Lendl vs McEnroe: icy rivalry replaced by mutual respect
Theirs was one of the greatest tennis rivalries in the open era: John McEnroe versus Ivan Lendl. McEnroe, best-known for his legendary temper and exceptional serve-and-volley, and Lendl, famous for his ice-cold expression and heavy baseline hits, faced each other on dozens of occasions and the rivalry was intense. Today, though, as the veteran players prepare to meet in Bratislava, both say they are on far better terms than some might expect.
“Ivan Lendl has finally won a grand slam championship! He showed great courage in rallying from two sets down to accomplish it. For John McEnroe… an American once again leaves empty from Paris.”
While Lendl smiled when it was over, McEnroe did not wait for the mic to congratulate his opponent but instead walked off the court. The rivalry was nothing if not bitter.
Flash forward to today, the two tennis legends have long since put mutual differences behind them. Ahead of an exhibition match in Bratislava, Slovakia, on Wednesday, McEnroe even addressed the story of a less than charitable comment once attributed to him.
The Czech-born Lendl, who has lived in the US since the 1980s, also told reporters the relationship had improved.
“It’s a lot better than back then when there was a lot at stake. We both know we’ve got a few years behind us now and that what’s most important is for the visitors to enjoy the match.”
At the same time, Lendl does not think there was anything wrong with the rivalry when their careers were at their peak:
“That’s the way it is with big rivals: the situation is tense because both want to win and both want to show they are better. That’s normal.”
“You can’t be serious, man!...You cannot be serious!!... That ball was on the line!”