What happens when John McEnroe, a 7-time tennis Grand Slam winner decides to play in a pickleball tournament for $1 million dollars? Well, he gets to promote the world’s biggest game by telling you how much he doesn’t like it. In the world of pickleball, this makes perfect sense.
He recently spoke with John McAfee about pickleball and a potential pickleball “apocalypse”. Feel Free to jump ahead on Mr. McEnroe’s take on pickleball.
McEnroe Believes “This Pickleball Thing Is Crazy”
John McEnroe signed on to play the $1 million Pickleball Slam. A pickleball tournament that gathered the giants of tennis. McEnroe and Michael Change would face off against Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick. It begs the question, has these tennis legends converted to pickleball? Is McEnroe the latest celebrity to fall in love with the game? Well, the answer is no.
“…I’m not a big pickleball guy, but this was sort of too good to pass up and be playing against my old buddies. I mean, this pickleball thing is crazy, I don’t get it. But in the meantime, you know, hopefully, it’ll be fun and hopefully, it’ll bring some interest to a sport that I do really care about, which is tennis.”
Is Pickleball Easy For John McEnroe?
If you ask can seniors play pickleball? Well, John McEnroe does and he’s 64. But he does say that Pickleball “beats my body up”. McEnroe works hard to get into great shape, especially with $1 million on the line. Pickleball is easy to pick up and play, but McEnroe admits it’s not as easy as it seems. It does require athletic ability.
“I’ll say that but you know, in pickleball, you’re not doing a whole lot of running obviously, because it’s a tiny court. But you do have to bend a little which isn’t good… Generally, I’ve always kept at it. So this hasn’t been that difficult.”
He also does like to joke about the athleticism required to play pickleball doubles. But he does admit, that small court does offer challenges for a man in his 60s who is not getting any younger.
“…The course is already a third the size or whatever it is of tennis down. Now they’re playing doubles? I mean, what is it so you can sit in a chair while you’re at it? I mean, come on!”
John McEnroe’s Pickleball Strategy to Beat Andre Agassi
McEnroe is over 10 years older than his all-star competitors, Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick. And his pickleball strategy is almost identical to his tennis strategy.
“Well, you know, I don’t know if you ever saw me play tennis but naturally I like to move forward which I think is advantageous in pickleball.”
McEnroe understands that anyone at any skill level can play pickleball. And the limitations of the game is the great equalizer when playing. And these limitations can be used to his advantage. Especially when playing against ex-tennis professionals.
“I don’t want to give Agassi any ideas because he likes to stay in the baseline. So just stay back there as long as you want Andre. And Roddick has one of the biggest Serves in the history of our sport. But you know, in pickleball you can’t serve overhand. So he lost that advantage also. So this gives us old farts me and Michael Chang a chance at this.”
Pickleball Cool VS Tennis Prestige
McEnroe has been frustrated with tennis for 45 years. It has always had “trouble” being considered cool or thought of in the same way as other bigger sports. McEnroe was famous for his on-court tantrums, but they were frowned upon.
It was an uphill battle for McEnroe, as tennis wanted to suppress his big personality. To tone down his behavior to align with the prestige of the game. Which also sucked the personality out of the game. As McEnroe elaborates…
“…They’ve tried to take the personality out of our sport and Lord knows that. Tennis is a one-on-one game. In my opinion, you need personality. And so they sort of stifled that so I think they figured out over the course of time that that was a bad idea.”
McEnroe knows that pickleball is popular and is considered cool. Although he doesn’t understand why. But McEnroe and his half-hearted opinions on pickleball are promoting the game. His bad-boy tennis prestige is cool, and his personality and play are exciting. It’s a natural fit for pickleball.
John McEnroe is the spokesperson for the new pickleball generation…
“Why they call it the kitchen or why it’s called pickleball… I have no idea. Doesn’t sound particularly cool to me.”
The State of Tennis and the Threat of Pickleball
John McEnroe looks at the state of tennis and believes it’s concerning. The three greatest players that ever lived could stop playing soon. Federer, Nadal, and Djokovic can’t play forever. And there are no obvious players to step up to fill their places.
Is this an opportunity for pickleball to overtake tennis? McEnroe isn’t so sure. As elite athletes will gravitate towards sports like tennis. While all the other players can play pickleball.
“I wonder if pickleball is helping or hurting tennis. I think that for the most part, to me, the best athletes are going to still go towards tennis. There’s no question about it. But I think it’s important for us to try to get the Michael Jordans. The great young athletes that grow up to play two or three sports. LeBron James played two or three sports, trying to get those kids interested in tennis.”
Pickleball Is All About the Ka-Ching
John McEnroe is a tennis player and he loves the sport more than anything. But he also recognizes that popularity generates dollars. He is playing in a $1 million dollar pickleball tournament after all. For him, pickleball is all about the Ka-Ching.
“Pickleball you can put two or three pickleball courts. Ka-Ching. That’s all it is. Ka-Ching. Okay, you got tennis up here, then you got racquetball. These other games, pickleball… where the hell did that come from? This has been around 60 years for God’s sake. Now all of a sudden they’re saying it’s bigger than tennis. I’m like, wow.”
And this leads to the pickleball apocalypse.
Tennis and the Pickleball Apocalypse
It’s suggested to John McEnroe, that pickleball is a great little cardio activity. It’s easy to do, so it shouldn’t be difficult for pickleball to catch up to tennis when it comes to prestige. And when it comes to sports. McEnroe’s response is classic McEnroe.
“When that happens then it’s an apocalypse. Okay. Just keep that in mind. Because if we even get close to that we got some serious problems. “
John McEnroe’s Top Pickleball Pointer
For any tennis players or aspiring pickleball players, John McEnroe has some advice. He keeps his pickleball pointers to win the game super simple.
“Move forward. Get to the net as much as possible.”
You Cannot be serious! I’m afraid he is.
The Aussie Pickleball Bros.