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He’s in his 50s now, but he can still take down younger players, as he proved recently against Pete Sampras in Chicago. John McEnroe is bringing his big serve and "colorful" on-court antics to Las Vegas for the PowerShares series. We talked with McEnroe about what’s at stake for the PowerShares pros and what he thinks today’s tennis players lack. We also got the back story on some of his most heated rivalries.
McEnroe on whether the seniors' tourney PowerShares is an exhibition or a competition:
"Clearly at this stage we’re not going out there with the mentality of a Wimbledon final. We want to put on a good show; we’d like people to feel they got their money’s worth. At the same time, because of the competitive nature of the players that I’m playing against and the history - that’s part of why we were able to succeed is that we wanted it more than other people. Once you get out there, you’re going to start realizing pretty quickly – all these guys do, including myself – it’s a hell of a lot better to win than lose."
On local favorite Andre Agassi:
“He’s always been a unique guy, an extremely smart guy. He’s an example of someone who didn’t need to go to a lot of school. And yet the moment you spoke to him, you knew there was something there.”
“We didn’t play that often, because it was towards the end of my career and the beginning of his. To me, he was the best return of server I ever played against. We certainly were closer friends than most of the people I played against. I think there was a certain kinship or rebelliousness that we had in different ways, but sort of the same attitude in a sense.”
On whether or not he can still beat the younger Pete Sampras:
"Pete’s always been the most difficult guy for me to play against, and obviously he came into this as the big favorite to win the whole series. He’s got the power, he’s got the serve, and he can still move around well. So he’s a tall order, he put me in my place ... but I feel like I’m playing pretty good tennis, and for this type of format, I still have a shot."