ESPN / US Open Conference Call with Chris Evert, John McEnroe
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ESPN tennis analysts and Hall of Famers Chrissie Evert and John McEnroe spoke with media Wednesday, previewing the US Open. ESPN’s exclusive coverage – from first ball to last ball – begins Monday, August 28, with 130 hours on TV and 1,300 on ESPN3 and streaming live on the ESPN App with action from all televised courts. The daily action from the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center will culminate with the Women’s Championship on Saturday, Sept. 9, and the Men’s Championship on Sunday, Sept. 10, both at 4 p.m. ET.
A transcript follows. (Because of technical issues at both recording sites, the first three questions were not captured. We apologize for the inconvenience.)
I have a much broader question. The NFL has obviously lately been dealing with stuff about Colin Kaepernick and the Anthem and cultural issues that are really riding high in the states these days. And it just struck me that tennis is traditionally, even though it’s a conservative sport, and even though the road hasn’t always been smooth, has always been in the open era to be on sort of the cutting edge of a lot of social issues in terms of sexuality, gender, even race to a certain extent. And I’m just wondering if you have any idea why tennis has been proven to be so resilient and being on the cutting edge of a lot of these issues where other sports may not have as smooth a path or cannot absorb them as easily as tennis has. Is it a lack of central authority, or do you have any sense why that might be?
- CHRISSIE EVERT: I’m just going to just say that I think tennis — I’m not going to say other sports are not good people but looking at tennis being an individual sport.JOHN MCENROE: And we’re better looking.CHRISSIE EVERT: But seriously, I think you really know the individual sport players better than you know the team players. And I think I just think for the most part tennis players have been really good people, when you look at Billie Jean and you look at Martina coming out, the way they had, in a very dignified way.
And you look at Serena and the race question and she’s had to put up with a lot but she’s been very graceful at it. I think the players have gotten a lot of support from fans and they deserve it. They’ve all been very classy and graceful in the way they’ve come out with being, with the diversity, with being a little bit different.
JOHN MCENROE: Well, let me just add that what tennis had going for it, I believe, in terms of what you’re asking about, we played a fair amount of events, the Grand Slams together. There was the togetherness that existed in some ways before any of this happened. If you go way, way back. And so what happened was is that as people started to realize that the playing field wasn’t level, people — great champions like Billie Jean King who battled and fought for equality, and the guys that would be, including myself initially, they would be like “Wait a second, what’s going on here?” And eventually, and Title IX in the ’70s, all these things started to come together and allowed the players, male players, in particular, to get a better perspective, a different perspective, and to realize that there was actually — we could turn something that perhaps we didn’t necessarily believe in into something that we understood and actually got behind and we would benefit from it in the long run. Me as the father of six, four of my kids are girls.
I understood as I became a father the importance of girls feeling like, hey, I can grow up to be a professional athlete, a professional tennis player, and it was a tremendous thing. That wasn’t looked at the same way years before. And so the other irony was that when Bobby Riggs was trying to get some publicity for himself and started talking about him playing the girls, the fact that he ended up playing Margaret Court and losing to Billie Jean King brought this all to the forefront a lot sooner than it perhaps would have. You don’t see it in other sports.
They’re always asking me about Serena, could I beat Serena, but they’re never asking LeBron James whether or not he could beat someone else or whoever, even an older guy, Michael Jordan or whoever it was that played, Kareem, this he could play some girl and how they would do. And so because of all of those things sort of happening over the course of the past three or four decades, I think ironically, and I have to add I’m happy to say we’ve sort of been at the forefront of a fair amount of things.
CHRISSIE EVERT: And I also see that — John very eloquently talked about Billie Jean and we talked about Serena and Martina, these are all role models. These are all deep-thinkers. These are all women, players who have gone through a lot of adversity and have fought hard for what they believed in and have earned and deserved a lot of respect from the public. And that’s the support I’m talking about.
Q. It seems like quite a long time ago that Angelique Kerber, we’re talking about her dominating the tour and being world number one and winning two Slams, what do you think her chances are at the U.S. Open? Can she get things back on track? And how many players would you put above her in terms of contenders? And, I guess more so for John, you know, Nick Kyrgios has — I saw him play in Washington D.C. and he just didn’t seem all mentally there. What do you think his mental game is now and I actually just read your books recently and I know that there are times that you felt — you didn’t feel like playing tennis. What kind of advice would you give him?
CHRISSIE EVERT: Nick Kyrgios is the one who got to the finals last week?
Q. Yes. He’s even talked about —
JOHN MCENROE: I’ll answer first. I’ll go with Nick Kyrgios and Chris you can answer the first part. Nick Kyrgios, I think if they listen to me or have spoken to me, understand where I stand on Nick Kyrgios. He’s the most talented player out there that’s 22 years. I think he’s 22, and he has the attributes, the physical and the game to be the best player in the world. Now, can he put it together to dedicate himself in terms of the level of fitness required these days and the level, the mental aspect of it where you need to go and give a sustained, in my opinion, if you want to be the best player in the world, you’ve got to give a sustained effort, day in and day out. That’s what separates the good from the great.
He’s already like a very good player. We could see how talented he was in Cinci. He mentioned in the post-match interview or when he was thanking the crowd that he had worked with Grigor a few weeks earlier there trained and that he felt like after an hour and a half he was dead. And he saw that Grigor was a lot fitter and that he knew he needed to do a little more and was psyched out playing the two out of three set match in Cincinnati to get him to the level of fitness that would allow him to win Slams.
So ultimately he’s going to use that incentive and learning experience as a positive because we all see what he’s capable of doing but you also see what happens when he feels like his mind’s not there. He doesn’t go out and play. And he’s pulled out of a fair amount. So as someone who knows he brings something to the table and has got some personality and has tremendous talent, I hope and pray that he gets it and becomes what I believe he could be is the best player in the world. But that requires a change mentally. A sustained five-year plan. And I believe can it be done, yeah, I hope it does.
Q. From your vantage point, do you see that he’s improving in that area?
JOHN MCENROE: He was on a two-month losing streak didn’t win a match for two months. Two of them he pulled out Wimbledon being one I don’t know if he finished in Washington, I don’t recall that one. But there was a couple of matches he didn’t finish. And so then suddenly what appeared to be out of nowhere his hip what he’s been complaining about got better and he got to the finals in Cincinnati. I’m not around him enough to know. So I certainly after losing seven matches in a row getting to the finals in Cincinnati is a big step forward. It’s a jump obviously as we know to play best of five and conditions can be very, very hot here. We’ll have to wait and see. He’s still learning. He’s young. Hopefully if you look at Roger’s 35, now 36, and arguably playing the best tennis of his life. So you can say he’s slowly hopefully but surely going in the right direction.
CHRISSIE EVERT: Angelique Kerber, do I think she can turn it around, yes, I do think she can turn it around. I don’t know if it’s going to be at the U.S. Open. But listen it’s all mental with her. She’s got the game. But she was playing with a lot more freedom and a lot more zip and a lot more confidence last year. And but she does have the game if she can just not feel so tight in these matches and play with the freedom that we saw. Remember, she was the one at Wimbledon that had that really close match with Muguruza, I believe, right? No, that was the — I think the turning point in Muguruza’s tournament. And I said that, I think it was a three-set match and it was whoever won that match would, that would turn their game around. And sure enough Muguruza was the one that won the match. I do think she’s close but she’s mentally gotta sort of tweak a few things. Right now Muguruza on paper is the favorite. But as I said before, just don’t count out a Madison Keys who has the power, don’t count out Puchkova who enjoys playing in New York who reached the final last year. Caroline Wozniacki and other players, Konta, I don’t know where she is with her game now. But there’s like eight or ten players, I believe, that can win the U.S. Open.
Q. I’d love to hear a little bit about what you are seeing from Frances Tiafoe’s game and who are some of the athletes the women’s side that you’ve been impressed by recently?
JOHN MCENROE: Tiafoe is a great athlete. He’s coming along yet to be seen some of parts of his game, strategically and technically.
Q. Who are some young athletes you’ve been impressed by recently?
JOHN McENROE: Well, Dimitrov is a great athlete and he’s coming along. It remains to be seen if some parts of his game and some strategy, as well as technically, he can work those out, smooth those things out. But he seems to be learning quite nicely, and I anticipate that he’ll for sure be like I think he’ll be eventually a Top 10 player. I think that he needs to add more to his game and understand what he needs to do, which is natural for a young kid; I think he’s 19, to develop into someone who can hopefully contend and possibly win a major. But he’s certainly taken some big steps in the right direction.
CHRISSIE EVERT: I think we have to give a shout out to Sloane Stephens for coming back in such a way that she has a different look in her eyes when she’s out on the court now. She’s fighting hard and she’s very focused. You know what, I think she’s got enormous potential. We always saw the game and we always saw the talent but I think that taking off a year, I think has given her a little more meaning in her tennis and maybe made her a little more passionate about her game. Like to give a shout out to her. Svitolina I didn’t even mention her because so many at the top.
JOHN McENROE: What about Ostapenko, too. She won the French, right?
CHRISSIE EVERT: Yeah, Ostapenko has been disappointing so far in the hard court season, which I’m surprised at because I thought she would reason her run more on the hard courts where her shots have a little more pace. She’s dangerous but has to the really followed through on the momentum of winning the French yet.
But Svitolina who has won a tournament, she’s won more tournaments than anybody this year, she’s won four or five tournaments and forgot about her. You know, she’s young. I think she’s 22. You’ve got to give her a great shot, also, at winning The Open. Bellis has had a good summer also. As far as winning the tournament, Sloane has an outside, outside chance. I love the way she’s playing. Ostapenko needs to step up it on the hard court and Svitolina has proven herself.
Q. I was watching Sloane in Cincinnati when she played Halep and her coach came out, Murray, and told her she was a better athlete than Halep. Who do you think is the best athlete on the WTA Tour and will take the Williams sisters out of that equation, if you don’t mind.
CHRISSIE EVERT: I don’t think that I care to answer that. I can’t show you one how can you say that Sloane Stephens is a better athlete than Halep, who or how can you say, you know, Halep is a better athlete. You have to be a top level athlete now to be a top woman tennis player, and you didn’t really have to in prior years.
But they are all they all have their strengths and whether it’s, you know, mentally or, I mean, I consider that being a top athlete, whether it’s mentally or whether it’s moving wise or whether it’s power. I don’t know, how do you assess all the elements it takes to be a top athlete? I don’t know how you can compete.
JOHN McENROE: I would take those two as the top athletes on the women’s tour. I think that there’s other players like Sharapova, obviously, is a great ball striker
CHRISSIE EVERT: I guess if you say natural athlete.
JOHN McENROE: Natural athlete fastest athlete court coverage, those two are to me that’s why Sloane Stephens could possibly do well, and that’s why Halep has been in two Grand Slam finals because she’s a road runner. She overpowers people.
CHRISSIE EVERT: Right. Right.
JOHN McENROE: But as I Chris is correct that the level of athleticism on both the men’s and women’s tour has improved generally speaking over the years. The 100th ranked player on either side is a better player than they were 20 years ago, ten years ago even. The ball is hit so much faster. You have to be more athletic.
Q. I had a two part question. First, what are the odds that we see a Roger versus Rafa U.S. Open final for the first time, and if Roger were to win this, his third major of the year, how would you rate it among his best seasons? And secondly, since you were both part of two of the greatest tennis rivalries, what rivalry would you like to see develop or would excite you to develop on the Tour?
JOHN McENROE: The first part of it is unlikely, even though they are going to be the two favorites, because it’s never happened. The odds, even with Roger to win three majors out of four, would be astounding. Rafa has not done as well on the hard courts. It’s hard to say, okay, I’m going to pick, you know, Zverev. I wouldn’t pick Zverev. I don’t think he’s quite ready to win it yet. You know, he’s going to win majors, there’s no question.
Would I like that would be like the ultimate, you know, to me. That would be the most fantastic year ending situation for tennis if these guys play, having Roger, potentially, for the No. 1 ranking. So that would be absolutely outstanding, despite obviously we want it’s been 15 years since an American guy has won, or 14 or 15 years. So we hope that at some point that would intensify things.
As far as rivalries, you put aside like the top four who have dominated over the course of the last, you know, dozen years or ten years, you have to sort looking for some new people. And you know, the type of rivalries that you hope for are the people that we hope will step up, whether it’s agreeing or, whether it’s Zverev, whether it’s Kyrgios, whether it’s, you know, Jack Sock decided he was going to, you know, go a hundred 20 percent or some American made a step forward, or you could pray that Novak comes back and he battles these other guys the way Roger has been able to do over two or three sets, well, almost generations, he’s been around that long. You can’t expect Roger to go another two, three years, 38, play Zverev at 22 although the way he’s going, it wouldn’t totally shock me. But you hope that guys that you feel have a couple years left, and then guys are going to step up and be the future No. 1. So those would be the most interesting to me.
CHRISSIE EVERT: You know, I don’t I think this is going to be a really tough tournament for Roger to win because of the three out of five sets in the heat. I think that it would be phenomenal if he did win. It would be the best year he’s ever had in his career, winning three Grand Slams, at his age. It would…he should be Sports Illustrated Athlete of the Year. He should be in everybody’s Athlete of the Year if he does that.
But I think for Roger, it’s going to be hard. It’s going to be I think that three out of five sets if it was two out of three sets, I would say he’s got a great shot at winning. But for some reason and I know how I felt when I played at 34 years old, and he’s 36 years old, it’s going to be tough three out of five sets to maintain that level of consistency and fitness over a period of two weeks.
I love the Nadal/ Federer rivalry. I love that rivalry. With the women, I don’t know, because I like a contrast in a rivalry. And I like big personalities. I guess Sharapova against anybody would be a good rivalry because, you know, she’s I don’t know, she’s got that fight and she’s got that pride and she’s got that professionalism, and I think she’s like the biggest name aside from Serena in the game.
It’s a hard call. I don’t know. I really don’t know. Muguruza and Madison Keys would be a good rivalry, even though they don’t have contrasting styles, they I think their games are pretty close as far as the level. And you know, we’re not even talking Victoria Lepchenko, when she comes back, hopefully will be right there in the mix because I have a lot of respect for her game. But other than that, it’s hard to the women, they just kind of blend into one another because nobody is really standing out yet except for Muguruza right now.
Q. If you had to pick an American who you think will go deepest, who would you pick?
CHRISSIE EVERT: Well, I think Madison. She won Stanford. Again, she hasn’t been healthy for the last year and she’s had some bad losses. When she’s healthy, and the way she’s currently playing, she definitely would be a threat to win the tournament.
JOHN McENROE: You know, as far as the guys, I really would put a virtual tie for all three: Sock, Querrey and Isner. I don’t see any of them winning it. I see all of them being dangerous. Obviously John with the serve, you know, none of the top guys want to play him.
Stan had the great run at Wimbledon, and Jack is, I think, talent wise, has the most upside at this stage. So I anticipate that I hope that all of them make a good run, but it was going to be and certainly more wide open and more opportunistic more opportunity than we expected with as many guys withdrawing, and the unpredictability of it.
You know, Jack looked like he was under the weather or something. He doesn’t look like he’s 100 percent fit to me. I’m not quite sure. I haven’t seen him. John had a good run. But he struggled at Wimbledon. And Sam, he looks like to be the most consistent. He looked a little bit fatigued. All these guys are getting tired obviously playing a lot of tennis. He looked whipped at Cincinnati. We’ll have to wait and see. And part of it’s the draw and part of it’s when they play; how many matches you get stuck in the heat of the day.
CHRISSIE EVERT: Yeah, I think John brought up a great point. This tournament is so much about fitness, more than Paris, I think, and more than Wimbledon with the weather is a little bit easier, like 20 degrees easier. And it’s on a hard court, and it’s at the end of the year, and players, even though they don’t admit it, are starting maybe to get a little bit worn out, the body and the mind. I think that’s why this is always such a big challenge of all the Grand Slams to play your best tennis, because it’s hard to be fresh when it’s the ninth month of the year you’ve been playing full time.
Q. Following on from that, how difficult is it going to be for Andy Murray in the heat given that he has not played since Wimbledon, and has the rest given him the chance to recharge his batteries, or is the lack of playing time going to be a bit of a hindrance?
JOHN McENROE: We don’t know the answer to that. We are all wondering the same question. You know, is it going to help him, mentally, maybe. Is it going to hurt him physically, maybe. The fact that he rested his hip, is that good? Probably. The fact that he didn’t play any matches, probably not the best thing. But Roger didn’t play for six months, so he’s obviously banking on something along those lines. I don’t know if his hip, from what I understand, I’m not even sure he’s 100 percent healthy yet, and he may have something needed to be done after the tournament. I’m not sure. So this could be like, look, I’ve got this great chance to play at the Open and do well, so I’m going to take my chances. I’m not really sure. I haven’t seen him yet.
CHRISSIE EVERT: And I think a lot we don’t know what his training’s been. It’s brutally hot down here (Florida), and I know he usually trains in Miami. We don’t know how many weeks he’s put in, because again, conditioning is going to be a big factor for him, as well as all the other players.
Q. Just following up on that, as well, do you see this event being more open than we’ve had in years who would you pick on the men’s side?
JOHN McENROE: Hard not to pick Roger right now and Rafa, even though he didn’t do that well at Wimbledon, and he’s had a couple not great results on the hard courts. Best of five, he’s tougher.
Andy normally is tougher in best of five, but we’re not quite sure where he’s at. It would be pretty hard to pick, you know, someone besides one of those two at the moment. Is Zverev ready to step up best of five? Well, if he is, he’s ready, he’s positioned himself. I’ve been waiting for dim I trough for the past three or four years. I saw he looked better than I’ve ever seen him in Cincinnati. One of the matches of the year was the Nadal match in the semis of Australia. So he’s got a great chance to step forward and do some get to the finals, or at least the semis.
CHRISSIE EVERT: I don’t know how you can pick anybody in the women’s. On paper, it’s Muguruza in her current form, you know, how is she going to deal with the pressure. In the past, she’s been a little fragile mentally, but at the same time, she seems, on paper, you’d have to pick her, but again, Madison Keys, Pliskova, there’s some other power players that can match Muguruza’s power and maybe have less pressure, and may be a little fresher than Muguruza. Again, it’s so hard to predict. There’s just so many factors, especially the last Grand Slam.
Q. Be interested know what both of you think about Konta’s chances coming into the Open, and also with so many people pulling out of the Open, do you think it’s time that we need to start look at changing the schedule for burnout and injuries?
CHRISSIE EVERT: Konta, when I said there’s eight or ten players, she’s one of the eight or ten players. But I don’t you know, I’ve been a little disappointed with her hard court season. I thought that maybe she really played so great at Wimbledon. She really played beautiful tennis, and I thought maybe she would carry that over to the hard court season. But haven’t seen any great results. I don’t know I don’t know if she’s Wimbledon might have just taken so much out of her and I know she was injured after Wimbledon, so she took a break. I’m not quite sure I would pick her. I would say that her chances aren’t that great, but of course, you never know with her. She’s got a great game. What was the other question?
Q. About whether we need to look at changing the schedule with so many people pulling out and so many injuries.
CHRISSIE EVERT: Well, I think you seem to have it more on the men’s side than the women’s. I think the women, we play two out of three sets, and we don’t you know, it’s just a little bit more manageable for the women. I think giving the French between French and Wimbledon, one extra week, I think that was really great. I think the schedule’s fine. I think the players just have to be smart about picking after Wimbledon, picking what tournaments they want to play in; not play every single hard court tournament. I see the top players entering every single hard court tournament. It’s like, being a little sensible about when you’re going to peak for the U.S. Open and don’t get burnt out before you play. I don’t think there really needs to be any adjustments. I think it’s just a matter of the players picking and choosing a little bit better, a little bit wiser.
JOHN McENROE: This has been something obviously that people that follow tennis have been looking at for 40 years. We were discussing that when I came up in the late 70s. So the schedule was virtually year round. Australia used to be actually during Christmas initially, and then the Masters would be early January; there was almost no break whatsoever. They have worked over the years to get it down to maybe nine or ten months. I think perhaps they would be better served to continue to look at that. There’s a whole host of things that you can do.
I think people obviously realize that even though when I grew up and was young, I thought, you know, a hard court was great because you could stop and start on a dime, but it takes its toll on you physically. So you have to be more careful on a hard court. It beats you up more. So that is where being sensible, like Chrissie said, leading up to the tournament.
And sometimes it’s just unpredictable. You just don’t know. But certainly the wear and tear is there, because the ball is being hit harder so you have to react quicker. So things happen more often than they did in the past. That’s part of why you’re seeing a lot of injuries. But let’s face it, there have been injuries for a long time. This is nothing new. They are going to continue to look at it. And hopefully things like Davis Cup, where they refuse to make a change for 40 years, I think that’s a big problem. So there’s certain things even though that was a big part of tennis in the past when I grew up. So you’re going to see people continuing, and they should, we should continue to try to figure out ways to get the maximum out of all the players.
CHRISSIE EVERT: You know, my problem when I was playing was never the U.S. Open as much as the tournaments after the U.S. Open. You know, with he had to play, there were two or three European tournaments we had to play and then we had to play the Virginia Slims Championships and our season wouldn’t end until early November. Those are the tournaments that I felt it was hardest to get psyched up for, and my body, I was just exhausted and I was not 100 percent. But as far as Australia to the U.S. Open, I think that’s manageable and doable if the players are smart about their decision making.
Q. And just on Konta, John, do you have any thoughts on her?
JOHN McENROE: I think Konta is a good competitor and she’s done a lot of positive things. She’s pretty to me, she’s made some really good strides. A little mechanical at times, to me. She’s someone that, I mean, I respect what she’s done and she seems to have sort of used where parts of her game are weak, like mentally, she’s gotten in touch or worked with the right people to get herself in a better frame of mind more often. She had a great week, I believe, in Miami, winning that on hard court. So her game to me is best suited to hard courts, but I also believe that the emotional and physical toll at Wimbledon, more emotional than physical, it caught up to her, and I’m guessing this is just an absolute guess, she let down some and the body lets down, and she has to get herself going again. I think she was playing Halep at Cincinnati, is that right? I think she lost to Halep in Cincinnati. I saw her there. I watched her one match.
CHRISSIE EVERT: You’re right.
JOHN McENROE: She looked like herself. She looked like she had some fire. She looked like she almost got herself back in that match where it looked to be very one sided. As Chrissie said, she’s certainly in that group of people that could do it.
Q. You talked about it being pretty open on the men’s side. John, I think that’s really interesting, because the talk had been about the women’s side; it’s up for grabs. Big picture, is this one of the more wide open U.S. Opens going into it that you’ve seen in a while?
JOHN McENROE: Well, I mean, it’s not open in the sense that you anticipate that Federer and Nadal are going to win it, and then you’re wondering, okay, if that doesn’t happen. Because we’re not sure about Murray. Murray would be the other guy; the guys that have been there, done that.
Cilic has not played since Wimbledon. He’s won the Open. So there’s like del Potro has won the Open, but he doesn’t look to be at that level that he won it.
So but if you know, it wouldn’t be shocking, considering Roger’s 36, and he’s had two majors already, that perhaps things didn’t go as smoothly as perhaps they did the other times. And maybe Nadal, say, wasn’t around and say Murray wasn’t healthy well, if that’s going to be, who is going to do it?
That’s where it really gets open and you have to wait and see what the draw looks like and how things transpire and who is really mentally and physically fit enough to do this for seven matches. That’s where it gets unpredictable. At the moment we are assuming that Roger is going to pull the rabbit out of the hat again.
Q. And if Roger does, is it his best season and does it cement him as best of all time in your opinion?
JOHN McENROE: If Roger wins this, this will be one of the great stories in the last 50 years or ever. It’s already, like Chrissie said, that he should be Sports Illustrated Athlete of the Year. I think he should be Sports Illustrated athlete of the year already, whether he wins this or not. But if he does win it, it will be like a shoe in.
So this is an amazing thing what he’s done at his age. He won three five setters in Australia. It’s not exactly cool down there, either. He played Wimbledon without losing a single set. I just saw him today because we were just doing a little press conference for the Laver Cup and I was just like, I’ve got to tell you, this is absolutely just hats off. I’ve watched tennis for 40, 50 years. I’ve never seen anything like this.
CHRISSIE EVERT: Yeah, he came back, it was ridiculous. He’s a different person. It’s like his clone has come back. He’s so light on his feet, the way he’s moving around the court, and hopefully after I was sitting on the court, actually, in Montreal when he tweaked his lower back, and it was really evident that something was wrong with him. You never know. He doesn’t say much about his injuries and he made no excuses after that match.
But hopefully that’s the other thing, is hopefully he’s healthy. I mean, that back has caused him problems in the past, and you get older and you don’t mend as quickly. So hopefully he’s 100 percent, because the hard court, as John was saying, the hard court is the worst thing in the world for your joints and your lower back. And playing five sets, that’s going to be tough.
Q. Does it worry you we see a kid come out, they do something special, and there’s so much emphasis and pressure, like Melanie (Oudin) when she had a big moment, and she just retired? I know she had a lot of injuries and last year, Taylor was going to set the world on fire and then that dissipated. Does it worry you that we put too much pressure on these kids once they show a glimmer of hope?
CHRISSIE EVERT: Yeah, shame on you. Shame on the press. (joking) You know what, I think that it’s more evident in the smaller countries I’m sorry, but in England, it’s atrocious how much pressure. I remember talking to Annabel cross and barker and all the younger players, when you’re in a smaller country and you’re on your own and you’re the only one but I think in America, the good thing is that there are quite a few players right now.
When I look at the women, you know, the top junior players, and Coco and Madison, and Sloane and I think it’s tough, the publicity. I think because it’s a lot more magnified now, and especially at a young age, you kind of start believing in the publicity a little bit. But I think if you have the game and you have the mentality to sort of play it out, I think that eventually you come around to how good you’re really supposed to be and everything kind of evens out. I think it’s starting to happen again with Madison, and Coco and playing more consistent now. Hopefully this will happen to Sloane Stephens.
But yeah, I think the press, they always sort of put a lot of pressure on players, and usually when the player is that young, it’s hard, because they are confused. They have never had they haven’t had the experience of dealing with anything like that before.
Q. Do you think USTA, those places, as well, and countries, also, they put pressure on besides the media.
JOHN McENROE: Worse than anyone would be the parents, normally. So there’s a whole host of things.
But ultimately, look at Zverev, a lot of people expected a lot of things from him, obviously. He seems like he’s handling it well. And sometimes Nick has had trouble it feels like, handling it, because of the overwhelming expectations. Yet some people learn, you hope. Taylor got married and had a kid, he was 18 or 19. That did throw a little complication into the old focusing on tennis.
CHRISSIE EVERT: You don’t know where the pressure is coming from. The pressure, it could come from the public. It could come from the press. It could come from the agents. It could come from the coach, the parents. They could even these kids could put pressure on themselves. You don’t really know where it’s coming from but that’s why it’s important to have a good, close team, they get excited about the big wins. You just have to temper it and not get all excited about it, because you know what, tomorrow is a new day. Next week is a new tournament. You know, you’ve got to have a short memory if you want to be a champion.
Q. Both of you played against siblings and both of you had to deal with longevity and burnout and motivation late in careers and that sort of thing. It may be something completely different from both those things but what is it that each of you find most remarkable about Venus?
JOHN McENROE: Well, as an older brother, the way that she’s handled a younger sister eclipsing her completely; that she still continued to support her in a way that I think the best thing that ever happened to Serena Williams was Venus Williams. But that is a remarkable quality. That’s very difficult to be able to handle that, and she’s done that remarkably well, and allowed Serena to do her thing and to become the best player that ever played and be in the back seat, as great a player as Venus was. That to me has been a quality that’s kept them close and allowed Serena to reach her potential. Again, Venus, gets the respect she deserves at a human being and as her sister.
CHRISSIE EVERT: I couldn’t agree I think Scott, you and I talked about this. I couldn’t agree more. Just the way she’s handled herself amidst Serena’s success, and she so many times was in the shadows and so many times Serena was in the limelight, and the way, not only the class and the grace she showed, but the support that she showed for Serena. The way she would sit in the box and watch her matches. She doesn’t have a big ego, and all great tennis players have a big ego. All great athletes have a big ego. I don’t care if anybody denies that; they are wrong. For her, that ego must have been bruised so many times but she just handled it with so much Grace. I admire her so much more for that than for all her accomplishments this tennis.
Q. She’s very proud and we know she has great pride, and yet you’re right, it’s different than ego. It’s not the same thing.
CHRISSIE EVERT: They are such a tight family. I think where they came from; the fact that they were always thrown curves were thrown at them; the way that they were under scrutiny, I think that just made them closer and closer, and love and family come before anything, and come from ego and come before their careers.
But on the other hand, I don’t know, Serena hasn’t been tested. I wonder what would have happened if the shoe was on the other foot. Serena, as the youngest one, meaning if Venus, the older sister, had beaten her in all those matches, I don’t know if Serena would have handled it the way Venus handled it. That’s what’s remarkable is just the way she’s handled it.
She (Venus) has not revealed one minute that she was threatened or jealous of her sister, Serena. I just think that’s awesome.