On Being John McEnroe

By Tim Adams


The greatest sports stars characterise their times.

They also help to tell us who we are.John McEnroe, at his best and worst, told us the story of the 1980s. His improvised quest for tennis perfection, and his inability to find a way to grow up, dramatised the volatile self-absorption of a generation. His matches were open therapy sessions, and they allowed us all to be armchair shrinks.In this book, Tim Adams sets out to explore what it might have meant to be John McEnroe during the turbulent 1980s, and in his subsequent lives, and to define exactly what it is that we want from our sporting how we require them to play out our own dramas, and how the best of them provide an intensity by which we can measure our own lives.At the heart of this book are two fascinating characters—McEnroe and Bjorn Borg—and the extraordinary rivalry that defined them, a rivalry as compelling and dramatic as Ali and Foreman or Spassky and Fischer. Their great Wimbledon match of July 5, 1980—the central event in Adams’s narrative—was, as he writes, “a confrontation between two highly developed states of a struggle between extreme consciousness and an absolutely studied containment of consciousness.”It’s a book that’s “full of pleasures,” according to the London Sunday Times , and will appeal to any tennis fan or serious sports reader.

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