|John McEnroe plays an exhibition match at the BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y., Feb. 28, 2011. (MIKE SEGAR/Reuters)
TORONTO - John McEnroe, it would seem, has mellowed with age.
Although still playing tennis at age 52, McEnroe's competitive spirit has been turned down a notch from 11, the fire in his belly that made him a tennis Hall of Famer has cooled slightly. His days of breaking his racquet and berating umpires over missed calls are over.
But that doesn't mean the seven-time Grand Slam champion has lost the will to win. Far from it.
"I'm always going to be competitive and there always will be a fire," McEnroe said Tuesday during a conference call. "Is it as bright or as intense as it was in my heyday? Obviously not. Better perspective, a little more realistic. (But) I like to get out there and play, especially when things are going well."
So don't expect to see the old John McEnroe during the inaugural Rogers Legends Cup in Toronto next week. The intensity that sometimes boiled over on the court during the peak of his career likely won't show up at the Rexall Centre, when he joins fellow legends Michael Chang, Andre Agassi and Jim Courier at the two-day mini-tournament.
After nearly 20 years of retirement, his game might be dialed down, too. McEnroe has been busy in his day job as a television commentator, working the French Open and Wimbledon earlier this year, so he hasn't had much time to stay sharp on the court.
"I love to (play) when I have a chance to get away from the booth, but when I'm there, I'm busy doing that," he said. "I lose that routine that I'm in when I'm at home. I've been trying to get back and it takes some time. I played an event in the south of France the week after Wimbledon, then I played a few (World) Team Tennis matches. Sometimes it felt like I was close to getting it back, (but) I didn't quite get there. It's always unpredictable when you haven't played for a bit.
"I actually think it was good for me that I had some time off. I'm out in Los Angeles now and I feel like I have a pretty good opportunity to try to get more prepared than I've been for a while."
During McEnroe's days on the ATP Tour, he made the Canadian tournament a regular part of his schedule and holds the record for appearances, with 16. He made the final four times and won it twice (1984-85), the same number as current stars Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
Although little more than pride will be on the line when McEnroe faces Chang on Aug. 13 and Agassi the next day, he's still pumped about coming north again.
"Needless to say I have a lot of history in Toronto and playing in the Canadian Open so I'm excited about the opportunity to get there and play again," he said. "I'm doing everything I can to try to prepare as well as I possibly can. I'm the old man of the group and have to deal with Chang and Agassi and Jim Courier as well. I've got my hands full but I'm excited to be part of that group and looking forward to playing there again."
NOTES: Vancouver's Rebecca Marino was one of four Canadian women added to the main draw in Toronto, Tennis Canada announced Tuesday. Marino, ranked 41 in the world, was added to the main draw when Alexandra Dulgheru of Romania withdrew while Quebecers Eugenie Bouchard, Stephanie Dubois and Aleksandra Wozniak were named wild-card entries. Five other Canadians will try to get into the main draw through qualifying ... Canadians Philip Bester of Vancouver, Erik Chvojka of Kirkland, Ont., and Vasek Pospisil of Vernon, B.C., were added to the main draw for the men's tournament in Montreal. The other wild card went to rising Australian star Bernard Tomic.