HEARD the one about the tennis player who went off the rails in retirement because they couldn’t match the buzz of regular competition?
Probably not, because such cases are mercifully rare compared to, say, football or boxing. Golf is similarly free of fallen idols. It may be coincidence, but both have thriving senior tours which keep their competitive edge sharp, their bodies limber and, in the case of tennis and John McEnroe, allow them to lighten up.
“People used to go crazy at me when I got mad. Now they go crazy if I don’t get mad,” says the fiery American, 54, who still trains every day at his own academy in New York.
“There’s nothing like competition, being a professional athlete. There’s an adrenaline, a buzz that’s so hard to walk away from. You sort of accept that it’s gone when your career is done but then with the Champions Tour you have this second chance.”
McEnroe, former British No1s Tim Henman and Greg Rusedski and two-time grand slam winner Pat Rafter are among the names doing battle at the Royal Albert Hall from today in the Statoil Masters. Now part of the Legends Tour, he faces South Africa’s Wayne Ferreira tomorrow and Spaniard Sergi Bruguera on Friday, while Henman and Rusedski could reignite their rivalry in the Champions Tour event final, having been placed in separate groups.
McEnroe adds: “We are the icing on the cake of the regular tour. It’s nice to see the body can still hold up for the most part. I still don’t like to lose – winning feels a lot nicer. We have a laugh and a joke now, we can show our personalities in a way that we couldn’t before, but I’m coming to win.”
RETURN OF THE MAC
And other stars’ new lives
■ John McEnroe: Now runs own academy, also commentates
■ Tim Henman: BBC commentator and keen golfer with zero handicap
■ Pat Rafter: Captain of his native Australia’s Davis Cup team
■ Mats Wilander: Runs own mobile tennis clinic Wilander On Wheels