Tennis legend John McEnroe is not short of opinions, to say the least.
And in the lead-up to the U.S. Open, ESPN (for whom McEnroe does television commentary) held a media conference call Wednesday.
McEnroe had to do double-duty; brother Patrick, head of high performance for the U.S. Tennis Association and a fellow ESPN commentator, was to have joined him on the call but was stuck on a delayed flight. So Johnny Mac ran it alone.
Among the many topics were the two top Canadians, Milos Raonic on the men's side and Genie Bouchard on the women's side.
McEnroe, not exactly known for his studying skills, was impressively up-to-date on both rising stars.
Here's what he had to say.
"If you look at Raonic, to me is obviously the guy, he and (Grigor) Dimitrov) are the two most obvious guys, that are ready to step in the void," McEnroe said of the opportunity created with the absence of defending champion Rafael Nadal. "The question with Dimitrov is somewhat physical. Is he ready to do it on a hard court as opposed to the grass court where his talent was able to shine through a little bit more easily?
"Raonic, he wants to prove he's not a one‑trick pony, that he just doesn't have this awesome serve and big hitting. So those are the guys where you're not sure. ... Again, this is a different animal, best‑of‑three best‑of‑five, so to sort of remains to be seen who's mentally and physically ready."
On Bouchard, McEnroe said he really thought she would win Wimbledon last month. "But (since then) she seems to be struggling. so it’s hard to say right now," he said.
On how Bouchard would of should react to the comprehensive loss to Petra Kvitova in the final," McEnroe said this:
"I mean, it's difficult to say. Some people it hits them hard and they don't react well to it. Some people get hungry and realize there is more to do. She seems like an intelligent young lady and would obviously take the positives out if it. She sort of set herself up – 'Look, I'm ready to win this' – and that was a humbling loss. Then again, she got to the finals, which is an awesome result."
"She should certainly take the positives from it, and the next time it happens – I mean, in a way there was not a whole lot she could do because Kvitova was on fire. It didn't seem like there was a whole lot she could do much no matter what that stage. Like she was overwhelmed, which she was, and that allowed Kvitova to relax."
"I think more than anything it would be something mental that she would try to do different as opposed to – or perhaps like the game plan she was committed to standing in close. She refused to go to a Plan B. I think maybe she'll learn that even when you get to the finals you got to be willing to shift gears if you have to."
On the rise of Canadian tennis, of the top North American male player being Canadian, not American – McEnroe said he didn't expect that to happen. "I guess I learned to expect the unexpected," he said, adding that it likely was more what the U.S. wasn't doing, as opposed to what Canada is doing.
"There is a lot of things going on. A lot of the things I've talked about just with my own tennis academy, how expensive it is and how unattainable and unaffordable it is. These are all factors too. If you do a better marketing job getting people into the sport and making them want to play the sport and making it more sexy and attractive to play," he said.
"I think we got complacent many, many years ago and we're scrambling to try catch up. ... But there has been a big event in Canada (Rogers Cup) ever since I was playing, so it's not the unexpected that someone would come along. Milos came from Montenegro, I believe, and moved (to Canada) when he was a young kid. There is a history of success in Yugoslavia, which is what it was called before it broke into different countries. Maybe the parents knew about it and sort of brought it over to Canada.
"It's more complicated than, say, growing up in Canada and instead of playing hockey he played tennis. Either way, there's got to be ways and we've got to be reaching out for a lot of different ways that we can figure out how to get more people into tennis, starting with making it more affordable."