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GN Podcast #453

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EA interviews John McEnroe for Grand Slam Tennis

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EA SPORTS: How do you feel about being in a video game?

John McEnroe: “Well this is the first one so I’m pretty excited to be with some of the younger guys and how we match up. EA’s known to do the best videogames for sports so I think this is good for our sport to have it done the right way. I’ve waited a long time—50 years young—so I’ll see how I match up against the Nadals and the Federers; probably not real well but maybe this will help my chances.”

EA SPORTS: How do you think real life is reflected in Grand Slam Tennis?

McEnroe: “Obviously the Grand Slams are our biggest tournaments when we play. There’s nothing that compares when you’re actually on Centre Court Wimbledon, even me commentating now, it feels good to be part of it in that little way but that’s why you dream about being on the Centre Court or being a professional athlete. Maybe it will excite some kids to sort of get a feel for Wimbledon when they play the videogame or the Open or whatever major they want and feel like they’re a little bit more part of history and then just to have a chance to play against the guys that were there and won it. It’s sort of nice to finally feel like we’ve got the whole package in one, you haven’t seen that before.”

EA SPORTS: How does the Wii, with physical control, make gaming more interesting to you?

McEnroe: “Obviously the tendency is to think that you’re going to be a couch potato sitting there. With a lot of kids and seeing kids getting less active, the idea to have an interactive thing is sort of nice because you feel like you’re doing something more physical. I think the more that you can simulate actually playing the game, the more that you may be actually playing, which would ultimately be nice, as a tennis player to see, but also feel like you’re able to emulate and copy the strokes of your favorite players. I think it makes it more fun and a better experience for who plays, whether it’s the players themselves going ‘hey I’m pretty good playing myself’ or one of my kids or some other kid that’s going to do it.”

EA SPORTS: How do you feel about being able to replay great matches against your rivals from the past but also the chance to take on some of the current players?

McEnroe: “My most memorable matches were at Wimbledon and obviously growing up in NY, it was always a dream to play and do well at the U.S. Open. Couple of the losses will definitely be nice to do over, for sure. It’s certainly exciting to see my old rivals, brings back some great memories. What’s probably even more exciting to throw myself out there against some of the younger players playing today. I do a lot of commentary at the big events so obviously I get a chance to see these guys first hand and you see the game changing before your eyes and it becoming more physical and bigger hitting than ever. Even when I started playing the video game on the Wii, just getting the kinks out and practicing against the younger guys, it seemed like the ball seemed like it was coming faster so I feel like I even have to make an adjustment in this which is funny but it’ll be fun to try.”

EA SPORTS: Is there a key match from the past you would like to do again?

McEnroe: “I didn’t play Becker at Wimbledon or Sampras, those would be unbelievably tough. Those to me were the greatest I had played against, not at Wimbledon but played against in general. Now you have Federer and Nadal are coming along. A couple do-overs would be against Lendl at the French where I lost, being part of history with Borg in ’80 was amazing so certainly there’s one I would like to do over, there’s probably a couple that my rivals would like to do over too when I got the better of them. I think it’s funny because as you’re playing the videogame, it can bring back some of the memories of when you were actually playing them which is cool because I don’t often look at the tapes or go over that. Maybe it’s going to get some younger kids out there more aware that we actually played a pretty good game. Hopefully this will tilt towards the old guys, we got to speak to the people programming this game!”

EA SPORTS: Why did you want your in-game character to be a throwback to the old days with the big hair and flowing locks – why is that?

McEnroe: “Can you blame me? It was a magical time though I’m probably biased since it was the time I was playing. But the late 70s into the mid-80s especially was a great time in tennis, it seemed to be exploding in popularity. We did do things a little differently, a lot of characters out there. I think you’ll see even me with my shorts a little shorter than the other players. We had some wild looking hair and the headbands. People remember that and I look back on it fondly, not every hair style but there’s a couple others that I could live with. The most famous of the matches, particularly that Borg match in ’80 Wimbledon, the way he looked in his outfit and my puffy hair look, it’s probably more appropriate I would say to have that one.”

EA SPORTS: Is there a specific Wimbledon memory that sticks out for you?

McEnroe: “I have a lot of memories; the Borg ’80 match at Wimbledon that I’ve talked about is the most famous, without a doubt. A hundred times more often when people come up to me, they talk about that match. It’s probably a 14,000-seat stadium I’d say and about 100,000 people have come up to me in the past 25, 30 years telling me they were at the match so that you have to take as a compliment. The first time I ever went out there, the last time I ever played and a lot in between, there’s a lot of history for me there, most of it good, some of it not quite as good. There’s so many different experience I went through. But if I had to pick one, there were times when I played some great ones and won pretty easily but that match historically was the one that I was most proud of.”

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