While playing in the United Kingdom at the Statoil Masters Tennis Tournament, John was asked about his relationship with former South African President, Nelson Mandela. An article posted on the Champions Tour website (www.atpchampionstour.com) details John’s admiration for the late world leader.
John McEnroe paid tribute to Nelson Mandela on Friday evening, describing the late South African President as ‘the most magical person I ever met’.
They met in Johannesburg after Mandela had become President.
“It hit home so hard, because it seemed that here was a guy that appeared to have absolutely no bitterness for what he had gone through and here I was complaining about every line-call and how tough it was to be on the tennis circuit,” said McEnroe. “Perspective became very apparent and mine changed rather quickly when I saw the way he looked at things. That one meeting I remember thinking this guy was like an Angel on earth, the most magical person I ever met.”
At that meeting, Mandela told McEnroe that he had listened to the McEnroe vs. Borg 1980 Wimbledon final on a radio in his prison cell in Robins Island.
“It was very humbling obviously that he had gone out of his way to talk about that to me in a brief encounter,” said McEnroe. “It was magical and amazing that a tennis match that had meant a lot to me, and made an impact in tennis, had also made an impact on him. It’s something I’ll never forget and it’s top of the list (in terms of recollections I’ve heard about that match).”