ESPN’s Evert, John McEnroe Preview Wimbledon, Discuss Issues in Tennis

Tennis

ESPN’s Evert, John McEnroe Preview Wimbledon, Discuss Issues in Tennis

  • Topics: The State of Serena; How to Keep Coverage Fresh; No Federer, Rankings Points or Russians; On-Court Coaching; What Makes Centre Court Special on its 100th Anniversary?; Learning from Failure 
  • Evert Provides Update Concerning her Health 
  • ESPN’s Exclusive First Ball to Last Ball Live Coverage Begins Monday, June 27 

ESPN tennis analysts Chrissie Evert and John McEnroe spoke with media today, previewing Wimbledon, a tournament they each won three times. They also discussed a wide range of topics in the sport, including the state of Serena Williams after a year away; the impact of no Roger Federer, rankings points or Russians; on-court coaching; the charm of Wimbledon’s Centre Court, celebrating its 100th anniversary; and learning from failure. ESPN’s exclusive first ball to last ball coverage – all courts, all matches, all days across platforms – begins Monday, June 27.  Here is the transcript. The call began with Evert providing an update concerning her health.  

CHRISSIE EVERT: I didn’t want these questions to be about me once we got into Wimbledon. I just want to address anything. I have completed my six chemos. I had Stage I ovarian cancer which was diagnosed in December. Had two operations, then had the chemo. Because it was Stage I, I have a 90 to 95% chance that the cancer won’t come back. I’m just trying to right now get my strength back. In the last eight days, I’ve had COVID. It’s like one thing after another is being dumped on me. I’m getting over COVID, sort of unsure as to when I’ll be at Wimbledon, but I certainly am planning on it.  

Q- Kind of a broad question. I’m curious what you think we can expect from Serena this year. Certainly, a lot of hype about her return to Grand Slam tennis. What should we all be looking out for?

CHRISSIE EVERT: Well, I have no idea. I think you can’t expect a whole lot because she’s not match-tough. I think that when you don’t play for a long time, your instincts, it takes a while for your tennis instincts and your tennis IQ to come back.   

It’s really been hard for me to watch her play doubles – not hard for me to watch her, she’s looking great, but it’s hard to really assess how she’s going to play in singles just because you see her playing doubles. I can’t tell how the movement is from side to side, from up to back. The serve looks good. The power is there. I’m excited for the tournament that she’s playing. I think it’s great for everybody around. But, you know, it’s a question mark. All the other players have gotten better over the last year. When you look at Swiatek, Jabeur, some of the players that can challenge the top or can win Grand Slams. I’m always thinking you have to have low expectations. If anything great happens, that makes it all the better.   

JOHN McENROE: I would only say that I think she could lose in the first round or win the tournament.  

Q- Out of curiosity, preparing to kind of cover this event, kind of going into this event, where do the conversations start in terms of ESPN can make coverage different compared to previous years? Obviously, it’s going to be different this year because there’s no capacity restrictions. It did go back to it eventually last year. At what point do the conversations start to kind of figure out what can we do differently and what are some ways that ESPN is going to make this year’s broadcast different than last year’s?

JOHN McENROE: I would say that our producer Jamie Reynolds (vice president, production), within the confines of what he can do, is always trying to find something to enhance the broadcast. I mean, that’s something that goes without saying. The fact that it’s full crowds makes it just better for the players in general. But I don’t know anything off the top of my head that you could turn to or prioritize.   

There’s methods that you could go towards like they do in the Olympics where they do more storytelling so that the fans maybe get to know some of these younger stars better. I mean, I think that’s something that’s always talked about.   

Obviously, you’re focusing on the players that have done it. Serena, her playing is a boost. The longer she plays, the better it is. That goes for Nadal trying to win the Grand Slam. It’s fluid. But I would hope, given the situation with tennis, where there is transition coming, that we definitely look for ways to improve the broadcast and help the sport as much as we possibly can.   

CHRISSIE EVERT: Yeah, I mean, I think Wimbledon has some strict rules. There’s no coaching. Other Grand Slams, that’s always an interesting point. I think that most of our creativity has to come within the creative company of ESPN, the production company, as John said, creating more profiles on players that you don’t know, trying to create new stars that way, trying to bring the players up to the studio for more interviews. This is all about the players. This is all about getting to know their personalities so that the public can root for them. But I think I agree with John. As far as Jamie is concerned, Jamie Reynolds , I think he’s doing everything he can to try to figure out how to make this more attractive on TV.  

Q- Wimbledon is different this year because it doesn’t have any ranking points, and the world men’s No. 1 is not going to participate. Do you think that’s going to have any impact on the tournaments and how players approach it? Secondly, this is the first time in over 20 years that Roger Federer won’t be on the courts, as far as we know. He’s been the talisman of Wimbledon for a long time. How much do you think his absence will be felt?

JOHN McENROE: Roger Federer is a living legend. We all know that. He’s the epitome of what you would want your kid to be when they grew up. And he’s the most beautiful player I’ve ever watched play. I idolized Laver. He’s kind of an updated Laver to me.   

Twenty years, you got to look at the bright side. You had a lot of time where you got a chance to watch this guy play and win it numerous times. So, we have to sort of hope that whatever he decides he’s happy with. He’s 40. He’s made it this far. It’s amazing.   

As far as your first question, I disagreed with the All England Club not allowing the Russians and Belorussians to play. And I disagree with the ATP and the WTA about not giving points for the tournament.   

I know it’s a horrific situation. It seemed like a lose-lose decision when they made it. There’s not a lot of good decisions. But if you notice, in other sports and in other tournaments, they’re allowing the Russians to play. I don’t get why at Wimbledon it was decided that they’re not allowed to play. That’s where we’re going to make a stand.  

You’re asking them to denounce something where they’re afraid if they do so that their family, friends or relatives could get arrested or thrown in prison for 15 years. So that seemed like something you can’t possibly ask the players to do.   

Then you take away the points. Let’s say if Djokovic wins the tournament again, he’s going to drop even further in the rankings, which makes no sense.   

The other part of your question is will it affect the players at the tournament. I don’t believe it’s going to affect too many players at the tournament. It is Wimbledon, after all. It’s one of, if not the biggest tournament we have. To me it’s always been the US Open and Wimbledon are the biggest events.   

It’s just a damn shame that it’s come to this, especially when you notice that Medvedev is ranked No. 1 right now, of all things. You have another player, Andrey Rublev, who is 7 or 8 in the world. You have a third guy who reached the quarters last year, Khachanov. You have two Belorussians in the top 15, I think. It’s very unfortunate it’s come to this. I was hoping something would change before, but it hasn’t.   

I don’t know what’s going to happen as far as what they’re going to do with the points. I don’t know how they’re going to figure that out, I really don’t.   

CHRISSIE EVERT: I agree with the points. I think it takes away a lot from the tournament, the lure, the importance of it. You win Wimbledon, you win Wimbledon. But, boy, taking away the points I think hurts a lot more people rather than helps a lot of people.   

I’m conflicted with the Russians being able to play Wimbledon because I understand why the British government feels the way they do. I’m also of a mind now with all the carnage going on over there that at some point all the countries have to stick together, get together, and take away any resource that we are giving to Russia because, I don’t know, lives are being lost. To me that’s more important than sport. We’ve got to really join together and try to stop this because this is bigger than anything. This is bigger than sports. It’s death. That’s the ultimate. I wish we could join together more and try to take away everything we can from Russia until they stop doing this horrific act.  

That’s how I feel, strongly about it. I feel strongly about any country, by the way, the human rights issue is a big thing now, any country, whether it’s China, Saudi Arabia, whether it’s Russia, to support them so they can pull the wool over everybody’s eyes by having some great sports events. It’s really not right, it’s not ethical.  

Q- Chrissie, I wanted to ask about a couple of your tweets this past week regarding transgender women playing in sports. The first one was about Renee Richards where you said when you were No. 1 in the world, you struggled to beat her. She was 43. She said if she had been 25, she would have wiped everyone off the court. Then in a different one, you were responding to an Olympian who said females are not small males with less testosterone, we are a totally different sex with different biological challenges, we deserve our own classification in sport and absolutely not to race with opposition who we know have an unfair advantage. You responded, Agreed, so true, and facts to back this up as well. What is your opinion on whether transgender women who were born as men and transitioned to women should be allowed to compete in women’s sports? 

CHRISSIE EVERT: I’ll answer this in a different way. I competed against Renee Richards when she was 43 and was not in shape, as she admitted. Barely beat her in three sets. I was ranked No. 1 in the world.   

The wingspan, the size of the heart, the size of the lungs, the speed, the fast-twitch muscles, the testosterone. I mean, there’s just everything pointing to the fact that men are quicker, stronger, et cetera, than women, especially after puberty.   

For Renee Richards, who I really admire, to come out and say now I think it would be wrong for me to compete, she said because if I was 25, I’d wipe everybody off the court. Those are quotes that she has said. This isn’t me saying them.   

That’s all I’m going to say. It’s just about the physicalities of the body. It has nothing to do with anything else than the physicalities of the body.   

I support transgender very, very much. But at some point you have to look at science and medicine, science, look at that statistic rather than wouldn’t it be nice to include transgender into women’s sports. Look at the science.  I don’t know if I explained it well.  

Q- Chrissie, you first went to Wimbledon in ’72. I’m curious, take us back to what it was like then. What is your mindset because of your journey going back this year? Is it more appreciative or just different because of what you’ve been through?

CHRISSIE EVERT: No, every time I go back to Wimbledon as a commentator, I have a deep respect for not only Wimbledon but for the fact I still can go back in a working capacity. I feel very lucky about working for ESPN and being productive over there, having a voice as to how the matches are going, how everyone’s playing. Sort of, to have a voice is a real privilege for me.   

It’s completely different when you go and you’re a player because you’re thinking about yourself, your practice, your food, your matches. It’s very self-absorbed. But coming back as a team, you can’t be self-absorbed. You have to be a team member. It teaches you a lot about teamwork.   

Coming from an individual sport, it takes a little work. You sort of have to leave your ego at the door. You just hope that everybody does a great job on the team, that you support one another.   

But just to see the changes over the years has been pretty fascinating. I applaud Wimbledon that they’ve gone along with the times. They haven’t stuck to being stuffy about things, no changes, whatever. They’ve really been progressive, yet still kept the significance and the beauty and what makes Wimbledon so special. So, it’s two different things. But I always get butterflies whether I’m playing or commentating. I always get butterflies going there.  

Q- Do you remember going there the first time?

CHRISSIE EVERT: Actually, my first time I played Wightman Cup, which is America versus England, we got to play at Wimbledon the week before. I was like, Yeah, that would be great preparation. I got used to the courts, the grass courts.   

I remember, gosh, a lot of things. I think I remember the tabloid press more than anything. I was so innocent going over there, had no idea how the press were, how they would follow you around, how you’d be in the headlines every single day.   

I remember thinking the first year the newspapers would always say they couldn’t understand why Chris Evert wasn’t a giggly schoolgirl out there because I was only 17. I was like, Well, because I’m serious and because I keep my emotions in, and that’s the way I compete better.   

It was interesting that they kind of dubbed me The Ice Maiden, Little Miss Cool, things that probably weren’t that flattering, but nonetheless that’s how images start. I think I have to honestly say Wimbledon started my image, unfortunately (smiling).  

Q- John, Novak is the No. 1 seed. Do you think he’s deserving of that No. 1 seed? How strong of a No. 1 is he? If there was Medvedev in the tournament, would he be the clear No. 1?

JOHN McENROE: My feeling is that Novak absolutely deserves the No. 1. He’s proven to be, at least results-wise, up until this point, a far superior player to Medvedev on grass at this stage of their respective careers.  

It’s been a nightmare of a year for him, starting in Australia obviously. He was one match from winning the Grand Slam, creating his own history. He’s always going to be in the history books.   

I believe the whole deportation thing was horrible for him, but it was terribly handled. I can’t imagine it didn’t affect him. Maybe it still is affecting him to some degree. Obviously I believe it just mentally made it more difficult to focus on what he needed to do to keep at his highest level in terms of training, the intensity and toughness he brings mentally.   

He’s been trying to get it back. So, it’s sort of set up at least for him now to hopefully get his act back together. I’m not 100% sure. I think he’s the heavy favorite, but I think there’s opportunities for players that you probably wouldn’t have thought could win it, and also a couple people that could win it.   

I’m not saying Medvedev couldn’t have done well, because I think he’s a great talent. He certainly knows what he’s doing on hard courts as well or better than anybody. But he hasn’t proven that on the other surfaces. I still wish he was there, without question, because his first initial breakthrough ironically was on grass. I thought he was too skinny. Wow, this guy is really skinny. But he’s managed to sort of become a great player and it’s a damn shame.   

Novak hopefully will play his best because it would be a shame that this continuation of what this debacle in Australia would continue to affect him. It’s also tough after the year he had to back that up. Let’s face it, it’s pretty hard to do what he did last year, come up that one match, not be somewhat deflated or make it more difficult to accomplish those type of feats again.  

Q- Chrissie, can anyone touch Iga at this point? She teams to be on a whole other level than the rest of the field. Who do you think could push her?

CHRISSIE EVERT: I think definitely Iga is the favorite, but I think when you haven’t played a grass court tournament coming into Wimbledon, again you don’t really have that time to really get used to the grass, I think that takes away a little bit of the invincibility, the domination. I wouldn’t say she’s dominant, but she is the favorite. 

Ons? I don’t know, Ons is looking awfully good. She had a great clay court season. Didn’t do so well at the French. She’s looked good on the grass. She certainly has the adaptability, the variety. She has that confidence of doing well last year, even though she got to the quarters, a tough match against Sabalenka. I just feel like she believes that she can win a Grand Slam now, whereas this time last year I don’t think she believed it.   

Look, I mean, I think to win it you’ve got to have an all-court game, you’ve got to be flexible, adaptable. It helps to have a big serve and power. She has all that. She has all that, but so does Iga.   

I think Jabeur is about the only one. In saying that, when I look down the list, you look at Muguruza hasn’t really done well, Raducanu, we don’t know about her, Badosa hasn’t really looked great. Don’t forget Coco. Coco has been progressing at a very healthy pace, step by step, very healthy. She’s been able to stay out of the limelight and improve her game in the process. But she’s looked good the last — she’s looked good all year. Again, she has that big serve. I think she loves playing on the grass.   

So I don’t know. I guess Jabeur to me would be her biggest competition. John, what do you think? Do you see anybody else there?   

JOHN McENROE: I see unpredictability absolutely. I’d like to see a couple of these like Madison Keys, I don’t know, she just pulled out of something. I’m biased. I know Serena could lose first round, but I believe if she got something going, you never know.   

CHRISSIE EVERT: Never know.   

JOHN McENROE: It’s very open right now. Even like Anisimova. I think Coco is positioning herself well. It’s very difficult to say right now. That’s part of why it becomes interesting, I think. Who is out besides Sabalenka and Azarenka? Has anyone else pulled out?   

CHRISSIE EVERT: No. But what makes it really difficult to predict, I think you’re saying around the same thing, is every other Grand Slam, you look at Australia, you look at the French, you look at US Open, there’s just so many tournaments leading up to it. By the time these majors come to fruition, every top player has played at least two of these tournaments and you know how they’re playing.   

When you look here, Swiatek, she’s not even playing a (grass) tournament. Jabeur is not even playing a tournament. It’s very difficult when you play a tough, tough French season. You’re playing six weeks of hard, rigorous tennis. The top players need a break. They can’t just jump onto grass and get used to it in three weeks. They need to take a week to 10 days off really, slowly get back on the grass.   

That’s why Wimbledon to me is so much harder to predict, just because of the lead-up. There’s not much lead-up at all.   

JOHN McENROE: They have an extra week, which we didn’t have, which is a good thing.   

CHRISSIE EVERT: Yeah.   

JOHN McENROE: Djokovic has won it a bunch of times without playing a tournament. Serena hasn’t played in a year. There’s other players panicking, maybe like Sakkari, maybe because she lost. Muguruza is losing to everybody.   

CHRISSIE EVERT: Yep.   

JOHN McENROE: Halep, what’s going on with Halep? It’s not that long ago she won Wimbledon. She is in a better place even though it hasn’t shown in the results so far. The young Chinese girl who played great against Swiatek, Zheng I think is her name. In the round of 16, she played Swiatek. I believe that’s her name. I believe she’s going to be a great player. I think she has the potential to be a great player.   

CHRISSIE EVERT: Yes, she does.  

Q- Rafa going for the calendar slam, what’s the biggest obstacle? Do you think he’ll do it? Also, you were both brilliant tactical players. How do you react to the ATP’s decision to allow coaching from the stands, including the US Open this year? Do you think coaching is here to stay basically?

JOHN McENROE: Rafa’s toughest one is going to be this one to me because if you go by what he said at the French, he was injecting himself in his foot during some if not all of his matches. I can’t believe you decide not to do that. I’m not sure how he did it in the first place, and he’s still able to win seven matches and look incredible, right? The guy looked amazing.   

If I’m 36, I don’t know how much longer I’m going to play, going for the slam, I’d start shooting that foot up again and get through Wimbledon and the Open. That would be me.   

He may be able to play a few more years. He also talked about wanting to be able to walk when he had kids. That’s a risk that no athletes want to take.   

As far as the coaching stuff, I always thought the coaching is like BS anyway. To me most of the time the player is not even listening to the coach. It’s funny. You see them yelling and screaming at them, It’s your fault, you gave me the wrong advice, you’re fired by the way. This happens all the time. To me it’s comical. It actually adds something.   

If God forbid they actually said something that made sense… I think pretty much every player on the tour has a coach now. I’m not sure there’s any player except for Kyrgios that doesn’t have a coach in the men’s or women’s draw.  

I sort of like this idea. They do it anyway. They’re like third base coaches in baseball. They have signals. Who knows what the hell they’re doing. It doesn’t even matter ultimately to me. But that’s just me.  

CHRISSIE EVERT: So let me get this clear. US Open has said yes to coaching, Wimbledon is a no, right?  

Q- Right. They’re going to start in July in US Open. You can’t go on the court.

CHRISSIE EVERT: I know that. I mean, they’ve been doing it at tournaments this year anyway, right?  

Q- They’re going to do it with the men for the first time.

CHRISSIE EVERT: Yeah.  

Q- They said they want to be consistent with the women, they want one consistent rule.

CHRISSIE EVERT: I just don’t think that you could ever go back to no coaching, or you get fined. Like John said, everybody coaches, everybody has got signals. It’s a very sophisticated thing now. You’re going like this, you’re looking at your hand. Every coach is telling their player something to do.  

You probably need to open it up a little bit more. I’m not against that at all. I think the US Open, they’ve always been probably the most progressive, the most advanced Grand Slam tournament.   

I’d like to see interviews on the court in between sets with the players. Coco Gauff wins a set 6-1, Pam Shriver goes up to her and asks her one question. Is that going to turn the momentum around, change the complexion of the match? No. I think the more we can think of these little things for entertainment for the viewers and the crowd, I think it would be fantastic.   

I kind of was in the establishment before, like, No coaching at Grand Slams, you got to do it yourself. But everybody is coaching anyway. If it’s done in a restrained way, I’m fine with that.  

Q- John, Medvedev is a guy you said you’ve liked to watch play in the past. He’s unorthodox, plays a little bit like a chess game. A different player who is a little unorthodox is Jenson Brooksby. This doesn’t have to be a grass-specific question. I wondered what you thought of his progress and his potential?

JOHN McENROE: Yeah, he’s a great talent. He doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing on clay or grass apparently. He can’t beat anybody. I haven’t been seeing him play much. I want to see him play at Wimbledon because I’m a little bit surprised at how badly he’s doing at the moment. I don’t know the reasons exactly behind it. I know his serve, if he figured out how to serve, that would be… He’s got some great hands. To me he’s got top-five talent. He’s a great mover. I’m not sure what’s happened. I’m coaching this Laver Cup. I’m interested in having him on the team. Right now it would be hard to say, I want this guy on the team when he’s lost seven straight matches or whatever the hell it is.   

I don’t know if it’s the movement. I’m not exactly sure when he grew up exactly how much he played on clay and grass. That could be a learning curve that he hasn’t developed yet because I know it’s been unorthodox with the coach, their approach. I don’t know what it is.   

I’ve never actually spoken to him. I’ve wanted to try to meet this kid, get to know him a little bit just from the standpoint of an interesting level because I think he’s one of, if not the most talented, of his crop at the moment.  

I saw that he’s losing matches, like, badly to players. That surprises me. Maybe he just doesn’t know yet about the grass and clay, and he’ll get back on track in the summer. But I truly believe if a few things are ironed out with him, he could be a top player and contend for majors.   

CHRISSIE EVERT: I’m going to just put on top of that, John, because you mentioned the footing. I think he just plays better when he has solid footing, solid footwork. I feel like he’s just not getting off the mark quickly enough on the clay, on the grass. He’s not secure in his movement as much explosive movement. It’s a lot easier on a hard court. I think moving is something.   

I talked about to be a great grass court player, you have to have that adaptability, you have to have that flexibility. May be lacking a little bit in those two.  

Q- It’s the hundredth anniversary of Centre Court. What stands out to you why it is unique and different? What is your strongest memory there? Doesn’t have to be one of your matches.

JOHN McENROE: What I love about Wimbledon? To me, the standing area. I thought that was incredible because it sort of was that way of bringing in the average Joe type thing. That was very cool for a long period of time.   

I don’t know. There’s something about it when I was a kid that it looked so magical on the TV screen. I was watching players like Chrissie, Bjorn Borg, others. I was like, Wow, that looks like the epitome of where a tennis player would want to be.   

I mean, then I finally got to play there, which was incredible. They know the game so there’s this incredible silence followed by this great roar. I mean, that happens at all stadiums. There’s something even more so there. There’s no seat that’s bad there. It’s like a 15,000-seat stadium. There’s something about that that’s awesome, too.  

It was more from the very beginning, seeing like faraway land, to strive to get there. They’ve kept enough traditions. I’m sure Chrissie did, but when they carry your bags out, the guy that was in the locker room. So that was just sort of something, Wow, that’s sort of cool in a way. Give this guy a little bit of credit for being there 52 weeks a year.   

There were certain things about it that made it feel more special. Obviously now it’s the only grass court tournament left in the world, major. Looks alone make it look incredible.   

CHRISSIE EVERT: I always thought that Wimbledon was the only Grand Slam that was bigger than the players. I just think the players are bigger than the other Grand Slams. I think Wimbledon is bigger than the players.  

Wimbledon has boundaries. Wimbledon has more rules. The all-white, playing on a grass court. The royalty that come and watch always adds some excitement. The fact that they open up the big iron gates in the morning to let people in. As John said, strawberries and cream, sort of classy. On the other hand you see tents on the sidewalks, people are just queuing to get in, spending the night in their tents.   

The court is so different. You have such respect for Centre Court, too. It’s unlike any other Centre Court because when you walk on it – and John, I don’t know how you feel – when I would walk on Centre Court in a final, there would be like a hush, a hush of reverence, a tingling of excitement, of something that was just going to explode any minute. Sure enough, the crowds would explode.  

You think about all the former champions, the ghosts and spirits that played on that Centre Court. I do that only at Wimbledon. I don’t do that really at any other Grand Slam. So that to me was very special, as well. 

One more. I would like to talk about Kyrgios for a second. I’ve been watching him a lot, since I’m bedridden with COVID, a lot of time to lie down and watch tennis. It’s all I do now. I just feel like, I don’t know, since Australia, when he won the doubles, he had that match with Medvedev, I feel like something clicked in him. Lately when I see him play, he seems more committed in his game. He seems more serious.   

Yes, we still see the occasional arguing with the umpire. But it’s not happening as much. He seems fitter. He seems fitter. He seems like he has that belief in himself now.   

We always said, when everybody said, How come it’s not happening? He’s lazy. They criticized Nick. It’s like in his own time. When he wants it, it’s all his. It’s ready for him when he wants it, so let’s just give him the space to figure that out. It seems like it’s getting near to that time.   

JOHN McENROE: I hope you’re right.   

CHRISSIE EVERT: (Laughter).   

JOHN McENROE: First of all, as you watch, it’s a lot different best-of-three and best-of-five. Not as much at Wimbledon perhaps, but certainly at the other ones. The jury is still out. How fit is he, for example? He just pulled out of a tournament. He played a long match. I don’t know if it’s because he actually injured his stomach. For him, he played a lot of matches recently because he hadn’t played any clay court events since the tournament in Houston, which was like eight weeks ago. Who knows what he was doing. He looks to be moving better, which is great.  

CHRISSIE EVERT: Yeah.   

JOHN McENROE: The bar was getting a little low for him, though, in terms of the training and movement. With the COVID and the traveling, being away, he likes to be home. I believe his mom was ill. Hopefully she’s doing better. I don’t know how much that’s playing a part. Nick is obviously great for the game. If he can go out and give that 100% effort, we’ll all be better for it.   

CHRISSIE EVERT: And don’t forget Berrettini. I don’t think we’ve talked about him either. He’s won two tournaments, for heaven’s sakes.   

JOHN McENROE: When they make the draw, he’s going to be the second favorite ahead of Nadal probably. Depends, though. I believe he’s 7 seed. I don’t have it in front of me. He could play Djokovic in the quarters, which would be unfortunate. They played in the finals. Or he could play Nadal. It would be preferable if he played the other two guys, which would be Ruud seated 3 or 4, he doesn’t have any grass court results, or Tsitsipas. I don’t know how that works now.   

CHRISSIE EVERT: I think Berrettini is 8.   

JOHN McENROE: 8 usually plays 1 or 2, 7 or 8. That means he plays Djokovic or Nadal in the quarters. That wouldn’t be good.   

I don’t know for this event, Wimbledon, it used to be that the No. 1 could play 5, 6, 7 or 8. Now I believe it’s just 7 or 8. That makes that draw even more important if that’s true. Maybe he can get more things happening at Wimbledon.   

CHRISSIE EVERT: I just like him because I’ve been watching him. The serve, the forehand, the fact that he has rested even after that hand injury, he’s all gung-ho. He knows this is his best chance, especially since he did so well last year. So watch out for him.   

JOHN McENROE: He’s got problems with his looks. He’s not very good-looking. He’s not real good-looking (laughter). He’s winning in that department I think. I think he’s No. 1. He reminds me when my mom used to talk about Adriano Panatta, he’s the most beautiful person (laughter).  

Q- I’m working on a story on athletes that have to fail at something before they could succeed. It could be a shot, a tournament, an opponent. For you guys, was there anything you failed at so you could succeed in your careers? Does that make sense?

CHRISSIE EVERT: I mean, there are players that win their first Grand Slam, then there are players that win their first Grand Slam four years later. To me, if you consider getting to the semis or finals of Grand Slams failing until you finally won a major, I never considered it a failure. I just considered it building on experience. That’s about the only thing I can say.   

JOHN McENROE: I played Connors in ’77 at Wimbledon, my first Wimbledon, when I was 18. I didn’t anticipate that I could win. I suppose anything’s possible. I was petrified when I got out on the court. My legs were shaking. I lost the first couple sets. But it dawned on me as the match went along that he wasn’t playing very well for whatever reason. He wasn’t playing up to the best of his ability. I won the third set. I was like, Oh, my God, maybe this could be possible.   

I felt like if that had happened to me at that time, that my life was going to change so drastically. I’m actually glad that I lost it. Not that I would have won, I probably would have lost anyway, but I ended up going to college for a year and sort of allowing myself a year’s time. Played some events, a bunch of pro tournaments, but allowed myself some time to remain an amateur. So, that that loss, actuallyc, I believe helped propel me to greater things in the future.   

Also the loss to Borg in ’80 is possibly a better example for me because I came out of that with more respect from the players, the fans, after I lost. A lot of people come up to me now, they think I won the match. I’m tempted to say I won the match. It was the greatest match ever. You’re unbelievable. I’m like, Yeah, it was unbelievable, I lost.   

That made me realize that I had to sort of get fitter, dig deeper, find that extra gear that these great champions like Borg had, to try to get on the same level as them.   

CHRISSIE EVERT: On the same level, I can say losing to Martina 13 times in a row, call that a failure. I don’t know what else you would call it. After a certain time, I was so stubborn, I kept playing the same way. I think that opened my eyes to, okay, you’ve got to change your game, play outside the box, you’ve got to do something that just totally goes against your very being, which was to be consistent, to get the ball back, wait for errors.  

I learned how to come to the net. I learned how to hit a bigger serve.   

Failure and losses, I mean, they should be good things at the end of the day if you look at the whole picture. Maybe not in that one moment. It’s not instant gratification. If you can learn from your losses, even if they’re tough losses, change a few things in your game, you’re going to be a better player because of it.  

Q- You touched on Coco earlier. If you had to pick any of the Americans to go to the second week, Danielle Collins, Jessica Pegula, who would you say? Korda? I’m not saying (to) win the tournament.

CHRISSIE EVERT: Coco for me. Coco, for sure.   

JOHN McENROE: I would pick Coco also.   

CHRISSIE EVERT: Obviously it depends on the draw. Anisimova, she’s dangerous. Jess Pegula on the other hand is so just solid and has such a high tennis IQ, she could get to the second week. As John mentioned, Madison Keys. I always felt like she had the power that matched Serena, of any of the younger players. She still can do some damage on the grass as well.   

Good group of American players. Collins. Sloane. Who knows what’s happen there. She can turn it on also. Probably forgetting somebody. I guess Coco would be the one for me to pick. Am I missing somebody? No, no.  

Kenin, did she enter?   

JOHN McENROE: I don’t know if she’s playing.   

CHRISSIE EVERT: I saw her practicing down in Florida, but she didn’t know if she was going to play Wimbledon or not. Just didn’t know if she had entered.   

-30- 

 

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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 America’s Cup 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, ratings, and corporate communications documents, including more than 30 of the Year in Review press releases.
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