed to do it all on their own in tournament tennis, I find it really a challenge when you compare it to other sports, other team sports especially. Even if you throw in golf, you know, you’re rarely alone.  I think it’s one of the problems of growth in our game. I don’t think it’s fun enough. I think it’s too much stress on most young kids to manage all of that on their own at a time when it seems like our kids need more and more. They have more and more support or helicopter parenting, not that it’s right, but in a time in society where parents are uneasy about having kids do more things independent, tennis kind of still stays with the old tradition. You have to go out and play a tournament without coaching and without all this stuff you’re supposed to do.  I think it needs to change. I think it will help the cheating. I think there will be officials, like soccer has it structured so there’s an adult observing, an impartial adult observing every competition. I don’t mean like one wandering official for 10 courts.  We have to do some changes, I think, to make it have less cheating and make it more enjoyable for our youth.

On a grass court, you don’t have 40 players that are comfortable enough to win. But I do think women’s tennis, especially with Serena very clearly on the sidelines, looking beautiful on the cover of Vanity Fair, I think probably that 10 to 15 number is better at Wimbledon.

PATRICK McENROE: On the junior tennis thing, there’s no doubt it’s a major problem. Not to disagree with Pam, but we did the same thing when we were kids. It’s not to say there wasn’t cheating when we grew up. But the pressure is felt by the kids because of whether it’s coaches or parents, et cetera, not because of the kids. Obviously somebody is putting pressure on them, and they’re feeling compelled to cheat, which I’ve seen almost rampant. I go to a lot of junior tennis tournaments.  We certainly can’t blame the kids. We have to blame ourselves, the adults. Unfortunately, it’s unrealistic, despite what Pam said, to say we’re going to have an umpire at every match. There’s too many matches. It’s economically not feasible. Having the roving umpires, when the USTA provides at most tournaments, is certainly a positive.

I harken back to the time when I went to Italy to play in a big junior tournament. I think I was 14. It was a big European 14 and under tournament. They forced every player to have to umpire a couple of matches, other junior matches, which I think was a great lesson for the players.  I would like to see something like that at some tournaments because that could be tricky to pull off because parents are just way too uptight at the moment.  That’s sort of a place to start. I also think penalizing the kids when they do make repeated bad calls, which I’ve seen, again, far too many times, is really the only way to deal with it.

PAM SHRIVER: I didn’t say there needed to be a full umpire. I think an older monitor, an older junior player, a parent who has a kid in a different event. It’s like the AYSO model. You volunteer, get trained, you ref the game before your kid’s game. That model works really well, even though the standard — it’s not like perfect officiating, but it’s a lot better than letting kids do it themselves.

Q. I wanted to ask about Roger Federer, the fact that he seems to me to kind of be the favorite here, which we wouldn’t have suspected a year ago. The fact that he took the time off during the clay season to focus on this, can you talk about his chances. Do you see him as The Favorite, capital T, capital F?
JOHN McENROE: Well, he’s going to go down to the odds makers as the favorite. Ironically, the courts in Australia are going to play quicker than the courts at Wimbledon, which wasn’t the case in the past. The courts are faster down there, which really helped Roger do his thing. Nonetheless, it was still amazing what he pulled off.

The grass at Wimbledon, he will be the favorite, I believe, with Murray probably the second guy, then after that it’s going to be a little bit more unclear.  He hasn’t beaten Murray or Djokovic in a best-of-five. He didn’t play the French, obviously. It’s going to be interesting. Sort of hope that pans out if those guys can get back on track, or how great Roger really is playing and being able to do it again.  There was also a temptation to say it would be pretty hard to top what he did at Australia. That would have been a heck of a time to say, I just proved something miraculous.  He seems to be the Six Million Dollar Man. He looks great physically. He’s rested. He’s one of the few guys that could make the decision to just not play the clay court season, then walk into Wimbledon and be the favorite. It’s an amazing story what we’ve seen so far this year in tennis with him and Nadal, the way they’ve been playing.

Q. Anyone else want to weigh in on Federer?
PATRICK McENROE: I think that was said well. To me what was obviously amazing was to win the Australian. It was incredible, the way he did it, in the final. Actually, the way he did it the whole tournament. He had some really tough matches, five sets against Nishikori, came back. Then he goes and wins Indian Wells and Miami back-to-back, which is — obviously record book-wise doesn’t have the same impact at winning No. 18, but from a tennis standpoint that’s pretty darn difficult to do, pretty impressive.

I think having that extra week in between the French and Wimbledon gave him a little more time, made it probably a better decision for him, easier decision I should say, to miss the clay court season. He went to a tournament, had an early loss, but went to another tournament, found his game last week. I think that really helped him. Now he has a week to prepare at Wimbledon in London.  I think he really was well-served by the extra week off.

PAM SHRIVER: I’ll quickly add, I just love his evolution as a better tactical player. He was so gifted early in his career. I don’t feel like tactics were all that necessary. More in the last few years, I think he’s realized he needs to just be a tactician as well as that great athlete, one of the greatest athletes ever.  I think Ljubicic has been a perfect coach for him. I think on a grass court, your confidence of what you’ve done earlier in your career is such a huge help, he certainly is going to be my pick. I don’t see anybody else playing great tennis.  The big question I think will be how will Rafa make the transition, and will he have one of the years when he did the double, will he be able to make that kind of transition this late in his career. We’ll see.

Q. I was talking recently to John Isner about the age-old question about the state of American men players. He was pretty confident about guys 18 to 21 in the pipeline that could really kind of emerge in the next few years. Do you agree with that? Do you see guys on the horizon that could make some noise?
JOHN McENROE: I see some guys that could be top 10. I see like an Opelka, I see Frances Tiafoe, I see Taylor Fritz a while back. I think he’s had a combination of injuries. He got married, had a kid at a very young age. That obviously complicates things. I think Jack Sock could make it to the top 10.  There is going to be a void, obviously, because the top guys that have been winning everything are getting older, so the door is going to open at some point, you’ve got to think soon. There’s an opportunity for young kids.  Not sure that I see guys yet that I believe are going to win majors. There’s a bunch of guys that I believe could be, a couple guys top 10, a couple guys 10 to 20. There’s other solid kids coming up.  I don’t know right yet. I look at Zverev and I would be amazed if he didn’t win majors. But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Hopefully they’re going to continue to push each other. That’s usually the key. The guys get around each other. Hopefully that will happen.

PATRICK McENROE: I would agree. I think the good news is that there’s more numbers in the young American men than we’ve had in arguably 10 to 15 years as far as being top-100 players, and as John said, the potential would be top 10. There’s no lock of a guy who you look at like you look at a Zverev, or you look at even the kid from Canada, the two kids from Canada, Shapovalov, and Felix Auger-Aliassime. You look at those guys and say, Wow, you could see that absolutely happening. Those guys are 16 and I believe 18.  I think Tiafoe to me has the best shot because he’s the best overall athlete. He has a couple technical issues in his game. If you look at his overall athleticism and his physique, he has the speed, the ability and the firepower.  Opelka certainly has a tremendous upside with his serve and his game. He’s almost too tall to be a guy that can certainly consistently be at the top. I try to focus on the positive, which I think there’s a whole host of six to eight players that are under 21, this would not be including Sock, who I think is certainly at the moment the best capable guy of going deep in a major, that could be legit, consistent Grand Slam players.

Q. Could you gauge when the younger guys are playing, how much of it is mental against the big four or five, in terms of going up against them, sort of knowing you’re going up these giants of the game, that you have to get over that first?
JOHN McENROE: There’s no question the mental part is huge, particularly when you have to try to play with the intensity and the effort and the will of the top guys. Not only are they super talented, but they seem to want it more than the other guys, which is a great attribute.  When I would be with Milos, I would say, Why is it that you’re playing Rafael Nadal in Australia, and the guy has won 14 majors, you have none, and it looks like the guy wants it more than you do? Or Federer, which I think was the best ever when Milos beat him in the semis. Roger wanted it more. He was 10-0 in Wimbledon semis coming into that match.

The lucky thing, one of my great rivals, Jimmy Connors, I had to look in the mirror and ask myself if I was trying as hard as this guy, and wanted it as bad. A lot of times I wasn’t sure. I didn’t think I was. I had to find that extra gear, if I was going to be compete with, be respected, thought of in the same level, maybe be able to get by him.

There’s no question that these guys like Dimitrov, as an example, because you have game, you have worked harder, you’re a good guy, excellent tennis player, you’re not going to go and beat these guys at major events. That’s a big reason why it hasn’t happened, is because of the very reason you asked the question, the mental part. There’s no doubt.

PAM SHRIVER: John, I like the way you compared your feelings when he would go up against Connors. I think in my era, it was Chrissie and Martina who had a lock on things in the late ’80s until Graf came along, then the three of them were a bit before Chrissie retired.  In my era, you had those three champions win between them 18, 18 and 22 majors. Even though Graf is a bit younger, they all played in a similar era. For the rest of us, it was a real mental and physical thing. We weren’t as good in any category. I mean, like Mandlikova is like the Stan Wawrinka, she broke through and won four majors. Overall, the other great champions of all time were just so much better in most every category.  That’s what you’ve had on the men’s side. It’s just extraordinary. It must be frustrating for Berdych and Tsonga, to think they could play their entire career, be players that would have won maybe one or two majors in other eras. But guess what, it’s just the way it works.

Q. (Three things.)  Regarding Venus, she got to the Australian Open final, Wimbledon semis last year, what your thoughts on Venus are and what she can do.

To pick up on what Pam said earlier about Roger realizes he needs to be a tactician, how much do you think Roger cycling through coaches, how has that helped his tactical evolution as a player?

I saw the trailer for the Borg-McEnroe movie. What are your thoughts, John?
JOHN McENROE: I haven’t seen it. I haven’t been involved in it. I can’t give you a good answer, as much as I’d like to, obviously because it’s me, it’s about my match, I’m presuming, not the 1981 Wimbledon final with Borg, but the 1980 final, that even though I lost I’m proud of. I hope it’s good. That’s sort of where it is because really the only thing I’ve seen is probably what you’ve seen, which is a one-and-a-half minute trailer. That would be that.

You’re talking about Roger. To be honest, I’m not sure how much the coaches have had to do with this. Perhaps all of them had a say. He loves talking tennis. All those guys bring credentials and quality, everyone he’s worked with brought something to the table, I presume.  It ultimately boils down to Roger. Maybe it just clicked at the right time. It all came together in Australia. The court was playing faster than ever. It allowed him to sort of do things that maybe he didn’t feel he was able to do before.  We had long wondered why he would sort of give away the ad court to Nadal with the serve, chip it as opposed to come over it. Of course, it’s easy to be the backseat driver, easier said than done. It’s easy when you’re the commentator. Why didn’t he just do this?  It did appear finally over the course — particularly at Australia, he decided. Some of it had to do with the racquet. He got a bigger frame. He became more confident coming over his backhand. He felt he could hit over it more consistently. But it seemed like that would have been something he would have been shooting for for many years.  When you’re winning majors, as many as he did, he was probably like, Look, I’m winning a lot of them anyway, so who is somebody to tell me what I should do? He realized, he himself realized, Okay, I don’t have the legs, limited amount of time. He didn’t play a tournament for six months, won the Australian Open, it’s crazy.  He’s chosen not to play the French. That’s extremely unusual. But that could work out beautifully. If you’re able to pick and choose and don’t care if you’re going to finish the year No. 1 because you only played eight tournaments and the other guys played 18, you’ve got the financial wherewithal to do that, you’re going to see this happen more often.

I presume, if Serena comes back after she has a kid, she in essence has been doing it for a lot of years anyway. You’re going to see more players try it. Nadal missed a few months and he looks better than he’s looked in years.  I would be highly surprised if more of the veteran players don’t do it.

PATRICK McENROE: I think for myself, I wouldn’t put Venus as a favorite. The fact that Serena is not there has to give her a little extra motivation because obviously grass has by far been her best surface. As Pam noted correctly earlier, I don’t think there’s as many players that can win on grass. There’s Kvitova, there’s obviously some good, quick, fast court players, but in general, just the same as the men, I don’t think there’s that many men that can win it.

I think Federer has been incredibly smart to bring in different people over the years. As John said, he loves to talk tennis. He has people around he enjoys being around. He has his whole family. He has parties when he loses the French Open final.  I think part of his brilliance over the years, part of why he’s still playing at this level is that he enjoys it. As John said, I don’t think the X’s and O’s are that big of a deal, although Ljubicic certainly had one of the greatest one-handed backhands, that he could come over it and go after it, that was his best shot. You would think he got into Roger’s head doing that, which was a big part of him winning the Australian Open.  I think Roger just loves being around it and having people around that he admired as a kid or that he played against, like Ljubicic, a guy he liked on the tour. I think all those are things that enable him to just keep enjoying the travel and grind of the tour.

PAM SHRIVER: I’m really fascinated in a year where we’ve seen more tennis history or more historic things happen this year than most any year, whether it was Roger coming from 1-5 down in the fifth to win his 18th, or Rafa winning his 10th, Ostapenko doing what she did.

I think Venus has as good a chance as anybody on the women’s side to win. This would be her sixth Wimbledon. I think about three years ago when she was still figuring out how to manage her Sjogren’s syndrome, she played Kvitova in the second (round) that year Kvitova won the Wimbledon, the match of the tournament. If Venus can tap into her grass court game where she uses the slice out wide on the deuce side, gets up 15-Love almost every service game, uses her net play, she can be as good of a grass court player as there is out there.  Kvitova is obviously a threat. What a fascinating story that would be.  I think it’s as likely as any of the other remarkable things that have happened this year. It would certainly be incredibly popular.

Q. The Serena situation, I guess critics say with women’s tennis in general and Serena in particular, there’s a certain prejudice, always a qualifier. We know the history with the Indian Wells crowd, a tournament director saying that women should get down on their knees in gratitude, people referring to the Williams brothers, she’s going to have a kid with chocolate with a little milk. People were saying your comment came on the heels of all this. Why not just say that Serena is a great player, a great pioneer, and leave it at that, rather than sort of having a qualifier?
JOHN McENROE: I suppose that would have been an avenue. When I was asked the question, I was just talking about Serena. I said, Look, obviously if it wasn’t for Serena, American tennis would even be in a lot deeper trouble. She, in my opinion, is the greatest female player ever.  Then the lady said, Why don’t you just say the greatest player ever?  It sort of took me aback. I wasn’t quite sure what she was saying. It would have been easier to leave it, Look, she’s a great player and it’s apples and oranges.

Q. I read the transcript and I agree with you. You seemed to be a little caught off guard. Now would you consider saying, We shouldn’t even really talk about where she ranks in the ATP, that she stands alone?
JOHN McENROE: I’ve said that many times. We’ve had these conversations fairly often, as Pam said in the beginning. Occasionally these things come up. A lot of people weigh in, whatever their feelings are.

People don’t have to agree with my opinion. Maybe it was wrong. I’ll agree, it would have been better not to have said it. I didn’t realize it would create something like this.  Maybe it’s better if it hadn’t been said, because I have a lot of respect for Serena. She’s been great for the game. I mean, I think people that know me know that. I think that’s really what it boils down.  I mean, that was just an opinion. I mean, that’s just my opinion.

Q. Regarding Andy Murray, do you feel maybe he’s missing a chance right now? Obviously for so long he had Djokovic in the way, before that a couple of other guys. Seems to be a bit of a gap. Maybe he was prime to capitalize at the end of last year, but hasn’t happened. What are your thoughts on his form generally and if you think he’s missing his golden moment?
JOHN McENROE: I think he did capitalize. He finished ending the year, which no one ever thought, probably including himself, that he would finish the year No. 1 in the world ahead of these all-time greats. What he accomplished last year was amazing. I think it took a lot out of him emotionally and physically. I think he’s been trying to rebound from that for quite a while.  I think you saw signs of him being able to move on and get back to where he wants to be at the French, where he had a pretty darn good tournament. He was a tiebreaker away from being in the final.  He’s one of the guys that is comfortable, knows how to play on grass, is tough to beat in majors. I think he’s going to be the second favorite. I think he’s going to be in a good shape to try to step up and try to reassert himself.

PATRICK McENROE: I think the last six months, last year for Murray, was just off the charts. He pushed himself mentally, physically, and quite frankly I wasn’t surprised at all that he suffered a little bit the first half of the year because I think he put so much pressure on himself, and was able to accomplish something that, as John said, I think was a surprise to everybody.  He did it. He got to 1. He won Wimbledon last year. He’s for sure most comfortable on grass. Based on how he played the French, you have to think he’s going to be right there at the end, have a great chance to win it all.  But when you look at who he’s been up against in Roger, Rafa and Novak, I mean, these are three of the all-time greats, who all three of them are slightly better tennis players than he is. He has an amazing résumé. The fact that he’s become such a great player over the last decade, I think it’s an incredible testament to his hard work.  I think he’s had to push himself physically harder than those other guys, because those other guys, it comes to them. Obviously they’ve all worked incredibly hard. But playing tennis comes to those three guys, I think, a little bit easier than it comes to Murray.  Again, this is all relative. Murray is better than 98% of the rest of the field, 99%, but he’s had to will himself, push himself so he can compete with these guys on a regular basis, which he has done. I think he’s got another excellent chance to win a Wimbledon title.

PAM SHRIVER: Thinking about Andy Murray, everything he put out to win a major, then to end the drought at Wimbledon, everything that would have gone into that emotionally. I mean, it was over like a period of years that I think he just pushed and pushed and pushed. The final push for him was to get to No. 1.  I think given what Patrick said, realizing it doesn’t come quite as naturally, he doesn’t have the big weapons the way some of the other great champions of the era have. So I just think he was due for, like, running on empty. It takes a while.  You look at Djokovic or you look at even Federer, Nadal, they all have had these dips either physically, emotionally, whatever. So Murray is having his. It’s just normal.

Q. With an Andy Murray perspective, or possibly even Djokovic, if any of you guys can remember a tournament where maybe you weren’t playing so well going in, then everything just suddenly came and clicked, the former form was forgotten about, maybe that’s what Andy and Novak are looking to have happen this year.
JOHN McENROE: I can’t remember that far back (laughter). I can guarantee there were times where I was somewhat unsure of what was going to happen, so there was some trepidation and some anxiety, more so than normal. Things eventually did pan out.  It’s unpredictable. Murray lost first round in Queen’s. You could say that set off some alarm bells.  Djokovic normally doesn’t play anything, and he decided to play in Nottingham, I think. That’s unusual. There’s things going on because the status quo shifted back to Nadal and Federer. Federer lost first round to Tommy Haas but then won the next event.  You can somewhat throw these things out the window. It plays out, Okay, what are the seeds? Who plays who? Where? Then you start to get a better idea as you see them.  They’re all tougher to beat in the slams. So while we’ll have surprises, I think Patrick originally said way back when, the likelihood that two of these four guys are going to be in the final, at least one if not two. These guys have consistently and amazingly stepped up to the plate. I think Murray’s record at Wimbledon the last 10 years has been pretty amazing. I got a feeling I would really be surprised if he didn’t have a good tournament.

Q. It alters the psychology a bit. It’s almost like he’s back to being the underdog, defending champion, No. 1 seed.
JOHN McENROE: I think he’s had more stress than any athlete has ever had to experience playing in a major event. Pam mentioned just a minute ago he overcame that when he won as the first Brit in 76 years, whatever it was. He’s handled himself extremely well under the circumstances over the years.  Perhaps you’re right, just the fact that people say, Oh, Roger, he’s the favorite. Look at what Nadal is doing. That probably will take a little bit off, but there’s still obviously a lot expected of him every time he plays, and until the last time he hits a ball at Wimbledon.

PATRICK McENROE: I think the more interesting psychological angle is Djokovic. I think Murray is going to be there. I think it’s just a question of how his draw is. To me it’s for him slightly more physical. I think he’s gotten himself where he’s back in pretty good shape, feeling pretty confident.  But Djokovic to me, obviously he’s got the game to win this. He’s done it a few times. But that to me is really the very interesting sort of angle because it was last year you remember when with the proverbial you know what hit the fan before he played Sam Querrey. At least that’s what he told us after he lost that match, that some things had happened in his personal life. We’ve all watched him sort of have to deal with that in a very obviously stress-filled, open environment. It’s been difficult for him.  Grass is a great surface for him, but it’s also a surface where you can get picked off early if you’re not quite there, if you play somebody that’s got a big serve or gets hot.  That to me is a much more interesting sort of situation to watch how that unfolds this year.

Q. What do you think about Jo Konta’s chances at Wimbledon. She’s only ever won one match at Wimbledon, but she’s obviously one of the top players now. What do you make of her chances?
PAM SHRIVER: I think Konta can look to somebody like the way Murray has handled the stress through the years, the way Tim Henman handled it, take some notice from some successful British players that have managed it all.  I think the fact she wasn’t born in England, she emigrated there later, does it take a little bit of pressure off?  Perhaps.  She plays a tense game anyway. Wherever she plays, she’s kind of on edge. She’s had a lot of help, as every athlete should, with how to manage the mental side, the emotional side.  I don’t think she’s ready. I don’t know if she’d be in my 10 to 15 possibilities. I don’t think her current form is strong enough to warrant that. I think with the pressures of the home Grand Slam, I wouldn’t put her in that.  But I think someday she will learn, just the way Murray learned to manage it. You learn to do it better as your career goes along. Careers are so much longer than they ever were, so she has conceivably easily 10 to 12 Wimbledons. That’s how she has to look at it. It’s not about this year, it’s about learning to manage all that is there for the homeland player at Wimbledon. But I don’t think she’ll have a great Wimbledon this year.

PATRICK McENROE: I will say this, though, I did check the Ladbrokes the other day and I believe she was the third favorite, which is amazing.  I agree with what Pam said, the pressure of playing there is certainly going to be difficult for her. But when you look at her game and you look at her athleticism, the way she plays, there’s absolutely no reason she can’t win Wimbledon.  She’s got a big serve. She’s an excellent athlete. She hits the ball big off both sides. She can spray the ball a little bit. But when you look at the fact that usually it’s really, really great athletic-type players that win Wimbledon, she’s got a lot of those qualities to her. Maybe she doesn’t have the variety and the hands, but boy, she can pound the ball off both sides.  If, which is a big if, and I agree with Pam, but if she can handle the expectations and the pressure, I think she’s got as good of a chance as anybody that’s there.

Q. For some players, having the British crowd would be an advantage. Do you think for her at this stage of her career it’s going to be a disadvantage?
PAM SHRIVER: I don’t think it will be a disadvantage necessarily. I think it all depends really on what the confidence level is. She actually has a great ability to have a ritual on the court. She’s very disciplined about that. She’ll know what to expect.  I think every player should embrace having the crowd totally behind them. What a great thing that is. Imagine being the other player. I’d much rather have the crowd on my side anytime, anywhere.

Q. Jo plays in a bubble. Maybe she’s not going to feed off the crowd as much as someone else.
PAM SHRIVER: I looked at her Wimbledon record, the fact she’s only won one match in singles. Her first couple of matches, and the draw is going to be crucial for her, that she has some comfort matches. She’s going to have a good seed, a good spot in the draw. There’s unusual depth in that 33 through 50. She needs to sink her teeth into a couple matches, then one match at a time. Get to the second week with some confidence. She’s been to the semis of a major before.  When you’ve only won one match someplace, it’s not that easy.


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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