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McEnroe (2022) – Review

September 1, 2022

Quick ThoughtsMcEnroe (2022) – Grade B+ – Fans of tennis legend John McEnroe will love revisiting some of his best/worst moments, while McEnroe newbies will appreciate learning all about the tennis legend who was dubbed “Superbrat” by the press. 

I grew up playing tennis in Florida, and I remember watching Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Monica Seles, Steffi Graf, Michael Chang, and Boris Becker battling it out all around the world. Tennis was a huge deal for me – I played in summer camps and made it to states during my junior and senior year in high school (not bragging, there is a point to this). Since I was born in 1982, I wasn’t able to witness McEnroe’s meteoric rise as he won NCAA championships while at Stanford and made it all the way to the Wimbledon semifinals where he lost to Jimmy Connors (another notorious hothead). I was too young to watch his rise to the top, but his highlights and outbursts were always being played on television which led to me feeling a sort of kinship with the hothead who was able to deal with pressure and mind games in a way that I never could. During particularly tough matchups I would frequently yell “You cannot be serious!” and despite having about 1/1000 of the skill and not being a serve-and-volley player, was able to occasionally use my frustration and stubbornness to win some big games (on a much smaller level). 

Having read McEnroe’s 2002 autobiography You Cannot Be Serious, I was already familiar with his upbringing, relationship with Tatum O’Neill and his marriage to Patty Smyth. However, it’s cool seeing these stories unfold visually and the Barney Douglas directed documentary showcases loads of unseen archived footage that make his documentary a must watch for McEnroe fans. Narrated by McEnroe, and featuring interviews with his family, friends, and fellow competitors, the documentary is fine with showing McEnroe’s darker side while explaining his outbursts and feisty “intensity that radiates off your body,” style that annoyed or thrilled millions of people. It also does its best to showcase that McEnroe rose to fame during the wild years of tennis that featured iconic players such as Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Ilie Nastase, Guillermo Vilas and Vitas Gerulaitis lighting up the tennis courts with their charismatic presences and varying styles. McEnroe explained these years by saying “it felt like the inmates were running the asylum,” and these inmates provided some of the most entertaining matches ever. 

Some of the best moments of the documentary feature McEnroe, who was born in Queens, New York dealing with the All England Club, a stuffy establishment that couldn’t handle McEnroe’s boisterous nature. What’s interesting about the documentary is that McEnroe never saw himself as a “superbrat,” however, after years of being labeled as such he began to buy into the persona and it cost him dearly. His anger issues and divorce with Tatum ONeil forced him into years of therapy and self-reflection, and what we have now is one of the most respected commentators in the game. His current wife Patty Smyth says “I married a bad boy who became a really good man,” and it’s neat seeing McEnroe evolve during the 104-minute documentary. 

Final thoughts McEnroe is a solid documentary that’s a must watch for fans of sports docs or tennis. If you aren’t into tennis it’s worth a watch because it captures a snapshot of a time when tennis players were rock stars who played with unrivaled intensity and passion (they also broke like thousands of tennis rackets).

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 2, 2022 6:22 pm

    Thanks for the review! I’d never heard of this one and it is one I think I’ll enjoy. I was a kid when he was at his best and remember watching him and Borge, who was the polar opposite, at least in my memory. Back then we had very few toys and no electronics but and was expected to keep ourselves busy and out of trouble in the summer. Growing up near a park we spent countless hours playing tennis and each of us acted like our favorite players. Thanks for jarring great memories back into my mind.

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