On the latest edition of the Beyond the Baseline Podcast, host Jon Wertheim sits down with former player and longtime ESPN broadcaster Patrick McEnroe on the current state of the game; how he thinks tennis can get more American kids involved; what it was like growing up as a McEnroe and brother to John; his experience and thoughts after calling the Roger Federer-Novak Djokovic Wimbledon final; and much more.
Jon Wertheim: In the Wimbledon final: That 40-15 serve, that he missed by two inches. That's two inches in a two major swing right there.
Patrick McEnroe: I got a lot of response from my comment at the [final] stage of the match—at that point, we try not to say anything, basically, when you're commentating on the match. So we came back from commercial and both my brother and I and Chris Fowler had really been trying to pull back at that point obviously. But the comment I made was right before Federer was going to serve for the match and I said: I can't believe I'm saying this, but this feels like the biggest game of Federer's life. I said that because I felt that if he could win this Wimbledon. Get to 21. Hold off Djokovic a little longer. Finally, he's never done it—beaten Nadal and Djokovic in a major. Because no one's stopping Djokovic except Nadal or Federer in the next couple years. There's no proof that anyone else is going to stop them from catching them and passing then. And so to me, to win Wimbledon for Federer who’s about to be 38—all those things combined, that’s why I made that comment.
JW: If he if he makes that first serve and wins Wimbledon, then it’s 21 majors, it’s nine Wimbledons, it's Djokovic. But also he won his first Wimbledon in 2003. So that's a 16-year gap so that would be mean, if you want to play the longevity card, Djokovic would have to win in 2024, when he won the 2008 Australian Open, if you stayed with the 16-year gap.
PM: Which seems unlikely based on the way he plays, just because there's so much movement-based and precision-based. But I mean look—Federer has been able to do it. Obviously Djokovic is as good of an athlete as Federer and takes care of himself in the same way. But to see Federer at that level at this age—just to see the final the way these guys. To me, watching just the first set, I’m sitting there and watching it and I'm thinking to myself: these guys know that every single shot they hit has to be played with so much precision. Not perfect, but precise, because if they don't play it that well they're in big trouble on the next shot. And they can get away with that against pretty much any other player. So they just kind of elevated each other. Just watching those two guys go at it was phenomenal to see.