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Both Pick Djokovic, Serena to Win, with Dimitrov, Raonic and Bouchard as Dark Horses
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Today, ESPN tennis analysts Chrissie Evert and John McEnroe spoke with media about Wimbledon, which starts Monday, June 23, exclusive to ESPN, with live action on ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS and ESPN3, plus weekend programming on ABC including same-day reairs of the Ladies’ and Gentlemen’s Championships.
Topics on the call included:
- Andy Murray’s recent selection of Amelie Mauresmo as coach. McEnroe: “(Like Murray at Wimbledon, Mauresmo) had an extreme amount of pressure on her at the French Open …She wasn’t able to be herself there. She eventually later in her career was able to succeed and win a couple majors. From that standpoint she’s got the understanding of what it takes emotionally and mentally to maybe get through and add that extra percent or two.”
- Evert picks Serena to win her sixth Wimbledon, despite pressure: “I think there’s going to be a lot of pressure on her because she did not do well in the last two Grand Slams, pretty much had bad losses. I think all eyes are going to be on how she’s doing. If she can get through the first week, that’s going to be the big thing. Once she gets through the first week, gets the ball rolling, gets more comfortable on the grass, she’ll be unbeatable. She has one thing no other woman player has, she has the serve. She’s walking on the court 2-Love or 3-Love already.”
- Wimbledon dark horses to watch: McEnroe: “(T)wo guys that I think have made the biggest advances, who we’ve been waiting on the longest to potentially do some serious damage at a major event, and they’re starting to show that. That would be Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov. Two guys, if they had a little bit of luck, things fell their way, they could make a real run in this tournament.” Evert: “I think Bouchard has shown a lot of positives in the last six months as far as stepping up, not being afraid to play the top players, not to be afraid to play on a stadium court, dealing with the pressure so well. Especially after the French, she almost beat Maria Sharapova. She likes grass. She likes to step in and take the ball early. She has power. I think she’s one to watch.”
- McEnroe on the need to recruit the top U.S. athletes to play men’s tennis: “If you look at Djokovic…you’re looking at the best athletes in their respective countries, like Nadal. While we’ve had some fine athletes, I think our premiere athletes are going mainly to football and basketball…. If you ask me one thing, I’m sitting here at Randall’s Island where my tennis academy is. My goal is to go into Harlem, the Bronx, the inner cities and give kids an opportunity, try to get enough corporate sponsorship to allow these kids an opportunity to play because the game itself remains too unaffordable for too many people.”
- McEnroe on the advantage soccer has vs. tennis, with the World Cup: “(World Cup) is a perfect example where soccer can flourish to some degree because for the next month there will be a lot of focus on that…When I came up, Davis Cup was the only way you could represent your country in an international competition. It seems like watching this it’s a damn shame we don’t have something like this or haven’t tried something like this for our sport potentially.”
- On meeting Brazilian soccer legend Pele. Evert: “He was my idol growing up….I loved his attitude. He had such a sweetness about him, but he was still a killer out there. I loved everything about him growing up. I just thought he was a great role model as far as being an athlete both on and off the field. He’s always been really special. And I did meet him once and it was very special to me, too.” McEnroe: “He’s one of these guys that makes you feel good about everything. He just has this smile…. The way he played, he was like the Roger Federer on a soccer field. He was like the most beautiful guy that combined this joie de vivre, and played the way he played…He’s just a wonderful man. He’s one of those guys that will say something nice about you before he expects you to say something nice about him.”
Q. I would like to hear from both of you on the topic of Andy Murray’s hiring of Mauresmo, what you think about that, and also Murray’s prospects heading into Wimbledon.
EVERT: Well, I mean, Mauresmo’s very qualified obviously. Amélie, she’s been a good coach before. I think she and Andy click well together. I like the line he said, My mom, I’ve always had sort of the female influence around me concerning my tennis. Women listen more, which is probably true.
But the great thing about Andy now is he still has that influence from Lendl. I think there was nobody better for him at that time, a couple years ago, than Lendl. What he’s done for his tennis, what he’s done for his fitness and his attitude on the court is incredible. I think if he continues to carry on with Lendl’s influence and takes what Mauresmo has to offer, I think he’s in a pretty good place right now.
McENROE: Initially when he hired Ivan, I was taken aback and surprised that he made as bold a move. The more I thought about it, the more I thought that actually, for a variety of reasons, it would work. It turned out it did work. I must say when I was hearing the possibilities of who Andy was going to hire, I was sort of hoping he’d do something out of the ordinary or out of the box like he had done with Lendl. Not the sort of I don’t want to say same old, same old, ‘retreads’ is not a fair word, but qualified coaches that had been around with a number of other players. Definitely from that standpoint it really surprised me, however, that he picked her. I’m not quite as convinced that it’s going to succeed in the way I thought it was with Ivan.
I do think that Chrissie was correct in saying that she’s had a fair amount of coaching experience. I’m assuming the logistics on some level, if there’s rain delays, et cetera, I don’t know if that means, for example, Amélie Mauresmo would have access to the locker room, would that have to be done somewhere else, coaching before, probably not a whole lot is going to be done.
Clearly it’s a tricky time to walk into a new coaching job because Murray is defending his title. It was announced just a few hours before the men’s final at the French. I don’t know how long they knew before that’s what the plan was. But it seems like the whole thing was orchestrated to a degree. I don’t know to what degree the decision was made to wait two hours before the men’s final. It certainly doesn’t give anyone a whole lot of time for the two to get a feel for each other when most if not all of the training would already be done leading up to Wimbledon.
Q. I’m wondering what you think she could bring to the table and would you ever have considered hiring a female coach when you were playing?
McENROE: I wasn’t one for coaches, male or female. It was surprising. I was on the air trying to recall with Mary Carillo when we were doing the finals at the French, I couldn’t remember a time when a woman had been coaching a male. I believe there was a brief period of time when Billie Jean may have coached Tim Mayotte, I believe. I think there was one other occasion. But it’s very rare. You talk about Andy Murray’s mom. As far as what she can bring to the table, I suppose there’s certain situations that she’s gone through similar to Andy and Ivan. That’s part of why I think he hired Ivan, because Ivan having been in the position of having succeeded but not won slams yet at somewhat an advanced stage in tennis terms. He had credibility because he had been there and knew what it felt like.
I know Mauresmo, there’s a similarity in the sense that she had an extreme amount of pressure on her at the French Open as opposed to Wimbledon, not nearly as much as Andy, but certainly more than most players experience. She wasn’t able to be herself there. She eventually later in her career was able to succeed and win a couple majors. From that standpoint she’s got the understanding of what it takes emotionally and mentally to maybe get through and add that extra percent or two.
I can’t say that I would have thought about it at the time, although I sort of think there’s no reason why not having thought about it. But at the time when I was playing, I can’t say that we were thinking along those lines.
Q. John, you said you would have liked to have played the best, speaking of Roger Federer at the Open and Nadal at the French. In an imaginary match, if you were playing them, how would you break them down? You also said you would want to get into their heads. How would you do that?
McENROE: You’re talking about the most difficult propositions there is in tennis. Did I say I wanted to play him on clay? I sometimes put my foot in my mouth. That may have been one of those occasions. I thought Borg was tough to beat on clay, watching what he was able to accomplish, until I saw Rafa. And Roger at Wimbledon or the Open would be an incredible challenge, as would Sampras at Wimbledon, particularly the older courts. Part of the way to succeed is you have to figure out a way to believe in yourself ultimately. This is a very mental game. It comes down to sort of will and desire and belief. Connors taught me this early in my career. No matter how badly I thought I wanted it, it seemed like he wanted it more.
I think guys like Murray, Novak, even Rafa, Roger early, they had to become better because they saw how hungry the people in front of them were. That’s sort of the ultimate test. My game wouldn’t be that much different if I were to play them because you have to believe in your style of play, trying to take it to them, not allow players to relax. Sort of the ultimate example of that was Pete, Boris Becker to some degree on the faster courts. But Pete was the ultimate. These guys get rhythm and want to wear you down. You can’t allow that to happen. You have to make it more of a match where every shot would count and feel like you’re going to do something as soon as you have an opportunity to do that. That to me it’s the only hope you’d have against players of this nature, the greatest of the greats.
Q. In the spirit of the World Cup, you met Pele a good number of years ago. How did that meeting compare with other encounters with celebrities?
EVERT: He was my idol growing up. Don’t ask me why. There are a lot of great, great athletes when I was growing up. I just loved him. I loved his attitude. He had such a sweetness about him, but he was still a killer out there. I loved everything about him growing up. I just thought he was a great role model as far as being an athlete both on and off the field. He’s always been really special. And I did meet him once and it was very special to me, too.
Q. Apologies for bringing up a topic that’s been well-mined over the years. On the men’s side, the second ranked American player as we head into Wimbledon is Steve Johnson at 68. There’s one American male who is seeded. I’m curious to get your thoughts on that. Not that we can take hours to dissect this, but what you think needs to change or should change to perhaps address this seeming trend?
McENROE: Well, this conference call is only supposed to last an hour, so I’m not sure we have time to discuss that in this particular timeframe. As an example, I’m watching, a lot of other people are watching some of the World Cup go on right now. Soccer, slowly but surely is getting into the mindset of more Americans. Obviously there are a lot of immigrants that have come in from other countries where soccer is a bigger game, as tennis is.
This is a perfect example where soccer can flourish to some degree because for the next month there will be a lot of focus on that. We never have taken advantage of that. When I came up, Davis Cup was the only way you could represent your country in an international competition. It seems like watching this it’s a damn shame we don’t have something like this or haven’t tried something like this for our sport potentially.
It’s not going to be exactly the same format, but the basic idea being all the countries coming together like the World Cup. That’s one thing that we haven’t done that I think could have helped us. Clearly over the years the game has become, because of the technology and other reasons that we’ve talked about, more physical and athletic than it’s ever been. Because of that you need to have better athletes.
If you look at Djokovic, it’s not like I haven’t said this or Chrissie hasn’t said this a bunch of times, you’re looking at the best athletes in their respective countries, like Nadal. While we’ve had some fine athletes, I think our premiere athletes are going mainly to football and basketball. Perhaps more and more of the younger ones are coming into soccer at least early on. It remains to be seen if it becomes a longer-term thing.
If you ask me one thing, I’m sitting here at Randall’s Island where my tennis academy is. My goal is to go into Harlem, the Bronx, the inner cities and give kids an opportunity, try to get enough corporate sponsorship to allow these kids an opportunity to play because the game itself remains too unaffordable for too many people.
Some of this is cyclical. Some of it is we’ve done a poor job. We got maybe spoiled is an accurate word. We expected there would be more Connors, Pete Samprases, Agassis. Because of the worldwide interest in sports, if you go back to the ’88 Olympics, when tennis became part of the Olympics again, more countries put more money and resources into it to allow more kids to play tennis, so more countries have more of an interest and they see the upside of it. That same thing hasn’t happened for us in the U.S.
If you combine all those things. I’m talking about the male game. The playing field for women is better than any other sports. I think that’s why you see two of the greatest athletes that ever played, Venus and Serena. At worst, they have to be the top two to four. They’ve done a pretty good job, have had amazing careers. Then you see some of the younger players. I can see at my academy, generally you see girls that look to tennis maybe before guys do. We have to do a better job promoting it. That’s about half the answer or a third.
EVERT: I think the expense is one big thing. I actually have come into contact with a lot of people, a lot of women, when they hear I was a tennis player, they’re like, I wanted to play tennis but it was too expensive for my family. As a mother of three kids, when my kids were younger, they wanted to do the team sports. It was more social, more engaging. They went out and were on a team. I think a lot of kids are cut out for team sports. There aren’t a lot of kids cut out for the pressures of an individual sport at such a young age. Obviously you have to train at a young age if you’re going to be a tennis player. The fact that tennis probably isn’t even in the top 10 in America as far as popular sports, most watched sports on TV.
John brought up a great point. Our best athletes are definitely not going into tennis. They’re going into a lot of different sports. It’s funny, the Serena, Venus influence as far as the African American influence is starting finally to show up in the women’s game. Sloane Stephens, Madison Keys, Taylor Townsend, Victoria Duval, that has started in the last couple years. So it also depends on who is number one in your sport. Our number one player in the women’s sport the last 10 years has been either Venus or Serena. So I think that is a big thing.
I think you’re going to see tennis grow in America.
Q. Could you assess the women’s side at Wimbledon, particularly Maria Sharapova 10 years after her victory. Can she do it again this year?
EVERT: I think it’s going to be an interesting tournament for Serena. I think there’s going to be a lot of pressure on her because she did not do well in the last two Grand Slams, pretty much had bad losses. I think all eyes are going to be on how she’s doing. If she can get through the first week, that’s going to be the big thing. Once she gets through the first week, gets the ball rolling, gets more comfortable on the grass, she’ll be unbeatable.
She has one thing no other woman player has, she has the serve. She’s walking on the court 2-Love or 3-Love already. If the serve is going, the grass is custom made for her. It frees her up to go for the returns. She’s athletic, she moves well, she stays down low on the grass. She’s the best grass court player in my mind right now.
As far as Maria, if she can do a double, the French and Wimbledon, that would be the greatest year she’ll ever have in her life. That would be an incredible feat for her. Number one, is she going to have a letdown after winning the French? Number two, remember all the slipping and sliding, the problems she had last year. Footing is a big problem with her. She’s so tall, she can’t get down low for the ball, she doesn’t have that secure footing. The movement on the grass is going to be key for her, as well as her first serve. It can go all over the place or she can serve aces. Sharapova, there’s a question mark. But as far as confidence level, you’ve got to give that to her. But I’m still favoring Serena a little bit. With Halep, Kvitova, Bouchard, ones who can do some damage also.
McENROE: I pretty much agree with what Chrissie said. She’s absolutely right. Serena’s game is very much made for the grass. Maria I never would have thought would have become arguably a better clay court player than any other surface. I really respect the effort she’s put forth to become that good and be able to win the French twice, a second time before any other major.
I think what Chrissie said earlier about the footwork, the movement, in the beginning it’s going to be tougher for Maria to get through the first week. If she does, she’ll be able to sort of feel more comfortable with her movement.
After that, it obviously becomes much more of a crapshoot. The bigger hitters, Kvitova won it because she can do damage with one shot. It becomes harder for players that rely on getting a lot of balls back. It’s tougher to win a tournament like that. Or if they have liabilities with their serve… Certainly if Serena and Maria don’t do well, it’s going to be much more difficult to pick who it would be after that. Is Azarenka still in?
EVERT: Yeah, she’s come back. This is her first week.
McENROE: She hasn’t played much for a while, so that would be an X factor for her. She got hurt last year. She’ll be hesitant early on. Obviously, when she got hurt, she was 2, 3 in the world.
EVERT: I’d like to see Serena this time, because they were going to meet in the quarters at the French, I’d like to see them (Serena and Venus) on opposite ends of the draw. That would make it much more interesting, too.
Q. If you had to pick one to make it through the first week, would you go with Serena or Maria?
McENROE: If I had to pick one, I’d pick Serena.
Q. What is it like to defend a home Grand Slam challenge?
McENROE: First of all, there’s no one that’s been under more pressure to win a major event than Andy Murray. The fact that he’s done it takes a lot of pressure off him. That should be understood. He did something that took 76 or 78 years to do so there’s definitely less pressure. Having said that, anytime you taste what it feels like to win it once, you obviously want to win it again. So there’s an element of pressure you put on yourself for starters because you sort of want to see what that feels like at least one more time. From that standpoint he’s going to be feeling pressure. Clearly now once people know he can do it, they’re going to think he should do it again. It’s not like there’s not going to be pressure. There is going to be pressure. It’s not going to be as staggering as it was. You throw in this new coaching thing, that makes it a little bit hard to get your groove quickly. He only won one match in Queen’s. He lost early. So this is sort of an X factor.
Murray is very comfortable on the surface. I’m assuming that they’re going to seed him No. 4. I would be surprised if they don’t move him up. He’s presently 5. I think Stanislas Wawrinka is 3 or 4. I think it would make sense. He deserves it, to me, based on the fact he won it last year, his history on grass, that they should seed him 4 and separate these guys. He would potentially have to go through three of these guys, which I don’t think makes sense for anyone. Are the seedings being made tomorrow?
McENROE: I would hope for all concerned that they put Stan, who won the Australian, he’s not as comfortable on grass, he had a decent run at Queen’s, but it would be ludicrous to me if they didn’t put Murray 4.
Once he gets going, he’s going to be obviously one of the toughest guys to beat. He’s tougher to beat in best-of-five, particular on grass because he has a sense of what to do there. He has as good a shot as anyone to win it.
Q. Do you see Mauresmo coaching a top 10 player on the ATP, is that a big step for women’s tennis?
EVERT: I don’t think it matters for women’s tennis. I think it says something for women’s coaching. You’re talking about two different things. Again, this isn’t going to affect the Tour at all. It’s a positive sign for women in coaching. It hasn’t been done very much, very rarely. Maybe it opens the door to not only men, but the women don’t seem to have women coaches. Maybe it opens the door to more women. It’s really interesting because the big question at the French was, Will this inspire more top women to be coaches? The fact of the matter is, we all have kids. I don’t think Steffi Graf is going to ask Andre, Can I go on the Tour for 35 weeks and coach a player? I don’t think that’s going to happen. When you look at the top players, Steffi, Pam Shriver, Tracy, Mary Joe, Kim Clijsters, Lindsay, everybody’s got kids. That’s our priority. You’re not going to have full-time coaches as women as much as full-time coaches with men.
Q. You covered some of the favorites on the women’s side at Wimbledon. I wanted your thoughts on who the longshots or surprises might be. Specifically what are the chances you see for Caroline Wozniacki, Ana Ivanovic, and down the line Daniela Hantuchova?
McENROE: Wozniacki, I would put that’s not going to happen, as well as Hantuchova, even though they’re nice girls, young ladies. Ivanovic has a remote chance. She has some wins. Way better chance than the other two as far as the girls.
As far as the guys, the four top guys are the obviously choices. These aren’t longshots anymore. These are the two guys that I think have made the biggest advances, who we’ve been waiting on the longest to potentially do some serious damage at a major event, and they’re starting to show that. That would be Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov. Two guys, if they had a little bit of luck, things fell their way, they could make a real run in this tournament. Those would be the two guys I would pick.
EVERT: I think on the women’s side, again, after Serena and Maria, there’s a little bit of a gap, a little bit of a question mark. I think Bouchard has shown a lot of positives in the last six months as far as stepping up, not being afraid to play the top players, not to be afraid to play on a stadium court, dealing with the pressure so well. Especially after the French, she almost beat Maria Sharapova. She likes grass. She likes to step in and take the ball early. She has power. I think she’s one to watch.
Kvitova, she started to play well at the French. She lost weight. She’s fitter. I think having had that experience, she really enjoys playing on the grass. She’s somewhat under the radar right now. You could look at Sam Stosur, players that have all-around versatile games, that are good athletes. I think grass favors the athleticism because you have to have good balance and know how to move smoothly on the grass. I think those players. And Halep, she’s a question mark. Will she continue the momentum she had at the French? Again, she’s a great athlete and can move well. I think that’s very important on the grass, the court coverage.
Q. Chrissie, to you what does Sam Stosur have to do to have a good Wimbledon? John, what is your take on Bernie Tomic?
EVERT: She needs to believe in herself. She needs to have that belief. It’s not about her game. She’s got a beautiful game. She could do it all. It’s just about her nerves. I think what she needs to do is look back, look at the matches that she had leads, top players on the ropes, matches that she got nervous and lost. You have to recognize your past before you move on to your future. You got to figure it out. Then she’s got to figure out, If I’m in this situation again, I’m going to react differently. You have to talk yourself into reacting differently. It’s all psychological with her. She just needs to have more confidence in herself, in her game, just try to control those nerves a little better.
McENROE: As far as Bernard, I haven’t seen him play since he underwent the surgeries. I heard it was maybe one or both of the hips. I’m not sure the extent. Anytime you have surgery you’re worried, especially when you’re that young. I’m not exactly sure what surgery he had on his hips.
Q. Was on both hips.
McENROE: I’m not sure exactly what they did. But Bernard is unusual, obviously, in a number of ways. But the main way, the way that’s interesting, is the way he plays. He’s one of the few guys that I’ve seen where he makes guys that play him uncomfortable. That’s what he had going for him. He sort of takes people out of their games. He gives you looks that you don’t expect. He’s like a fastball pitcher that would suddenly go to an off-speed pitch. Bowlers, cricket, taking everything off the ball, are spinning it. He was very interesting to watch, I found. There were always issues. At times, how deep he was willing to dig, his fitness level. He’s a big guy. I saw a stat last year I think where he won a great deal of his service games. He had one of the best records on the Tour as far as holding service games. I thought that it was amazing because a lot of times it doesn’t look like he’s going more than 80% on his serve. Maybe that’s why, he’s unpredictable. At this stage I see a guy that clearly his best surface has always been grass, so he’s most comfortable. He might start to find some confidence. I notice he won a few matches in these tune-up events. I don’t know what his fitness level is like. When you have to walk into best-of-five, it’s more mental than physical at Wimbledon than say the French. He’d have a better shot. I’d have to see him again, both on and off the court, what’s going on with his training, who he’s been coached by, all these other things that I’m not really sure of. It’s going to be interesting to see if he’s going to be able to bounce back, have something serious happen. I’m assuming his ranking has dropped down.
Q. Men’s and women’s winner and a dark horse in both?
EVERT: Serena, Djokovic. Can Bouchard be a dark horse? The men? Oh, boy. Go ahead, John, I have to think about the men.
McENROE: I would pick the same women. If Bouchard could be a dark horse, I would pick her as a dark horse. I think she’s come a long way. I like what I’m seeing. I still think, especially on grass, that Serena, if she brings out her A game, is the best player without a doubt to win it.
EVERT: I’ll pick Dimitrov for the guys.
McENROE: I think as far as the men, this is like a really tough one. If I had to pick one guy right now, I probably would pick Djokovic, even though I don’t think he’s as comfortable on grass as he is on hard courts. My longshot pick, can I pick Federer as a longshot (laughter)? He would be my longshot pick over Raonic or Dimitrov.
Roger is obviously amazing. I still think he’s going to make a run in the majors. I didn’t think he could go all the way and win one. He just had another set of twins, for God’s sake. Maybe it won’t be that easy.
EVERT: Listen, he’s like the fourth favorite, though. He could win Wimbledon.
McENROE: That’s true. But Dimitrov is probably the fifth favorite.
EVERT: But what is his ranking?
McENROE: He’s probably like 10 in the world now.
Q. He’s 13.
McENROE: I thought he was higher. And Raonic is probably 9 or 10 in the world. To a lot of people they would be longshots, so we’re sticking with it. I’ll pick Raonic if you don’t want me to pick Federer. He’s only won it, what, seven times (laughter).
Q. Chrissie, what are your thoughts on Martina Hingis coming back to play at Wimbledon as a wild card in the doubles tournament?
EVERT: John McEnroe can chime in. He played with her and knows her better than I do. He played with her in TeamTennis. I haven’t watched her play doubles. I watched her play in TeamTennis a couple times. She’s hitting the ball great. She’s obviously winning a lot of doubles matches, so she’s still crafty, volleys really well, quick at the net. I would have loved to have seen her play singles personally. But I guess that’s not going to happen.
John, what do you think?
McENROE: Certainly in doubles she could win the thing if she had the right partner. I think she’s been playing with Lisicki. I think they won at Key Biscayne.
EVERT: She’s not playing with her at Wimbledon.
McENROE: Who is she playing with?
EVERT: Zvonareva. If she had a great mixed partner, she’d have a great chance in the mixed, too.
McENROE: Maybe it just shows you sometimes when it’s later than you like, you realize how much you love it and miss it. I don’t know what she’s proving. I think she could still play doubles. She could lose first round, win the tournament. Maybe she just likes to be around it.
Q. John, do you see Dimitrov as a future superstar? Can he break into the top four? What do you like about him and where does he fit in?
McENROE: I like a lot about him. What I didn’t like about him was it didn’t seem he was dedicated enough compared to what the other top guys were doing. Being around Sharapova I bet has helped him, maybe for obvious reasons, because he’s happier. But the obvious ones were because she’s so dedicated. I mean, I call her the Nadal of the women’s tour. She plays every point like it’s her last point. That has to have rubbed off on him. Also Rasheed (Dimitrov’s coach) is known as a fitness guy. He’s realized over the course of time if he wants to make a mark, he has to be fit. He was cramping. I saw him cramping in the second set of the French Open last year or the year before. You can’t expect to be at the end of majors or winning them, there’s no way you can do that if you can’t last till the end of a best-of-a-five-set match. I think one of the best matches he ever played was when he played Nadal at the Australian. He looked like he could go the distance. Looked like he had a shot at it. He didn’t pull it off. But it looks like he can at least go the distance now. He lost first round in the French. He hasn’t exactly knocked them dead in the majors. He’s got a lot to prove. He has a lot of upside. Everyone has known that for a long time. It takes longer to break through. These guys are incredible. You’re probably talking about the two greatest players that ever played, Nadal, Federer. Djokovic is going up the all-time great rankings. Murray has gotten himself better and better. It’s extremely difficult to break into that. He and Raonic are the two guys that I have seen who have done the most recently to make this breakthrough.
EVERT: If I can say one thing. The more I watch this game, I more I realize it’s getting to be so much about the team. It’s getting to be so much about the influences that these players have. They all have so much ability, natural ability. When you look at Andy Murray with Lendl, that proves my point. When I look at Dimitrov, he has Rasheed. He’s got great credentials. Like John said, he’s into the fitness part of it. He’s got Maria as a girlfriend. Like John says, that professionalism, that discipline has to be rubbing off. She’s probably telling him things, too, giving him some advice. I just think at the end of the day it really gives you a big edge if you have a great team around you. I think he does. I think that’s really improved his game. It’s about the attitude and the confidence.
Q. John, I was asking you about your meeting with Pele. What was that like for you and how did that compare to other great meetings?
McENROE: Pele…I met a number of times. He’s one of these guys that makes you feel good about everything. He just has this smile. Certainly, I don’t speak Portuguese obviously. He didn’t speak English where it was easy to have a conversation. It was just to be around his field was magical the way you could feel the beauty of this man. The way he played, he was like the Roger Federer on a soccer field. He was like the most beautiful guy that combined this joie de vivre, and played the way he played. Brazil, it means so much for them obviously. To have someone like that represent their country in a sport that they love so much, I mean, he’s like Wayne Gretzky in hockey. He’s just a wonderful man. He’s one of those guys that will say something nice about you before he expects you to say something nice about him.
Q. There’s another Brazilian like that, which is Guga.
McENROE: That’s so true. Absolutely true. This guy got totally gypped. Every time I see the guy smile, I feel bad because he deserved so much better.