Up close and personal

By: | Published: September 24, 2017 4:08 AM

John McEnroe’s autobiography is full of compelling insights into the player’s mind

McEnroe dwells on his past behaviour and comments, especially those related to his family.

How long can a sportsperson be haunted by defeat? A week, a month, a year? For retired American tennis player John McEnroe, the defeat at the hands of Ivan Lendl at the 1984 French Open still rankles, waking him up in the middle of the night. But then, defeat makes a champion and McEnroe is no exception. McEnroe’s autobiography, But Seriously: An Autobiography, reveals to readers his inner demons and how labouring it was for him to make the transition from a champion to a father. Interestingly, this is not his first autobiography. The first one, Serious: The Autobiography, came out 15 years ago. It’s clear that the second one is pretty similar to the one before, but is still full of compelling insights into the player’s troubled mind.

McEnroe dwells on his past behaviour and comments, especially those related to his family. Across multiple chapters, he comes off as a self-deprecating husband and father. “If there’s one thing I’ve always done it’s speak my mind,” he writes. “It’s got me into trouble in the past, as everyone knows, but at least people know what I’m thinking.” This is something the world knows. In fact, we have lost count of the times he has stirred controversies while speaking his mind. The latest being his comments about Serena Williams. During a promotional tour of his new memoir, the 58-year-old tennis stalwart said 23-time Grand Slam champion Williams would be ranked “like 700 in the world” if she played on the men’s tour.

Towards the beginning of the book, McEnroe demarcates the importance of certain things in his life. First, how seriously he takes tennis, even his win-loss records in the senior circuit. Second, his family, in particular his second wife, musician Patty Smyth, and his six children who have been instrumental in softening his brash personality, he writes. “Thanks to my daughters in large part, I now realize how important it is for young girls to have the same opportunities as boys to take part in physical activity,” he writes. “I am proud to be a feminist.” A vulnerable side of McEnroe appears when he talks about his father. He also confronts his drug issues, especially after his son Kevin got arrested for alleged cocaine possession a few years ago (which eventually turned out to be baking soda). Anecdotes from his daughters Anna and Emily portray his willingness to right the wrongs he thinks he once committed. But Seriously is a compelling read in which McEnroe lets readers peek into his heart and mind.

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