By Randy Walker
John McEnroe was not among the tennis fans watching the Australian Open live at 3:30 am on the east coast of the United States as Roger Federer defeated Andy Murray to advance into a semifinal match-up with rival Rafael Nadal.
“Getting up at seven and getting the kids up and ready for school – it’s been a little bit rough for me to pull that one off,” he said Wednesday in a media conference call, sounding more like an everyday working class Joe than the global tennis icon that he is.
However, McEnroe said, despite only watching “bits and pieces and highlights” of Federer’s 6-3, 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-3 win, he is impressed with his play with his new larger tennis racquet and his run to the semifinals.
“From what I‘ve seen, Roger is looking like he has gotten comfortable with this racquet and it seems like it has been doing some really good things for him,” McEnroe said in promoting his March 3 doubles match with brother Patrick against the Bryan Brothers at Madison Square Garden as part of World Tennis Day. “Obviously, this next match will be the ultimate test.”
“I can’t really comment on that match because I didn’t see the whole thing, but from what I did see, Roger looks great,” McEnroe continued. “Murray was coming off of a surgery so I wasn’t quite sure what we were going to get there. “
Last month, McEnroe made headlines when he said he didn’t think that Federer would win another major singles title in his career. Federer has now won five matches in Melbourne, losing only one set (the third set against Murray where he served for the match and held two match points at 6-4 in the tie-breaker), but McEnroe said Wednesday that the biggest test is right in front of him with Nadal, a player who despite their hyped rivalry has beaten the Swiss 22 times out of 32 matches.
“The tough part is trying to get all seven in,” McEnroe said. “Obviously, when the guy is that great, you anticipate that he is still going to make runs, but to go all the way, it is going to be difficult to beat this guy (Nadal).”
Starting February 5 in Kansas City, sandwiched around his March 3 appearance at Madison Square Garden, McEnroe will be competing in nine singles events on the PowerShares Series tennis circuit, www.PowerSharesSeries.com
When asked, in his 22nd year since he last played full-time on the ATP Tour, if while playing on the “champions” tour if he is still intense or if wants to have more fun, he immediately answered “Both. I think I will always be intense but I realize that I am pretty fortunate to be out there still try to hopefully show a sense of humor that I am a little bit better at showing on say commentary than I used to do when I played,” he said. “It’s not as life and death as it used to be for me.”
McEnroe will face off against old rival Ivan Lendl in the semifinals of PowerShares Series events in Kansas City (Feb. 5), Oklahoma City (Feb. 6) and Indianapolis (Feb. 14). He will face Jim Courier in the semifinals of the stop in Birmingham (Feb. 13) and Sacramento (Feb. 26) and Pete Sampras in the semifinals of Salt Lake City on Feb. 25. On Feb. 27, he will face Andre Agassi in the semifinals of Portland, Oregon. On March 13 in Nashville and March 14 in Charlotte, he will reprise his rivalry with Jimmy Connors in semifinal matches in the 30-year reenactment of the famous “Super Saturday” semifinal matches from the 1984 US Open, where Lendl beat Pat Cash in five sets and McEnroe beat Connors in five sets in what is regarded as the greatest single day in tennis history.
McEnroe and his brother Patrick’s match against the Bryan Brothers will be the undercard at Madison Square Garden to Murray playing Novak Djokovic.