How old was John McEnroe when he first competed at Wimbledon?
HAPPY BIRTHDAY COUSIN! Today is quite the change from the island doodles, but Tennis' bad boy was the request for today, and so we will learn about John McEnroe. You might be saying, "you cannot be serious?!" but in fact, I am.
John McEnroe was born February 16, 1959 to a military family stationed in West Germany. The family moved to the New York City in 1960, and McEnroe started to excel in sports during his early years. He eventually attended Trinity, a Manhattan-based prep school, where he played soccer, basketball, and tennis. Tennis soon rose to the top of the McEnroe's list of sports. He (and his brother Patrick) seemed to have a natural talent on the court, and though John was often recognized as one of the top junior players in the country, he never landed a #1 ranking on the junior circuit.
McEnroe graduated from high school in 1977. At the time he was able to play in Europe, vying for the Wimbledon juniors until winning the French Juniors Tournament. This win qualified him for the men's competition at Wimbledon. In an amazing feat, McEnroe made it into the semi-finals, which at the time made him the youngest player ever to reach the semi-finals. Though his inexperience prevented him from beating then-powerhouse Jimmy Conners, his performance caught the attention of the pros on tour.
People were intrigued by the skinny young kid with pasty skin and wild curly hair. They were fascinated (some were appalled, some were entertained) by his mouth, which was just as quick—if not quicker—than his reflexes. McEnroe, true to form, had given fans a taste of what was to come.
McEnroe kept his amateur status, not collecting any money for his participation in the 1977 Wimbledon tournament. He returned to America to attend Stanford, remaining there only long enough to bring Stanford an NCAA Championship in tennis, in 1978. He turned pro after his freshman year, in 1978, going on to reach the semi-finals of the U.S. Open that first year, and ascending in the world rankings to sixth and making his way onto the Davis Cup team. Young players usually didn't handle the intense international competition of Davis Cup play very well. But young McEnroe did, helping his team beat England and securing the first U.S. Davis Cup victory in six years. By the end of the season McEnroe had received the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) Newcomer of the Year Award and finished ranked number four in the world.
McEnroe's fame rose in conjunction with his attendance at Wimbledon. Though he was eliminated in the first round in 1978—just one year after making it to the semi-finals as an amateur—he returned in 1979 and made it to the fourth round. Though he was disappointed at not winning, he was relieved a few months later when he won the U.S. Open, the youngest player to do so since 1948. In the next four months, McEnroe won four singles championships, including an important victory over Björn Borg in Stockholm, Sweden. At the end of the season he again led the U.S. Davis Cup team to victory, keeping the cup in America for a second straight year (he also served on the winning cup team in '81 and '82, as well as in 1992).
In 1979, after a loss at Wimbledon, McEnroe won the U.S. Open in a match against Vitas Gerulaitis, becoming the youngest player to win the tournament since 1948. Shortly after the triumph, he led the United States to victories over Argentina, Australia and Italy to allow the team to retain the Davis Cup championship.
Over time, McEnroe's play developed into a style known for its finesse and agility. He had extremely quick reflexes and an uncanny court sense. As his talent came to public attention, so did his antics. McEnroe became known for having a volatile personality, with an array of well-documented outbursts directed towards a variety of tennis personnel, including himself.
In 1980, one of tennis' most notorious rivalries between McEnroe and Swede, Björn Borg, took shape, beginning in July of that year at the Wimbledon final. The fourth set went into an unprecedented 34-point tiebreaker, with the overall match lasting four and a half hours. Borg emerged victorious (1-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-7, 8-6) in the contest that would go down in history as one of the most epic tennis matches of all time.
The two squared off again at the U.S. Open, where McEnroe took the championship (7-6, 6-1, 6-7, 5-7, 6-4). The contenders faced each other yet again in the 1981 Wimbledon final, with Borg losing his five-year crown to McEnroe, who pulled off a win in four sets. McEnroe defeated Borg again at the U.S. Open, becoming the first man since Bill Tilden to win three consecutive Open titles.
McEnroe was unable to add to his Grand Slam collection in 1982, but he was back in top form the following year, winning his second Wimbledon by crushing Chris Lewis (6-2, 6-2, 6-2). In 1984, McEnroe won 82 of 85 matches, including his fourth WCT final, his third U.S. Pro Indoor Championship and his second Grand Prix Masters title. He captured his third Wimbledon title, soundly defeating Connors (6-1, 6-1, 6-2), and his fourth U.S. Open title, beating Ivan Lendl (6-3, 6-4, 6-1), and finished with the No. 1 ranking for the fourth consecutive year.
Although McEnroe won eight singles titles in 1985, none of them were Grand Slam events. He took a six-month sabbatical in 1986, and stepped away for several months again after a suspension for an outburst in 1987. He was also famously disqualified for misconduct from the 1990 Australian Open in Melbourne in a match against Mikael Pernfors.
McEnroe remained a highly competitive doubles player, winning the U.S. Open in 1989 and Wimbledon in 1992. McEnroe called it quits in 1992, retiring with seven career Grand Slam singles championships, nine doubles titles and one more in mixed doubles, along with a host of Davis Cup wins.
In 1995, McEnroe began a second career as a television broadcaster and continued to occasionally compete on the court for charity, devoting a good amount of time to the Arthur Ashe Foundation for the defeat of AIDS. McEnroe is also a guitar player, having performed live via bands such as the Package and the Noise Upstairs. In 1994, he launched the John McEnroe Art Gallery in New York City to showcase developing artists. McEnroe was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1999. In 2010, he founded the John McEnroe Tennis Academy in New York.
John McEnroe is one of tennis' most infamous players with numerous awards and accolades to his name. His feisty nature and court antics were as well known as his quick play style. He's also a lefty, which I'm sure helped solidify him as one of my cousin's favorite tennis players!