In "Hardcourt Confidential," Patrick McEnroe tells what the world of tennis is like, on and off the court.
Read an excerpt of the book below, and then head to the "GMA" Library to find more good reads.
The Genius and the Plugger Dad had always pushed hard for John and me to play doubles together. Part of it was that family pride, but his hope was grounded in sound logic, too. I was a solid doubles guy, and it was Peter Fleming who had famously said, upon being asked to name the best doubles team he'd ever seen, "John McEnroe and anyone." So why not me, John's flesh and blood?
Well, there were a few good reasons for John and me to resist playing together, starting with the fact that in some places it was bound to be interpreted as a form of nepotism; some people inevitably would snicker and suggest that John was carrying me, as a blood favor. Neither John nor I needed that. And brothers, with a few exceptions, don't always make the best doubles partners because of the familiar sibling rivalry issues.
It was even more awkward in our case, because John and I were doing the same thing, careerwise, and at the same level if not with the same degree of success. We always had to navigate around that, and it did create problems between us from time to time, going all the way back. But there was pressure, and not just to play together. If Dad thought I wasn't representing the McEnroe name adequately, he'd remind me that other people are always watching extra hard. For my part, I learned to tell early on whether people judged or related to me as John McEnroe's brother rather than as an individual who happened to be a brother of tennis's most notorious hellion.
At times, though, the situation bordered on the absurd. Dad would say, "You've got to act like you're proud to be a McEnroe," and I would roll my eyes and think, Did you see what John just did at this or that tournament? That wasn't very cool. Is that what it means to be a...McEnroe? But on the whole, none of this was really a burden for me; it was more like an occasional irritant.
John also felt unwanted pressure thanks to Dad's lobbying. He bridled against the implication that he had to play with me, and he always did worry about overshadowing me. He almost went too far in the other direction, he was going to beat me as soundly as he could, just to prove that he was giving nothing away. No one was going to even suspect that there was nepotism or empathy in play.
But...overshadowing? I was used to it. What tennis player wouldn't be overshadowed by John? Undue credit? I knew in my heart that I'd earned every W on my record. In tennis, you always do. Nepotism? Any player in his right mind would give his eye teeth for a chance to call John his doubles partner. Winning is a powerful pleasure that makes it pretty easy not to sweat the details, or gossip.
Once in a while, just to keep Dad off our backs, we played as a team. It wasn't always pretty. We played the US Open in 1991 and got cold-cocked by the illustrious Swedish team of Ronnie Bathman and Rikard Bergh. Who was I going to blame, my useless partner, and hold a press conference to say Peter Fleming was full of it?