By David Law
John McEnroe has now spent a year as a 50-year-old, but he is as committed to the sport of tennis as ever.
The seven-time Grand Slam Champion, who turned 51 yesterday, has been playing on the ATP Champions Tour since its inception, and he shows no sign of quitting. Despite the constant influx of younger players to the Tour, McEnroe remains as competitive as ever. He puts his ability to take on and beat men 15 years his junior down to a strict training regimen.
The American is currently preparing for his first event of the year in Delray Beach, Florida, which begins on Saturday (February 20th). He will then travel to Swizerland for the BNP Paribas Zurich Open (March 9-13).
“I try to go to the gym three days a week and then spend another three days per week on the court, with one day of rest,” said McEnroe. “A big part for me is recovery, particularly if I’ve got to play three or four days in a row. I’ve been able to maintain a consistent workout programme for the last ten years so hopefully I’m not that far off where I was back then.”
McEnroe has also become aware of how much training methods have changed since he was at his peak nearly three decades ago.
“When I played my best tennis I was on the court more, I wasn’t doing any gym work,” he said. “People know more about off-court training now and people travel with you to keep your body in tip-top shape. I enjoy it more in a way now with the stuff I’m doing off the court because it makes me feel better on the court and also makes me feel better as a person.”
The Delray Beach event will see him go up against fellow Grand Slam tournament champions Pat Rafter, Pat Cash and Mats Wilander, while Zurich features a unique format that will bring the likes of McEnroe, Stefan Edberg and Goran Ivanisevic together with eight of the world’s best junior players in an unprecedented celebration of tennis’ past and future champions. The Zurich format is one that McEnroe is particularly excited about.
“I just played an exhibition alongside some juniors in Australia and I think it’s a great format,” he said. “The crowd likes it and I also think it inspires us a little bit because the juniors are the players of tomorrow. I think we can all feed off each other. The juniors can learn from us and we can feed off their energy because seeing these young guys running around and wanting it so much pumps you up a bit.”
While the ATP Champions Tour is more light-hearted than the ATP World Tour, it is still competitive, and McEnroe admits that he still occasionally gets mad.
“People expect to see me get angry,” he said. “People come to see a spectacle, see good tennis and be entertained and with me I guess that’s part of the entertainment. But at the same time we don’t have the luxury at a lot of our tournaments of the replay system (HawkEye) so you do get some dicey calls and that does get to me still.”
McEnroe will begin his 2010 ATP Champions Tour campaign against Mats Wilander at the new Delray Beach tournament on Saturday February 20. Pat Rafter and Pat Cash will also do battle on day one.
McEnroe and Wilander have been drawn into a round-robin group with former French Open champion Andres Gomez and Johan Kriek, while Rafter and Cash will also face Ronald Agenor and Aaron Krickstein.
For tickets to see McEnroe play in Delray Beach, Florida or Zurich, Switzerland, click here: http://www.atpchampionstour.com/tickets.html
To see a video of McEnroe in action on the ATP Champions Tour against his old rival Bjorn Borg, click here: http://www.youtube.com/user/ChampionsTennis#p/u/6/pUa2ltLC0hw
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