You Cannot Be Serious
In his new role as TV commentator (and in his short-lived run as Davis Cup captain) McEnroe has tried to make the unlikely switch from tennis enfant terrible to tennis elder statesman. Judging by the welcome he has received from both the cognoscenti and the American public, it has been a largely successful transition. This memoir of growing up (or not growing up) on the men's tour tracks the same course. Unfortunately, when shifted to the page, the reinvention produces a much more muddled result. All of the career highlights and lowlights are here his idolization of Borg, his seminal matches with Connors and at Davis Cup, his clashes with the British press at Wimbledon, his romantic perambulations. But while appealingly self-aware ("For me, the relief of not losing has always been just as strong as, if not stronger than, the joy of winning") and consistently honorable, the effort feels a little dull. McEnroe's sincere pronouncements lack the cojones that might have made the book entertaining, and yet for all his openness, he engages in too much self-justification to seem truly vulnerable or poignant. The book grew out of a profile Kaplan wrote for the New Yorker two summers ago. That piece managed to present McEnroe as affable without diluting what is essentially brash and true about the star, and one wishes a little more of that boldness would have crept in here. For McEnroe, the persona hinted at in public remains more interesting and complicated than the person he gives us in this book. While the champion would no doubt argue, it appears that he has hit this one a little wide.Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. McEnroe, the feisty New Yorker whose brilliant serve-and-volley style of play was at times overshadowed by his on-court antics, captured 17 Grand Slam championships during a 15-year "wild ride" on the professional tennis tour. Now, he and journalist Kaplan take a candid look back at this colorful career. Smashing racquets and screaming tirades against linesmen and umpires only cemented McEnroe's role as the explosive bad boy of tennis. Yet the Hall of Famer shows surprising insight here. He explores why matches were constant battles against "the other guy and myself," admitting that the relief of not failing was at least as strong as the joy of winning. McEnroe fully details his most significant triumphs and losses (e.g., the 1984 French Open final, in which he held a two-sets-to-one lead over nemesis Ivan Lendl, and the classic Wimbledon five-set defeat by Bjorn Borg). His three Wimbledon and four U.S. Open singles titles were special, but perhaps his proudest achievement was the five Davis Cups he helped to secure at a time when other top players were more interested in the money to be made in tournaments and exhibitions. McEnroe also writes openly about his turbulent former marriage to actress Tatum O'Neal, and current status as father to six and husband to pop star Patty Smyth. Readers will be happy to learn that his anger-management counseling seems to help him defuse "certain situations" effectively. Recommended for sports and general collections.- Howard Katz, New York Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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