As the winner of seven Grand Slam titles and a long-time world No.1, John McEnroe is familiar with big tennis occasions. On his arrival in the Czech Republic today, the Team World captain noted how another such occasion is about to unfold at the inaugural Laver Cup.
“Obviously to have Rod Laver’s name associated with this and Bjorn Borg be the captain of Europe and these incredible players – I mean Rafa (Nadal) and Roger (Federer) are the two best players that ever played. So you’ve got a lot of great players here. It seems like it’s going to be a great event,” McEnroe said.
While acknowledging that, “obviously (Team) Europe is a big favorite”, McEnroe also relishes the opportunities in his team.
“As a captain you need to be more aware of matching up the right player against someone so that’s what I brought my brother for,” said McEnroe, who is accompanied by Patrick McEnroe as the vice captain of Team World.
“I’m sure I’ll be very well versed in the next day or two before we decide on the lineups and how best to take advantage of the players that I have.”
As a competitor the American was known for his passionate on-court antics, but McEnroe is preparing for a different approach in the team event.
“You have to sort of feel it out. If I start yelling and screaming, and that makes the player that’s playing play worse then that’s a bad idea,” he said.
“Obviously it’s mainly up to the player but hopefully as a coach (if I) can help maybe a little bit at the right moment then you feel like you did your job.”
Most intriguing to many is the revival of the rivalry between McEnroe and Borg, who were famously known as fire’ and ‘ice.
“Probably yeah,” McEnroe responded when asked if that description still rang true. “But I don’t think it’s that far apart, in truth, than it seems. I think we’re closer in personality than people realize.
“On the court, the way we played and the way we acted was very different. Off the court we’re more similar.”
As competitive as ever, McEnroe also notes the bigger honor at stake in the Laver Cup. “We’re great friends and we had some memorable matches,” he added of Borg. “Of course we both want to win but we’d love to see this event be successful and do something for Rod.”
*The Laver Cup starts on Friday. Player match-ups for the first day will be determined when McEnroe and Borg lay down their selections in an exchange of cards on Thursday.