John McEnroe opens up on his famous on-court temper and Roger Federer regret

John McEnroe walks in front of camera in hilarious BBC blunder

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John McEnroe has revealed it was his fear of failure which led him to many of the on-court meltdowns he infamously had during his playing days. The American opened up on his career and his biggest regret while working as a commentator and pundit at the US Open in New York.

McEnroe, 62, a winner of seven Grand Slam singles title and nine more in doubles events, enjoyed a stellar tennis career in the 1970s and ’80s.

His 155 titles across singles and doubles events remains a record for a male player in the Open Era to this day, while he also helped his country to five successes in the Davis Cup.

While he is rightly revered for his supreme talent on the tennis court, McEnroe is perhaps best known for his many controversial moments – including a number of run-ins with umpires.

The best example of this was at Wimbledon in 1981, when he was almost thrown out after his first round victory in which he swore are tournament referee Fred Hoyles and called umpire Ted James “the pits of the world”.

It was in this tournament that he coined the famous phrase: “You cannot be serious,” which he shouted at various umpires several times during the tournament after calls he felt should have gone his way.

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When asked about his outbursts in an interview with GQ, McEnroe said they came from the intensity he felt he had to approach big tournaments with “that would freak my opponents out”.

“Everyone has a fear of failure,” he said. How do you deal with that? It’s changing, and I think for the better, but guys, when I grew up, if you cried, that was a sign of weakness.

“If there were times when I felt like I was going to lose it, because things were going so badly, it was almost easier to hide behind getting angry.”

The American added: “That’s not the only reason. There were times when I was genuinely angry, and other times where I overdid it.

“People think I did it deliberately so I could throw off my opponent. I always thought, if I go up to an umpire and tell him he sucks, that umpire’s not going to give me any calls, so why would an opponent be upset about that?”

Despite his many outbursts and moments where he appeared to be on the cusp of losing complete control over his emotions, more often than not McEnroe was able to keep his razor-sharp focus on winning.

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“And that’s what pissed people off,” he continued. “I actually still played hard instead of going away.”

While his winning mentality yielded a vast amount of titles and trophies, in hindsight the 62-year-old wishes he was able to enjoy his time as a player more.

McEnroe said: “Do I wish I could have loved the game as much as Federer? Yeah, I don’t know how he does it. It’s amazing.

“I always looked at Jimmy Connors, and I look at Nadal now, and it’s like, I wish I could try harder. Because I thought I tried pretty hard, but compared to them, it didn’t seem like I was trying hard enough.

“There are always things you can do better. And I wish I’d done some things differently. Ultimately, I was out there to try to win a match. I didn’t want to lose that edge.

“At least as I’ve gotten older, I think I’ve gotten – hopefully – better as a person. And my perspective is better.”

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