John McEnroe took a long break from tennis in 1986

"I forced myself back because of money and pride" - When John McEnroe regretted not taking a proper break from tennis

John McEnroe is among the greatest players of all time and had an illustrious career in which he excelled in both singles and doubles competition.

However, even the best have their off days and sometimes need to take time off to regroup. McEnroe took an extended break from tennis after the 1985 season and made his comeback in August of 1986.


The seven-time Grand Slam singles champion wrote in his book, You Cannot be Serious, that he returned to action at a time when he shouldn't have. McEnroe wrote that his initial plan was to make a comeback when he was ready but his contracts with Nike and Dunlop made him think otherwise.

"I never felt I was going to retire from tennis. Yes, I could afford to. But I just planned to take time off until I was ready, once more, to enjoy the feeling of being a professional tennis player. It’s a magnificent job— but it had become a case of diminishing returns for me, even as the money kept rolling in," John McEnroe wrote.
"My plan, at first, was to come back when I was ready but then I started worrying about my contracts: Nike said I had to play eight tournaments per year, and Dunlop wanted me to play a minimum of six. Was I going to lose that, not get paid? And what about my ranking? I should have waited out the year, but I didn’t have the nerve," he continued:

McEnroe wrote that he forced himself back on the tour because of money pride. He claimed that he made his comeback when he was not prepared to do so from a mental and competitive perspective.

"I forced myself back, because of money and pride. It was a classic mistake that a lot of people make. Instead of thinking, have confidence; take a year off, then start from scratch—you could come back even better than you were," McEnroe wrote.
"I panicked—my ranking was slipping!—and I went back when I was absolutely unready, mentally and competitively, to go back. I decided to play the Volvo Open Tournament at Stratton Mountain, Vermont, in early August," he added.

John McEnroe reached the semi-finals of the Volvo International in Vermont

John McEnroe at the 2022 Laver Cup

The Volvo International in Stratton Mountain, Vermont was John McEnroe's comeback tournament and he was seeded fourth. The American reached the quarter-finals following straight-set wins over Marko Ostoja, Peter Fleming and Wally Masur.


Here, he beat a 16-year-old Andre Agassi to set up a semi-final clash against Boris Becker. The then-27-year-old won the opening set 6-3 but the German bounced back to win the next two sets 7-5, 7-6 and book his place in the final.

McEnroe finished 1986 with 22 wins out of 27 matches, triumphing in three tournaments. His only Grand Slam appearance of the year came at the US Open, where he suffered an opening-round defeat to Paul Annacone.


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Edited by
Ritwik Kumar
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