QUEENS, N.Y.—It’s a chilly, metal-bright April afternoon, but the atmosphere inside the tennis facility is cozy. The high-tech lights create an ideal combination of bright and soft—a little like Centre Court at Wimbledon when its roof is closed.
Some of the kids racing around courts that stretch away into the distance in the cavernous hangar, merrily banging forehands and backhands, may one day get to play there. But most of them won’t, and that’s just fine with the man standing beside me. John McEnroe is thin as a credit card, even though his shoulders are wide enough to win the approval of Phil Jackson. He has military-short steel-dust hair, and now he addresses a kid playing on the court before us:
“If that had gone in, look where you were,” he admonishes. “Were you ready to spring back to the center of the court if that had gone in? It looked like you were just watching.”
The child nods and mutters some sort of apology, and the drill continues here at the John McEnroe Tennis Academy, which is housed at the Randall’s Island branch of Sportime NY multi-sport academy franchise.
I went out to visit with John just to see how things were going at his academy, to find out what his intentions were and how satisfied he is with the results so far. It is, after all, hard times for American tennis. And many people either hoped or assumed that in starting his academy, McEnroe would set himself to the task of finding and shaping the next . . John McEnroe.