McEnroe's relationship with Arthur Ashe

Discussion in 'Former Pro Player Talk' started by tacoben, Mar 15, 2012.

  1. tacoben

    tacoben Semi-Pro

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    As I was watching the youtube video, from another thread, "Mac's Distinct Service Motion", a '78 match between Arthur and John. I wondered what the two player's relationship was like? They were 15 years apart, Ashe being the senior. I know that Ashe eventually became the US Davis Cup coach where McEnroe played under him. Was the relationship close, cordial, professional, indifferent? More importanly, how did McEnroe view Ashe after his diagnosis, and after Ashe's passing? I am curios because this was the era in tennis I followed in my high school days, having stopped for a long period till my daughter started junior tennis 3 years ago. Thanks.
     
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  2. Stuart S

    Stuart S New User

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    I think McEnroe had respect for Ashe as a player, but not so much as Davis Cup captain. Mac felt he wasn't a great leader, and wasn't strong enough to keep a tight rein on Connors, who pretty much flipped in the final against Sweden.

    Not sure how Mac viewed him after his diagnosis. But I do recall Connors saying a few nice things about Ashe when he died. But these things always happen when someone passes on, don't they?
     
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  3. gavna

    gavna Hall of Fame

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    They had some pretty good dust ups and didn't see eye to eye on anything.....JMac did respect him as a player but Ashe at first tried keep a lid on JMac and his attitude and finally they didn't even talk on the changeovers. Didn't help that Ashe when he worked TV for ABC could be harsh on JMac. I remember one incident in the doubles with Mac and Fleming Ashe said something to them and as he walked away they looked at each other and started laughing and mugging......
     
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  4. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Ashe´s definition of Mac´s game is the best I´ve heard.The scalp theory and so on.
     
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  5. robow7

    robow7 Professional

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    Think of Ashe's calm persona on the court and the ability to control himself in a graceful manner in spite of the racial tensions that he had to contend with off the court, then you have Mac that seemingly has it all, the incredible natural talent, the white skin, the upper class upbringing and yet couldn't control himself at any given moment. No wonder I read that Ashe just couldn't relate to Johnny Mac and hence there was always this tension between them.
     
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  6. OriginalHockeytowner

    OriginalHockeytowner Rookie

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    Could you elaborate on that?
     
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  7. Frankc

    Frankc Semi-Pro

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    Was that the theory that Mac just cut you here and then there and then nicked you somewhere else, and just kept up a cumulative and inevitable slow blood letting?
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2012
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  8. Mustard

    Mustard Talk Tennis Guru

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    Yes, the 1984 Davis Cup final where Sweden gave the USA a battering on clay. Wilander thrashed Connors in the first rubber. Then McEnroe, in his golden year, lost to Sundstrom in straight sets, and then in the doubles rubber, McEnroe/Fleming lost a Davis Cup doubles match for the only time in their career as a doubles team, losing to Edberg/Jarryd. McEnroe and Ashe had some sort of fallout, as did Connors and Ashe (although that was nothing new). Ashe and McEnroe seemed to have a lot of respect before this tie, as far as I can see. Not sure about afterwards, though.

    1984 was the only year that Connors played in the Davis Cup on a full-time basis. Connors played in just 7 Davis Cup ties during his career, and 4 of them were in 1984. As for the other three, two of them were in 1975 when Tony Trabert was captain, and the other was in 1981 when Ashe briefly convinced Connors to give it a go.

    As for McEnroe's belief that Ashe wasn't a strong enough leader to keep a tight rein on Connors, I'd ask "Who is?", apart from Connors' mother and grandmother? Connors was a lone ranger, that's just the way he was. He tried to be a team player a few times, but it didn't really work in Davis Cup. Connors did play a big part in the USA's 1985 World Team Cup triumph, though, when Mecir was crippled with nerves.

    The relationship between Ashe and Connors was a lot more complex, ranging from mutual loathing (including multi-million dollar lawsuits) to respect and all sorts in between. Ashe once said that it took all his willpower not to punch Connors in the mouth whenever he saw him in the locker room. I love another famous quote from Ashe:

    Reporter: Isn't Connors an a***ole, though?
    Ashe: Yeah, but he's my favourite a***ole.

    Before that 1984 Davis Cup final, Connors was mistakenly locked out of a training session where McEnroe and Fleming were training, and once Connors eventually gained access, he wrote in the clay in large letters "F*** you, Artie" before leaving in prompt fashion.

    On the more positive side, I've seen Connors and Ashe laughing and joking when Ashe interviewed Connors at Wimbledon after many of his matches, and they seemed very friendly on those occasions. It was a very interesting relationship they had.

    A nick here, a cut there, and pretty soon, you're bleeding.

    Correct. Death by a thousand cuts.
     
    Last edited: Mar 15, 2012
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  9. OriginalHockeytowner

    OriginalHockeytowner Rookie

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    ^Thank you for the clarification, it makes sense now
     
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  10. urban

    urban Hall of Fame

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    Ashe once wrote, that Mac was the beast in himself, in his own persona, like - thats my formula - the Mr. Hyde, he (Dr. Arthur) had always to control.
     
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  11. SusanDK

    SusanDK Semi-Pro

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    Connors was completely distracted during the 1984 Davis Cup final as his wife was due to deliver their first child at any time. In hindsight, he probably should not have traveled to Sweden for that tie. Had he not, who would have been the U.S. likely choice for the 2nd singles? Any idea?
     
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  12. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Yes, that´s it.Ashe said sosmething like this:

    " When you play Connors or Borg, you feel like you are being hit with a sledgehammer...but this guy, Mc Enroe, has a scalp...one short ball here, one drop there...he cuts you slowly...the wounds aren´t deep, but you bleed to death " I always like this definition.
     
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  13. BeHappy

    BeHappy Hall of Fame

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    In his book Ashe said that McEnroe referred to a 45 year old black linesman as "boy".

    I don't think he held him in particularly high regard.
     
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  14. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Not, Brett Connors, the first Connors child was born in 1979.I remember, during their torrid 1980 W SF, Connors said to Mac: " next time, I´ll bring my 1 year old kid, who has better manners than you"...

    As for who could have been Mac´s teammate, if I was Ashe at 1984 I´d have to options:

    Pick up a clay specialist, like Arias or Kkrickstein ( but I don´t think that would have changed the final result)

    Pick up a seasoned, motivated guy, and even if he was 30 by then, I can´t find anybody better than Vitas Gerulaitis.Contrary to Connors, Gerulatis and Mc Enroe were close friends, and they had already won a DC together, in 1979 vs Italy .
     
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  15. Stuart S

    Stuart S New User

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    Yes, that's a nice analogy. Clever. Love him or hate him, Ashe was a thinker.
     
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  16. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    True, a very inteligent man who was a leader for the black community, even beyond the borders of the Us...and a streaky player and champion who, when felt well with himself, could be one of the nicest ever players to watch.Tons and tons of talent, that he wasted a bit since his interests were beyond tennis ( if he had kept alive, he maybe the first US black president instead of Obama, he had a big politichal talent although he never liked the polithical atmosphere and never joined the pro politicians of Washington)
     
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  17. SusanDK

    SusanDK Semi-Pro

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    Oops, my error. I read she was expecting and due to deliver any day, but it must have been child #2. If I recall, Connors departed after his singles loss (or it may have been after the doubles loss that decided the tie), because he did not stick around for the meaningless reverse singles on the last day.
     
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  18. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    The first time I saw Henrik Sundtrom, in a juniors event, I was impressed by his athletic potential.He was a late blossomer but the key man to give Sweden the DC title.

    Sweden dominated DC in the decade of the 1980´s, just as Australia in the 60´s, the US in the 70´s and Spain in the 00...what a great team.Wilander,Sundstrom,Edberg and Jarryd¡¡¡
     
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  19. Stuart S

    Stuart S New User

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    Connors had displayed pretty appalling conduct in his singles rubber against Wilander, so much so that he saw fit to issue an apology to tournament referee Alan Mills (who said later that Connors had seemed very genuine with his apology). But Connors departed the next day.

    But as Susan DK said earlier in this thread, in retrospect Connors should never have been there, not with wife Patti about to drop. So why did he go? My best guess is that perhaps Jimmy saw this as his last chance to win a Davis Cup medal.

    Incidentally Mac was no angel at that final either. And both he and Jimmy refused to sign the new 'code of conduct', drawn up by the USTF in the aftermath of Sweden.

    I think for Connors this was no loss; perhaps he'd had it with Davis Cup by then. For Mac, it put him out of the Davis Cup picture for the next few years. America's loss, I'd say.
     
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  20. tacoben

    tacoben Semi-Pro

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    I have no doubt that Ashe could have made it to the political arena and to the very highest office. Ashe was intelligent, articulate, inspirational given his very vocal view about civil rights and South Africa at the time. Unlilke McEnroe and Connors who more like jocks and not really aware of the political causes of the 70's-80's. Not to sidetrack my own thread, but I found this link for those interested, snippets of Ashe's "views of life"....just small condensed recordings of interviews with him.

    http://www.timmccarver.com/ashe.html
     
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  21. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Ashe´s standpoint on Davis Cup was also a political intention.He was the US stalwart for much of his career and enjoyed that
     
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  22. BeHappy

    BeHappy Hall of Fame

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    Ashe never participated in the Civil Rights movement in the 1960's, he was afraid of being kicked off the tour. In the late 70's he started talking about South Africa because he felt guilty about not speaking up when it counted, and because he felt under pressure to be some sort of role model for black people. In reality he wasn't up to the job, he was just a tennis player.

    He was also half Jewish and you get the impression listening to him speak, to his accent and his vocabulary, that culturally he was really more Jewish than Black.

    It's all in his autobiography.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2012
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  23. robow7

    robow7 Professional

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  24. Mustard

    Mustard Talk Tennis Guru

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    Arthur Ashe was one of the first people Nelson Mandela wanted to speak to as soon as he came out of prison in 1990. I'd say Arthur's reach went way beyond just the tennis world.
     
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  25. BeHappy

    BeHappy Hall of Fame

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    Not saying he wasn't a good guy or anything, just that he was pushed into a position he really wasn't made for. I actually felt a bit sorry for him reading his autobiography. He tried so hard to be the role model he was peer pressured into being.

    He was a stunning tennis player:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=43csIDKmkMk
     
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  26. SusanDK

    SusanDK Semi-Pro

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    The depth of the Swedish team in the 80's was unparalleled. When Sundstrom's career was cut short due to injury, in walks Nystrom. Wilander takes a break to get married, ok now we have Pernfors suddenly appear on the scene. Going to play on clay, let's send them Carlsson. Nystrom is out with injury, next . . . world #10 Svensson.

    I don't think they played a tie in most of the 80's when the team wasn't made up entirely of top 10 ranked players, in both singles and doubles. Jarryd / Edberg not available for doubles, ok how about Wimbledon doubles champs Wilander / Nystrom. It was sick.
     
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  27. SusanDK

    SusanDK Semi-Pro

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    I recall a comment - and don't remember if it was Mac or Connors (but I think it was Connors) - when called out about their obscene language, said something to the effect of "what difference does it make, no one here can understand us."

    What an ignorant and insulting comment to make. Actually sounds more like Connors than Mac, considering Mac's close friendship with Borg and I don't think Mac is completely unintelligent.
     
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  28. kiki

    kiki Banned

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  29. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Yes, in some ways, that 1980´Sweden team was muck alike the Australian teams of the 50´s and 60´s...let´s say that, if we talked about a curent NBA team, they would have just topped the salary cap 3 or 4 times¡¡¡

    And even with only Cash and second stringers, don´t forget that only Australia ( and in the early 80´s USA) dared to challenge that swedish power.

    What would have happened if Borg would have had a decent nº 2 during his playing time? much like Federer today.
     
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  30. Stuart S

    Stuart S New User

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    It was Arthur Ashe. He tried to downplay the obscenities. He remarked to the umpire (who had just issued a warning), "But he said it in English".

    To my mind, Arthur wasn't a great leader, as he showed during that Davis Cup final. But he had a tough job trying to keep a handle on two tempestuous characters in his own team.

    But that remark to the umpire in Sweden bordered on the ridiculous.
     
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  31. Mustard

    Mustard Talk Tennis Guru

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    Well, the USA won 2 Davis Cups under Ashe's captaincy, in 1981 and 1982 (Ashe's first 2 years as captain). Apart from 1 tie in 1981 and all 4 ties in 1984, Connors didn't play Davis Cup under Ashe. As Connors didn't bother with Davis Cup most of the time, McEnroe's singles team-mate was usually Roscoe Tanner or Gene Mayer. But yes, in 1984, with a disgruntled Connors in the team, McEnroe losing to Sundstrom in his golden year and McEnroe/Fleming losing in Davis Cup for the only time, a lot of bad factors came together at the same time for the US team. Ashe did 1985 as Davis Cup captain and then left the job after 5 campaigns, handing over to Tom Gorman.
     
    Last edited: Mar 17, 2012
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  32. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Connors played against Checoslovakia in the 1981 QF, held at Flushing Meadows.He reversed Mac Enroe defeat at Lendl´s hands by beating both Smid and Lendl and the US moved forwards but Connors didn´t play anymore.I don´t know why.It would have been superb seeing 4 of the top 6 players of 1981 in the final: Connors, Mc Enroe,Clerc and Vilas.
     
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  33. SusanDK

    SusanDK Semi-Pro

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    Wow, didn't realize that - thanks. It surprises me that a comment like that came from Ashe.


    Let's not forget that the Swedes stacked the deck a bit by building a red clay court indoors in Göteborg. Apparently the condition of the court was quite appalling for a major tournament like they were playing. A great win, no doubt, and I'm a huge fan of the Swedish team from that time, but it was understandable that the U.S. team were not in the best of moods that weekend, looking at the dynamics of the whole situation combined.
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2012
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  34. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    I can´t think either that the son of one of New York top lawyers would be so iliterate to think that Scandinavians don´t speak perfect english since their infancy...but it wouldn´t surprise me from a guy that comes from east St Louis¡¡
     
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  35. Stuart S

    Stuart S New User

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    I believe Connors decided to go skiing during the latter stages of the DC that year, thus depriving himself of the chance of a DC winners' medal. It was a decision that puzzled many at the time :confused:
     
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  36. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    A Mc Enroe/Connors vs Vilas/Clerc duel would have been really attractive for a Davis Cup Finals.The outcome would have not changed, in any case.And Clerc may not beat Connors as he did with Tanner.
     
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  37. WCT

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    I remember him calling into an ESPN talk show Ashe was appearing on and wishing him luck. In 81 I think they were getting along pretty well. Ashe was his quasi coach at Wimbledon that year. Maybe adviser is a better word. They talked about Connors game. Then several years later the relationship really soured with the infamous FU Artie in the clay at Sweden.
     
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  38. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    Most of them were close and good friends, spending many hours together, just like today spaniards...was there any hot rivalry between the young swedes of the 80´s?
     
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  39. SusanDK

    SusanDK Semi-Pro

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    Not that I'm aware of, at least of a, say, Connors / McEnroe level.

    However, I believe there was a rivalry between Wilander and Edberg in the mid to late 80's, albeit understated. There was a flip-flop between the two often for the #2 ranking behind Lendl for years, meaning that they were competing for the #1 spot in Sweden.

    Edberg looked none too happy losing to Mats in the 2007 USO semi-final and had been favored by many, as the #2 seed, to win. They had big matches at the AO a couple of years as well. Of course Mats was the first of the two to achieve the #1 ranking and it wouldn't surprise me if he was partly motivated to do so by the rivalry for Sweden's #1 player with Stefan, who was actually getting far more attention at the time than Mats because of his amazing talent and athleticism, whereas Mats was not considered to be very exciting.

    In any case, they never appeared to be as close as either one was individually with several of the other Swedes. There was a nice photo of the two of them together at a seniors event last year, however, but so has there been of Mac and Connors in recent years.
     
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  40. kiki

    kiki Banned

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    age tempers things, I guess.But I am sure Mac and Connors will find a moment to throw each other the bags at their head....

    Maybe Edberg and Wilander rivalry had something to see with Edberg dating and later marrying Anette, Wilander´s long time girlfriend? it was something very striking.
     
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