Davis Cup titles: 2 (1997, 1998)
Davis Cup titles: 1 (2007 as captain)
In the rich legacy of Swedish tennis, there were many credentialed countrymen to inspire a Stockholm-born teenager into this sport. But when Thomas Enqvist was asked in 2015 to name his childhood idol, there was one name that stood out.
“Bjorn Borg. (He’s) really my superhero,” Enqvist responded. “The reason why I wanted to play tennis. My whole life he’s been my biggest idol.”
The synergy could not be more pronounced as Enqvist works alongside his idol and countryman as Team Europe’s vice captain. With an impressive tennis record of his own, the younger Swede is both a keen and qualified deputy.
The middle child of engineer father Folke and economist mother Birgitta, Enqvist was the world’s No.1-ranked junior in 1991 after winning Grand Slam boys’ singles titles at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, and twice finishing runner-up in the junior event at Roland Garros.
A classic cool Swede who could disarm opponents with his smooth, powerful groundstrokes, Enqvist quickly made his mark as a professional player. Upsetting higher-ranked countryman Magnus Larsson on his Grand Slam debut at the 1992 Australian Open, Enqvist stepped into the spotlight as a 19-year-old at the 1993 US Open, where he stunned Andre Agassi in his Flushing Meadows debut and progressed to the final 16.
Within two years, the young Swede was a top-10 player, with titles in Auckland, Philadelphia, Stockholm, Pinehurst and Indianapolis, boosting his rise to the upper echelon. Starting the season at world No.60, Enqvist was voted by his peers as the ATP’s Most Improved Player for 1995.
Enqvist reached the fourth round or better at every major with the high point of his Grand Slam career occurring when he stunned Patrick Rafter and Mark Philippoussis to finish runner-up at the Australian Open in 1999.
It provided the impetus for Enqvist’s most successful season on tour, with titles in Adelaide, Stuttgart and Stockholm, ensuring his rise to a personal-best world No.4.
The No.1 Swede for much of his career, Enqvist was the winner of at least one title each year between 1995 and 2000. Winning 19 titles in total, he triumphed on every surface except grass. Most significantly, he won ATP Masters 1000 events in Paris, Stuttgart and Cincinnati.
He featured in Sweden’s 1997 and 1998 winning Davis Cup campaigns, and was also a member of the team that finished runner-up to France in 1996.
The number of top-10 wins Enqvist recorded in his stellar career. His first was against world No.2 Andre Agassi in 1995 and his 41st against Andy Roddick, who was also ranked No.2 at the time, in 2004.
“It was unbelievable working with my idol and now good friend Bjorn Borg for the first Laver Cup. Just to be part of that event for the first time and watch some of the best players who ever played this game, was a lot of fun and an unbelievable experience.”
“It might look easy but it is not easy. In a big international competition like the Laver Cup it is incredibly hard especially as the matches were short and the points changed each day, so things could change very quickly.”
“The Laver Cup is a celebration of the game itself and the past champions. To thank the players who played before us. Tennis is one of the most global and popular sports in the world, and it’s the players from the beginning who made this possible with the sacrifices they made. It’s important to remember this.”
Most famous players can name a predecessor who was influential in their career as a professional. Few, however, had such ready access to a role model as Patrick McEnroe.
Inspired by brother John, seven years older, the younger McEnroe picked up a racket aged three and played his first tournament at age six. Just like his big brother, Patrick honed his game at the Port Washington Tennis Academy in New York. When Patrick made his earliest steps towards a pro career, his first milestone came alongside John as a doubles champion at Richmond, Virginia, in 1984.
However, Patrick would forge his own path. An outstanding junior, winner of the French Open boys’ doubles title with countryman Luke Jensen in 1985, the younger McEnroe chose to commit to the college tennis route. A political science graduate at Stanford University, Patrick helped his college team capture the coveted NCAA title in 1986 by winning three of four singles matches and another two in doubles. Stanford retained the team title in his senior year of 1988.
The following year, Patrick became a Grand Slam champion, combining with Jim Grabb to win the doubles at Roland Garros.
In contrast to his brother, Patrick showed a calm on-court demeanor, noting: “I’ve had a lot of exposure to the spotlight since I was a kid … it’s more beneficial to me outside of tennis and inside of tennis to be composed. I don’t need extra attention. I’m calm most of the time.”
Still, there was no doubt that John had been an important influence.
“He supported me from when I first started and I was really struggling and wondering myself, ‘hey, can I make it in pro tennis?’ and he was always kind of my biggest support saying, ‘you can make it’,” Patrick said.
In 2000, Patrick took over from John as the US Davis Cup captain and his 10-year run in that position remains the longest in US team history.
The high point came in 2007, when the USA defeated Russia in the final to claim a 32nd Davis Cup title, and the first since 1995. McEnroe was hailed for this role as a leader, with his early focus on developing younger players including Andy Roddick – the winner of every rubber he contested that year – a key to the American victory.
Patrick, who led player development for the United States Tennis Association for several years, is now co-director of the John McEnroe Tennis Academy in New York and a commentator.
The number of times the McEnroe brothers faced-off in a tour-level singles final. John won the final title of his professional career with a 3-6 6-2 6-4 victory over Patrick in Chicago in 1991.
“The whole event (Laver Cup 2017) was one of the most memorable experiences of my tennis life. To see Borg and my brother out there, bringing what made them great as legends to the court. Borg very calm and stoic, John very fiery. Both with their different personalities. It was a perfect storm.”
“There’s some good young talent out there from all over the world. Europe is always going to be loaded, but… we’ve got a hell of a chance to pull it off.”
“I’m familiar with Chicago, it has a great sports tradition and amazing fans. There’s no doubt Chicago needs a tennis event and the Laver Cup is the perfect one for the city.”