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McEnroe: “Rafa Nadal always finds a way to come back well”

John McEnroe (Germany, 63 years old) continues to be one of the most authoritative voices when it comes to talking about tennis. The former player, champion of seven individual Grand Slams in the 1980s, starred in a meeting with various international media outlets, AS among them, organized by Eurosport to chat casually about the course of an Australian Open that is drawing to a close. . Djokovic, Nadal, Alcaraz… the American gets wet in every response. Eurosport exclusively broadcasts a new edition of the Australian Tennis Open with coverage of more than 250 hours of live content and a team of experts made up of big names such as John McEnroe himself, Àlex Corretja, Anabel Medina, Mats Wilander, Carla Suarez or Barbara Schett.

What has surprised you the most in this Australian Open?

Probably Nadal getting injured again. Whenever you see someone like Nadal fall like that, even though he has happened to him before, it surprises you. Also Ruud and the way he played, I didn’t understand and was very surprised. I hope we don’t have a situation where two tennis players are playing at 4 in the morning again. I know it’s not the tournament’s fault in a way, but it’s not healthy for players to be playing at those hours. I don’t know how to prevent that from happening, it’s hard to anticipate long matches. But they have to ensure that match starts are not delayed. We talk a lot about it, but we don’t do anything about it. A tennis player like Andy Murray, one of the best ever and who plays with a metal hip, cannot be competing at that time.

what do you think about the accusations towards Djokovic and his injury?

A couple of years ago, he had an injury and despite that he won. The other day he looked great against De Minaur. He has a great team around him that works 24 hours a day to get him ready. It’s hard to say if the injury is affecting you. It seems that in these games he has not affected him, but in the first ones it did. Hopefully he feels good and, if he is able to maintain the level, I think he will win the Australian Open. It’s good to see him compete after what happened last year.

He feels that he is not respected enough. Does it deserve more respect?

For me if. We are talking about one of the classiest players in history. Federer is the most beautiful tennis player I have ever seen play, and Nadal has an intensity that is very difficult to match. But Novak has done a hell of a job getting past them and even one day surpassing them. His style of play is very solid, sometimes not given enough importance. He has a toughness and strength of mind that makes people think he is younger than he really is. When he broke in, Roger and Rafa were already there, so it’s hard to feel that he respects you the same way. It happened to me when Connors and Borg were there and I was trying to catch up with them. It’s hard, but as the years go by I think he gets more respect.

Alcaraz does not allow being 19 years old. He is still the young man who can go the furthest.

John McEnroe

What do you expect from Rafa Nadal in the future?

I don’t know if it will be his last season. It is said that he can retire after Roland Garros or that he will play three more years. His body has been through a lot, and he also has a great team around him. He will be out for a few weeks, although he will be able to make it to the clay court season. I don’t know how serious his injury is, the hip area can affect entire careers. He hopefully is able to return to the highest level, although his body has suffered enough.

Do you think Rafa is close to reaching his limit?

That depends on each player. But Rafa comes from winning Australia and Roland last year, in which he was also named best player of the season. Yes, it is true that he had problems in the second half of the year with injuries. And he was also a father, I think that’s when his mind turned to that topic and his priorities changed. But that doesn’t mean he doesn’t want to play anymore. This has been happening for many years. I remember several times in which he has had to retire or has missed important tournaments due to physical problems. And he always finds a way to get back to the level where he can win Grand Slams. What he says is that he wants to keep playing, so God bless him. He is someone incredible for our sport and he should play as long as he wants to. But I don’t think he’s going to keep competing if he doesn’t believe he can win a major anymore. We will have to wait and see what happens.

Of all the young players, who has the greatest potential?

I don’t know if Carlos Alcaraz is included there, who is the one who would tell you. He is only 19 years old and I think he is the furthest he can go. Rune is also another obvious choice. Those are the two I would pick, they have tremendous potential. And Sinner I would put right after them.

Is this the big opportunity for Tsitsipas?

Perhaps he received a wake-up call when Alcaraz won the US Open and was ranked number one when he was younger than him. Rune is also starting to do great things. There were several young players from whom we expected great things, such as Medvedev, Zverev, Thiem, Tsitsipas… They all have had moments when, later on, it was thought that perhaps they were not going to be so top. Stefanos deserves a lot of credit, although he hasn’t particularly shone at the Grand Slams. Now I don’t see anything different in his game, but he seems to transmit a different energy. He seems to be very dangerous at the moment and he seems to be ready to reach another final.

An American will win a Grand Slam in the next year and a half.

John McEnroe

The Americans are standing out in this tournament. Who do you think has the best chance of winning?

I do not know the answer. All these tennis players have been pushing each other, and that’s a very good thing. They have spent a lot of time together since the junior category, some like Tiafoe, Fritz, Paul… And I think they have become better players for it. I think Korda is the one who can go further in his career. I haven’t seen Ben Shelton much, but he has a very good game and he is a breath of fresh air. Tommy Paul came along quietly, and maybe he didn’t have what it takes to make it to the top. But now he has a great physique and mental strength that allows you to see how good he is. A year and a half ago, he would have bet on Brooksby as the one with the best chance of going far, but he needs to improve his serve a lot. Taylor Fritz is the best in the ranking, he hits the ball very well although he has had bad results in the last Grand Slams. But he’s a player who can be in the top-10 consistently. There is also Tiafoe, who is a great athlete and is getting stronger with his head. There is a hole in tennis that is being created with the retirement of Roger, the age of Rafa and Novak, they are trying to see where they belong. I think in the next year, or year and a half, we will see an American win a Grand Slam. It’s the first time in a long time that I really think about it.

Does any player from this Australian Open remind you of you?

I used to think that Shapovalov would have a similar style to the one I played. We have a very similar height, although the game has changed a lot and he is left-handed. Kyrgios is another tennis player who is compared to me, especially because of his actions on the court. He has much talent. The sport has changed so much that it is very difficult to compare, it seems like a totally different game from my time. I would continue to be an aggressive tennis player, going up to the net a lot. Although nowadays it seems more difficult, it is played much faster. But those are the two names that come to mind.

In the case of Andy Murray, where do you think he finds his motivation?

It’s been hard on Andy in recent years. He belonged to the ‘Big Four’ and now he is no longer part of that equation. The success that the other three have had is so insane that it’s very hard to keep up with that level. People forget that he has three Grand Slams and that he is one of the best to have played. It’s not easy for his playstyle to compete with a metal hip. I’m glad he can play without pain. And, in this tournament, he had bad luck with the schedules. No one could expect him to perform well against Bautista after finishing his last game at 4 in the morning. It’s obvious that he loves to compete, so I hope he can keep going until he doesn’t feel like it anymore. I don’t know how long he will last playing without getting something big. Which, by the way, is possible. He has already seen each other more times and this happens in tennis.

It surprises them Swiatek removal?

Yes that surprised me. I suppose that the pressure and the expectation to be number one will have had an influence. I thought I could win the tournament, of course. But Rybakina is a very dangerous player, and therefore she is not so surprising. She already demonstrated it at Wimbledon. I think what is happening to Swiatek is something more mental or emotional than tennis, but I’m not sure because I’m not next to her. It just seems that she is not as focused as before and somewhat more insecure. Whenever you win a Grand Slam or become number one unexpectedly because another player retires, like she did, it’s a big change. You become the center of attention, so it is not surprising that it is difficult to handle. It happened to me. I won two majors and the following year I didn’t lift any. He needs to catch his breath, appreciate what he has achieved and compete again.

There are four Russians and Belarusians in the quarterfinals. Should Wimbledon allow them to play?

The situation we are experiencing with the war is terrifying. Last year I already disagreed when they weren’t allowed to play, and this year I would disagree again if they can’t either. I also did not agree with not giving points. I do not know what will happen. The rest of the tournaments allow them to participate, so hopefully things will change and they can be. There are very good tennis players from those countries and they should not be punished for something they have nothing to do with.

Swiatek seems not to be as focused as before and somewhat more insecure.

John McEnroe

What do you think of the ‘Break Point’ series?

I’ve only seen one episode, but so far I recommend it. Before it was more complicated for the cameras to have access to these things. If the players are willing to do it, I think it’s very good for the fans. Kyrgios, for example, has benefited. A lot of people have asked me about it, so it’s a good sign for our sport.

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