McEnroe: I sort of wished I had played
Originally published on: 13/07/12 00:00
“You get 2,000 points for winning a major,” McEnroe said. “You get 750 points for winning Olympic gold. You get fewer points for winning the Olympics than you do for Palm Springs or Key Biscayne or Rome, which to me is idiotic if you’re sitting there talking about the Olympics being maybe on a par [with the Grand Slams] or just below.
“I know the guys want to win majors. I understand that. There’s an old argument as to whether we should have been in the Olympics in the first place, but I guess if you’re going to go, you should go full tilt. To say it’s less important I think is ludicrous.”
When tennis returned to the Olympics in 1988 after a gap of 64 years many of the top players were ambivalent about the idea. In the Seoul Games of 1988, where Miloslav Mecir won the men’s singles gold, only 11 of the top 20 men played. Even in Atlanta in 1996 two of the top Americans, Pete Sampras and Michael Chang, chose not to play, despite the fact that the Olympics was being staged in their home country.
McEnroe pointed out that times have changed and the top players now play almost identical schedules during the year. “Back when I started playing, we weren’t even playing the Australian Open,” he said. “Now it’s like: ‘Wow, you won the Australian Open, it’s amazing.’ Guys at the top weren’t even playing. It’s changed. So there’s no reason why that couldn’t change [with the Olympics]. I didn’t play the Olympics in ’88, I thought it was wrong that the pros were playing. In retrospect, I sort of wish I had played.”