Patrick McEnroe is a former star on the ATP Tour, having been ranked as high as No. 28 in the world, and tennis is still very much a part of his life as the U.S. Davis Cup captain, general manager of USTA Player Development and a TV commentator. McEnroe, with co-author Peter Bodo, has given fans a window into the world of professional tennis from all the many angles he has experienced through the years with his new book Hardcourt Confidential: Tales from Twenty Years in the Pro Tennis Trenches. From winning the French Open doubles title in 1989 to reaching the Australian Open semifinals in 1991 to reaching the quarterfinals of the US Open in 1995 and winning the 2007 Davis Cup title, McEnroe has many stories to share. This is McEnroe’s second tennis book, also having worked with Bodo on Tennis for Dummies in 1998. A New York native, he is married to actress/singer Melissa Errico, and the couple has three daughters: Victoria Penny, Juliette and Diana.
McEnroe recently took some time to discuss Hardcourt Confidential with USTA.com.
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You say in the introduction that you didn’t feel like you needed or wanted to write a book until someone pointed it out to you. Was there a particular motivating factor or inspiration 12 years after Tennis for Dummies
? Patrick McEnroe:
A few years ago, I had some discussions with some publishers and book agents. I was toying with the idea of doing a book. They were a little more interested in a book that was more about Patrick McEnroe, my family and my brother, John, and I was not really too interested in that. Long story short, less than a year ago, it was right after the US Open last year, Peter Bodo, who is my co-author, said to me, ‘There is a book agent that really thinks that there is a great book just about the state of tennis.’ I said, ‘I would love to do a book like that. Do you think that is really a book they would be interested in?' He said, ‘I think you should go talk to them and hear what they have to say.’ I did that, and I just kind of talked about my experiences and tennis on a lot of different levels – as a player, a commentator, Davis Cup captain, a brother and as an administrator.
They really thought a book on the state of tennis was interesting from my perspective because I have seen it from so many different angles. I said that is an easy book to write because I have tons of stories. That was really the genesis of how it started. Peter and I have a long relationship, going back to Tennis for Dummies
. We have a good working relationship, so we just went to work on it right away, getting together at lunch, after work, at different times, just shooting the breeze at a coffee shop, recording stuff and putting it down on paper. That is really how it came to be. Peter helped me organize it in a way based on the Grand Slam season, to kind of look at each major and talk about what is unique about each tournament and intersperse my own experiences throughout the book. It was never meant to be an autobiography. It was meant to be my take on the state of pro tennis as I have seen it, from the boardroom and the locker room. I thought writing this kind of book was pretty easy. I was never interested in doing a tell-all kind of book. USTA.com:
Why was this the right time to write this book? Had you thought about doing it before? Patrick McEnroe:
Back when I was playing, I used to keep a journal a lot of the time. Even during Davis Cup, being the captain 10 years and taking up this new role at the USTA – more of an administrative role the last two years – I thought now is a great time because I have had significant experience in all of these different areas. It has been over 10 years now for me in TV, covering tennis from that side and seeing it from a different perspective instead of just as a player. I thought I am still, knock on wood, relatively young, so this would be a good time to take a shot at this right now. USTA.com:
I’m sure you have many more stories you could tell. How did you decide which ones to put in the book? Was it difficult to choose which ones to put in? Patrick McEnroe:
It was not that difficult to choose stories. It is finding that right balance. I have experienced this in my TV work in the last decade. I am privy to a lot of things that have gone on with a lot of the players, through Davis Cup especially, and I think there are certain things that stay in the locker room, and I think there are certain things you bring out there that show a different side to the player that are useful to fans watching.
I was never one that would put things out there that don’t belong, and there are things I would never put out there as Davis Cup captain that I have experienced or as a player. There are things that stay in the locker room. There is a trust in that with your fellow players. I have always had to try and find that right balance of taking away the curtain to some extent for the casual fan and for the tennis junkie about things that happen, while at the same time not taking advantage of my position too much. It was not something that I set out to do – a tell-all book of every detail of everything I have ever seen – but I can certainly give a window into the world of tennis that a lot of people have not been able to see from all the different places I have been. It was not that hard because I have been doing it for the last 10-15 years, anyway, as far as finding that balance in terms of what is appropriate and what stays in the locker room. USTA.com:
Is there a particular story or part of the book that is your favorite memory or was your favorite part to write? Patrick McEnroe:
I think winning the Davis Cup and that experience of the culmination of the journey for me and the guys on the team is my favorite. It was not just winning that made it so special, but it was all the years that we had been together and gone to Slovakia, France, Czech Republic, Spain – playing in the bull ring there – all the experiences we had over the years and to finally be able to win at home and to have Andy and James both win their matches and have the Bryan brothers clinch, it seemed fitting.
From a personal standpoint, my first daughter, Victoria Penny, was just a year-and-a-half old, and to have her be there, have my wife bring her when we clinched the doubles, was a great moment. It is one of the pictures in the book – me, my wife and the baby – after we won. It kind of all came to fruition with that for me professionally and personally, having my first baby there, and my wife has supported me so much and given me so much in this whole journey. But to experience it with the guys and to fulfill a goal of ours and the fact that took a lot of toil, a lot of years, tears and tough defeats to finally do it, I think looking back on that and the whole process is the most special. But just being able to look back at all my days playing and growing up in tennis and have it still be such a huge part of my life, I just feel lucky that I have been able to get so much out of the game that has given me so much.USTA.com:
What is your favorite part about your own playing career? Patrick McEnroe:
I’d probably have to say doing well at the US Open in 1995, even though I did better at the Australian Open – I got to the semis and had a great tournament there. The US Open is the closest to home. It is the one where all my friends and family would come see me play, and they did not really get the opportunity to do that when I was in Australia or all over the world. The Open to me was always one tournament I should have done better in than I did. The surface was quite good for me and my style of play. I never really did that well there until that year. I made the third round a couple of times, but to make it to the second week, even losing was a great match for me against Boris Becker, playing as well as I could, even though I still lost. That probably was the most satisfying because it came later in my career. The Australian Open, when I made the semis, it happened pretty quickly, kind of out of nowhere. The Open was the culmination of a lot of work that I had done to get better and to reach my potential, whatever that was as a singles player. The doubles had always been there. Winning the French Open was great, but I really put a lot more blood, sweat and tears into trying to be a top-level singles player. When I was finally able to do that in New York at the US Open was the most satisfying. USTA.com:
Was there one story that came to your mind right away that had to be in it? Patrick McEnroe:
The way I looked at the book was chronologically, so going back to the Australian Open when I made the semis and what happened the year before, with the plane crashing close to our house on Long Island and my brother being defaulted. That is the first major story I tell, and there is a lot of personal stuff connected to that. That was right up there. It was a no brainer for me that Davis Cup would be a huge part of the book, and that is why I finish with it. When I made the semifinals, it was the first time I had been to Australia, so that whole experience and after coming back after what had happened to my brother the previous year was certainly one memory that was foremost in my mind.USTA.com:
What do you hope people reading this book will get from it? Do you hope people have ‘Wow, I didn’t know that’ moments when reading it?Patrick McEnroe:
I hope to have a lot of those. It was really my goal to do a book that was entertaining, a fun read, not too serious and that was kind of my personality, which is to look at things in a positive way, to enjoy what tennis has given me and to be a good story. That is what I really wanted it to be – a book you pick up on the plane and two hours later put it down and you say, ‘Wow I just finished that book. It was like having a chat with a friend of mine.’ That is kind of the way I did it. It is a little like how I tried to do my TV career over the years, which is making like you are sitting down talking to a buddy about tennis. That was really the way I approached the book. USTA.com:
Do you think most tennis fans will be surprised by some stories you tell about their favorite players? Patrick McEnroe:
I hope so. I am a pretty positive person, in general. It was not my intention to write dirt on people. It was my intention to talk about tennis and what a great game it is. I am very lucky to have met a lot of amazing people and travel all over the world for many years. I have been pretty lucky for all that to happen, so I hope people can see – I like to call it the traveling circus of the tennis tour – there are a lot of great people and a lot of genuine people who care about who they are and what they are doing. I have always found it really cool when you walk into a player lounge or the restaurant or nowadays in the TV compound when you go to the Grand Slams, you see so many people from all over the world. You see the same people, and there is a certain pleasure in that you have friends from Argentina, Spain, etc., and as a player you have that, and on the TV side of that, you see those same people. I think it is kind of cool and kind of lucky in a lot of ways. I really wanted to try to express that international slate of tennis. USTA.com:
What do you hope most fans take away from the book – that they know more about life inside pro tennis and how many things go on in the life of a tennis player?Patrick McEnroe:
I do hope they realize that to make it in tennis, to be No. 28 in the world, which was my highest ranking, is pretty darn tough. It is why the respect I have for the Agassis, Samprases and the Williams sisters and how great they are is there, but at the same time, they are human. It does not mean because you are a great tennis player that you are a perfect person. I hope people will get a little window into the different aspects of the game and come away saying, ‘Wow, I never knew that,’ or the next time they watch tennis on TV, they realize there is a lot more that goes into it than what they see when they sit down in front of their TV set and watch a big match.