As a player and now TV commentator who wears his heart on his sleeve, John McEnroe admits he feels barely alive as he works the deserted and locked-down US Open from the broadcast booth.
The fan-free desert in New York presents the longtime bad boy of the sport with a desolate landscape – a huge contrast with the aggressive in-your-face ambience of the most rowdy by far of the four majors.
With no intemperate, rude and pushy New York fans crowding the grounds to saturation point and zero ambience around the mask-wearing grounds, it’s a bit more than sad for the 61-year-old former hell-raiser.
With US Open officials scrambling daily to keep deep-pocketed corporate sponsors sweet amid the COVID-reduced tennis fortnight, it all seems depressing to native New Yorker Mac.
““It’s deafeningly loud when they play music on the changeover,’’ he told the NY Post of procedures in the empty Ashe stadium populated only by a handful of coaches and various masked courtside workers, ball adults and linespeople during matches.
“You’re like, ‘what is going on here?’ One second, it’s nothing – next second, I feel I have to put earplugs in.
“I don’t know how the players are feeling about it. I love music but it’s like, ‘C’mon.’
“Maybe I’m just getting old. Or maybe they’re afraid the players are going to fall asleep.”
But the old tennis dog has found a ray of sunshine, excited by the fitness level of players after the five-month tennis virus shutdown.
McEnroe admits he’s pleasantly surprised at the level of tennis and fitness after a five-month layoff.
“I’m pretty impressed, I thought it would be making an adjustment to best-of-five after one event – that’s tricky.
“Fortunately the heat hasn’t been as much a factor as it could be otherwise we would’ve seen guys dropping like flies.
“But the best players usually win no matter how much time off.”