John McEnroe Answers Tennis Questions From Twitter

Tennis great John McEnroe uses the power of Twitter to answer common questions about the sport of tennis. Why are tennis players always getting so dang upset? Whose the hardest opponent McEnroe ever faced? Why has serve and volley become extinct in tennis? Why do doubles players congratulate each other even when losing? John answers all these questions and much, much more.

Video Transcript

- Hello everyone, I'm John McEnroe.

Today I'll be answering your questions from Twitter.

This is Tennis Support.

[upbeat music] First up, Tam.

WTF, why do tennis players have such an explosive temper?

Always hear or see them having a meltdown on the court.

You must be watching different tournament than me 'cuase I don't see many players having meltdowns at all.

And I know something about meltdowns, my past experience, and I've seen a couple players, obviously Nick Kyrgios comes to mind having meltdowns on a pretty regular basis, but for the most part, tennis players are incredibly well behaved, maybe too well behaved in my book.

I'd like to see a little bit more explosive temper see the emotions, wear it on their sleeve, there's a handful of people you see that, but I just saw someone win Wimbledon on the girl's side who didn't show any emotion, so I don't know if any of us wanna see that.

So perhaps there's a happy medium.

Jimmy asked me, "Can someone explain to me what a bagel is in tennis?"

Well bagels in New York tastes great, love bagels.

Our version of a bagel would be not allowing the opponent to win a single game in a set.

Skash1027, I think I got that right.

Why did tennis players get three tennis balls before every serve?

Look at them for a few seconds and then toss 'em back?

Aren't they all identical?

Weird stuff, as he said.

They're probably pretty similar, and it probably is sort of overrated.

Balls pick up and some felt and they pick up clay, if they're on clay courts, and they get beat up on a cement court, as you can imagine.

And even on grass these players, men and women, are hitting it so hard now, it's different than when you pull it out of a can.

And so you play seven, nine games, the ball's gonna be a little heavier, a little bit deader.

So that's why players are always looking to get the freshest ball possible, so that when they're serving, that's the people that are looking at it, they want to get the two freshest balls so they can hit it a little bit harder.

To me, what I try to do, try to get a fresh ball and sort of be able to use that to my advantage.

Of course, if the returner hits it well then that could probably negate the advantage.

I think at the end of the day, you see certain players now, I see Djokovic for example, he doesn't care what ball he has and he seems to be doing pretty well.

And here we got Michael, who is your toughest opponent you faced in your tennis career?

I had the opportunity fortunately to play a lot of great players, won and lost, did my share of losing against a lot of them.

Hopefully winning some.

Bjrn Borg obviously was my greatest rival.

Jimmy Connors was an incredible competitor along the likes of Rafael Nadal, that effort he gave was very intimidating.

Ivan Lendl was a bigger, stronger guy, when he was on it was extremely difficult, but I think we brought out mostly the best in each other.

My toughest opponent I ever played though at the end of my career, unfortunately, and the beginning of his, his name was Pete Sampras.

And it felt like I just had the racket take taken outta my hands, it didn't matter what I did almost, he served so big and was hitting the ball so hard that I wasn't able to do my thing, he took me outta my game, and I wasn't moving as well as I was earlier in my career, so that made it a lot worse.

Laura Hockridge, why has serve and volley become virtually extinct in tennis?

It has historically been one of the most effective and entertaining styles of play.


As a matter of fact, that was my game serve and volley.

The courts used to be in poorer condition when I played way back when.

And three of the four majors were played on grass, lot of bad bounces, soft bounces.

So therefore it was encouraged when I grew up, and the other players in the sixties, seventies, into the eighties, grew up, serve and volley 'cause you take the ball in the air so you didn't have to worry about a bad bounce.

20 years ago they made a decision to change the grass or they changed it to some type of rye grass, I don't know why that's thicker, I don't know why the bounce is truer.

I sort of wish I had it when I played, so you didn't have to worry about it.

But what it's done is completely altered the style because people can bank on a truer bounce, and therefore not have to change their game as much and play more from the baseline.

So that's why you're seeing baseline players succeeding at Wimbledon, whereas before that almost never happened.

So it's definitely been a huge change.

I think in a way it's for the better 'cause you just don't wanna serve, and thank you very much, which you were seeing more and more with the likes of Pete Sampras and Goran Ivanievi, now you're seeing this great all court play, and these legendary champions, doing diverse things on the court, which is amazing.

Ian asked me, "Why do you have to break your tennis racket?

If you don't like it anymore, give it to a fan in the stands.

How about we compromise?

We break a tennis racket, and then you give it to a fan in the stands, a broken racket, it's a win, win.

Is a person in the stands gonna use it?

I would hope that if you got a racket from Nick Kyrgios in a moment of his frustration that you'd maybe hang it up, put it up somewhere, frame it, not use it.

I doubt you'd be using, "Oh, I'm hitting with Novak Djokovic's racket, which he broke in a fit of anger."

No, I think you'd have it like a piece of art or something.

Be happy that maybe you have a racket at all, so we can both be winners.

Get out the frustration, and you get the racket.

Karen D, why do doubles players congratulate each other even if they lose the point?

I couldn't agree with you more, okay.

It is total BS, total BS.

When they lose the point, "Hey, great work."

I think it should be a rule that you're not allowed to high five an opponent, unless you win the point.

So I'm totally with you there.

I hated doing it when I played.

I see it happen all the time, it's keep their spirits up, keep positive, but it's gotten totally outta control.

It's like, "You just hit the ball in the bottom of the net, we don't need to high five each other."

Mommygirl, a CPA.

How do I pick a tennis racket out?

I'm having a mental breakdown in Dick's Sporting Goods.

I haven't been there recently, I don't know the prices of rackets.

I've been fortunate enough to be able to get free rackets for a long time.

Do they let you test rackets out, would be my question.

Are you allowed to go in and grab one and say "I'll be back in a couple days, let me feel it out."

But they all work, just go out there and have some fun.

Apparently it's Not me.

Who invented tennis, it's so weird.

Who invented tennis?

My first question would be, why do you think it's so weird?

It's a pretty great game actually.

But I heard it was some king or queen or something, maybe going out on the grass court, put a net over it and hit a ball, I don't know.

I think it's a pretty awesome game, all in all.

It's a tough game.

But when you do it right it feels pretty damn good.

How many rackets do tennis players take on court?

I used to take six, when I thought I was a hot shot.

I think guys take a six to eight rackets now, even the girls and sometimes they get 'em re-strung during the match, so there's a lot of stuff going on.

Two hand or one hand backhand.

It's a good question.

I would go two hand now if I was a kid, you're little, you're not strong enough.

I'm a one hander, I loved it, but that shot up high is tough.

Balls are coming up higher and higher, players are taller, so I would go with that one.

But I'd work on the volley too, and being able to hit a one hander.

@doublefaultking, someone's making this up right?

Anyone knows how to improve mental strength during the tennis match?

During the tennis match, wow.

It's difficult to answer that one.

So I would suggest the best way to have mental strength during a tennis match is to sort of understand your opponent, and what he's good at it, or he or she is good at, and not good at.

And you could take it from there.

Sort of be aware of what you do well, and what the other person maybe doesn't do well.

I always tell my kids at my tennis academy to try to make things as easy for yourself and as difficult as possible for your opponent.

Jake has asked me what's my favorite shot in tennis.

I would say the return to serve, 'cuase these guys serve so big.

I love to see what a guy Djokovic can do how difficult it is, so that would be my call there.

The USTA in Georgia?

Many coaches teach in many different ways, true.

What has been the best advice you have received for tennis?

Best advice, that'd be tough to come up with the one thing.

You have a mantra at my tennis academy, don't beat yourself, I think that's a hell of a start.

This one's a little harsher, it doesn't matter whether you win or lose, until you lose.

Maybe that would give some people impetus to try a little harder.

You want the joy of winning to be something that you really experience and like, not like it's a relief, I won and don't have to feel so bad that I lost.

There's an old saying from an ex American present, and this from like a hundred years ago.

It's something that I try to go by as well.

It's better to try and fail than not try at all.

We all have this fear of failure, and so it's how do we deal with it?

How do you vent that, how do you handle it?

How do you use it to your advantage?

How do you not let it overwhelm you?

So those are the questions from Tennis Support.

Hope you enjoyed it, I'm John McEnroe, hope to see you again in the future.