As the proverbial “Renaissance man” is concerned, someone who has devoted his life to a single sport does not usually typify the term. But tennis aficionado Patrick McEnroe has defied the conventional definition, parlaying success as a tennis player into success as tennis commentator, author, captain, coach, husband and father.
Currently serving as the General Manager of USTA Player Development, McEnroe has stayed highly active in the tennis circuit since retiring from the professional playing level in 1998.
The Sag Harbor summer resident works at the United States Tennis Association, fostering young tennis talent at an elite level, and he also serves as a tennis commentator for ESPN. McEnroe worked for CBS Sports from 1996-2008, in particular as a correspondent at the U.S. Open, and he released a book, Hardcourt Confidential: Tales from Twenty Years in the Pro Tennis Trenches, in 2010.
But McEnroe, who as a player reached a career-high singles ranking of No. 28 in the world in 1995, attests that his greatest accomplishment came when the U.S. won the Davis Cup in 2007, ending America’s 12-year title drought in the international competition.
“Representing our country has been the highlight of my career,” says McEnroe, who also served as coach of the 2004 U.S. Olympic men’s tennis team. “But in particular—winning the Davis Cup in 2007 when I was captain.”
When McEnroe was named the 38th U.S. Davis Cup captain in 2000, the Americans hadn’t won the annual tennis competition, which pits countries against each other, since 1995. McEnroe was heavily lauded for his efforts at the Davis Cup helm, as numerous personalities in the tennis circuit noted McEnroe’s ability to deftly navigate the personal and professional channels of captainship both on and off the court. Coupled with his hard work, persistence and blanket knowledge of the game, McEnroe was hailed as the crucial component to ultimately bringing the championship back to the U.S. (The U.S. team of Andy Roddick, James Blake, Bob Bryan and Mike Bryan defeated the stacked Russians—coincidently the nation that the U.S. had bested in 1995.)
Though the U.S. had a record 31 Davis Cup titles when McEnroe stepped into the leadership role, the decade-plus span between wins was the longest the team had ever gone without a championship. McEnroe stayed with the Davis Cup until September 2010, ending his tenure as the longest-serving U.S. captain in history.
“Tennis has been great to me,” says McEnroe with understated nonchalance, perhaps a quality gleaned from years of successfully striving to make a name for himself in the tennis world despite constantly being viewed in the distinguished shadow, at least from a playing perspective, of older brother John. But Patrick McEnroe’s playing days and the comparison that they draw to John—both honed their skill at the Port Washington Tennis Academy up island, and the older McEnroe’s success has, by default, begged scrutiny of Patrick McEnroe’s play—have taken on less significance, as Patrick McEnroe has handily established himself as a force in his numerous tennis-related pursuits.
“It’s always been difficult to be John’s younger brother,” McEnroe admits. “But I’ve worked hard and have gotten the best out of my ability. I’ve had so many post-playing opportunities.”
And, incidentally, were it not for John’s mammoth success on the court, Patrick McEnroe’s time in the playing circuit would not likely have come with a pervasive asterisk related to his family name. Born in Manhassett, Patrick McEnroe burst onto the junior scene in 1984 when he won the French Junior doubles and the USTA Boys’ 18 National and Clay Court titles with partner (turned ESPN colleague) Luke Jensen. That year, McEnroe also made a mark on the professional circuit, as he teamed up with John, who is seven years his senior, to win the doubles title at Richmond, Va.
McEnroe went on to play at Stanford University, becoming a three-time singles All American, as he lead the team to NCAA titles in 1986 and, as team captain, in 1988.
He joined the professional tennis tour after graduating in 1988 and steadily rose through the ranks in both singles and doubles.
Patrick McEnroe won 16 ATP doubles titles—The Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) is the governing body of the men’s professional tennis circuit—including the 1989 French Open with partner Jim Grabb. He made a decisive name for himself on the singles circuit when he reached the semifinals in 1991 at the Chicago Open—he eventually fell to John—and again at the 1991 Australian Open. McEnroe’s singles career reached a personal high in 1995 when he won his first singles title at the Sydney Outdoor Championships. As a doubles player, McEnroe also represented the U.S. in the Davis Cup in 1993, 1994 and 1996, where he went 3-1.
Patrick McEnroe’s work ethic and passion for the sport has propelled his professional career. But he is similarly committed to his personal life as a hands-on husband and dad, fostering his three daughters’ passion for tennis while playing Mr. Mom roles. (He ran to a local CVS on a recent Saturday to pick up burn cream after a s’mores incident.)
“I juggle it very delicately,” McEnroe notes of his work-life balance. McEnroe is married to singer and Broadway actress Melissa Errico, and the family works to accommodate both career and parenting duties, some of which they happily bring to the East End. Errico most recently sang in her
first solo concert at Guild Hall on August 5, which McEnroe called a “huge success,” and she’ll return to Broadway in 2013 in the 1994 Tony Award-winner for best musical, Passion. The two are parents to 6-year-old Victoria Penny and twins Juliette Beatrice and
“She (Victoria) plays tennis and loves it,” says McEnroe, referring to his eldest daughter’s introduction to the sport.
His daughter’s involvement in tennis notwithstanding, McEnroe is well aware of the importance of player development in the U.S., particularly given the talent of players internationally.
“I’m excited for the future of the sport in 10, 20, 50 years,” he says. And, he’s passionate that his role as head of USTA’s player development will allow him to be a part of that future.
In part to promote his mission at USTA, McEnroe will be in the Hamptons next week to participate in the inaugural USTA Serves Pro-Am in the Hamptons. The event kicks off with a cocktail party at The Bridge on Wednesday, August 22, and it continues with a Pro-Am at the East Hampton Tennis Club on Thursday. In addition to McEnroe, the hosts of the event include tennis legends Chris Evert, Mardy Fish and Mary Carillo.
The USTA Serves Pro-Am in the Hamptons has dual purposes—to raise awareness and funds for USTA Serves and for the USTA’s player development efforts. USTA Serves is the charitable foundation of the USTA, as it gives money to programs that work with underprivileged kids.
“The event will appeal to people who have an interest in both facets of the USTA,” says McEnroe. “It will be a great way to join forces and garner interest in both programs.”
The Pro-Am will feature doubles round robin play, where donors are paired with prominent tennis professionals.
“USTA Serves is looking for people to use tennis as a vehicle to be a champion of life in general,” says McEnroe. “Our overall mission is to grow tennis.
“Tennis is difficult, but very beneficial,” continues McEnroe. The Jack of all trades is a living testament to his words, as he references the professional and life skills that can be learned in the context of a tennis court.
For tickets to the USTA Serves Pro-Am in the Hamptons, email or call Trina Singian directly at Ingles@usta.com or 914-696-7223. For more information, please visit ustaserves.com.