John McEnroe wants the world to know that his alleged friendship with President Donald Trump is “fake news.”
McEnroe is not Trump’s fan, friend or supporter, even though the President seems to think he has been over the years.
McEnroe, who was among the top tennis players in the world from 1977 until the early 1990s, had a well-deserved reputation as the bad boy of the gentlemanly game of tennis. He was always outspoken when he felt a judge made an improper ruling or someone in the media said something about him he didn’t agree with.
In his heyday, he won seven individual Grand Slam titles, nine doubles Grand Slam titles and was captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team.
In 2000, Donald Trump very publically offered McEnroe $1 million to play Serena of Venus Williams in a “battle of the sexes.” Trump told the media he had written the letter to his “dear friend John.”
“His ‘dear friend’? News to me,” McEnroe told The Times of London during an interview to promote his second book, “But Seriously: An Autobiography,” out later this month.
“I’ve known Donald a little over the years,” added McEnroe, who after his playing years was a television announcer covering tennis for many years.
“In fact,” said McEnroe in the prelude to a great misconception about his relationship to Trump, “my dad – also called John – had written to Trump at the start of his campaign for the Republican nomination, asking if there was anything he could do to help.”
Cut to the 2015 U.S. Open, where McEnroe was in attendance with his wife (singer Patty Smyth) and daughter, sitting near the TV broadcast booth, when he spotted Trump in a nearby box.
McEnroe decided to go over and say hello to Trump, even though his wife and daughter told him not to do that. “Don’t you dare go over there,” he recalls they told him. “He’s a misogynist and a blowhard – it could hurt your reputation.”
McEnroe, still the maverick, went over anyway, he recalled for The Times: “Sure enough, it was caught on TV, me hugging Donald like we were long-lost brothers. He did seem more pleased to see me than usual, and I only realized why when he said, ‘John, thank you so much for the letter. I’ve got it on the wall in my office!'”
“I hoped this was fake news,” added McEnroe. “I didn’t want everyone who went into Trump’s office thinking I was his number one fan.”
During the 2016 election, there were reports that McEnroe was a Trump supporter. On October 2, 2016, he was asked during an interview with Spanish-language publication Mundo Deportivo who he would vote for in the U.S. election.
“For me, these options are not the best you could have,” he answered, according to Tennis World, “but for the situation, in general, I will vote for Hillary Clinton, even if Trump has better golf courses.”
He added the last part and then broke into a laugh.
At the height of his international fame, McEnroe recalled for The Times that he was encouraged to thnk about a career in politics, but he declined.
“I’m glad I was playing int he time that I was,” he said in the recent interview. “It would be worse now.”
“Trump is the product of the society we’re in today,” he added. “He’s like the ultimate reality show now. He’s literally the most powerful person in the world and that’s pretty amazing, considering he was a real-estate developer who did ‘The Apprentice.'”
As for why he didn’t want to enter politics, McEnroe said: “I wish that I had the ego. You have to have a tremendously big ego; which Trump clearly, has.”
McEnroe’s father, who was a high-powered New York City attorney as well as a Trump supporter during the election, died in February.
Like so many other celebrities during the campaign, Trump tried to claim him as a supporter because so few of the famous in sports and show business were on his side. It has taken until now, with the publication of his new book, for McEnroe to slam Trump as hard as he used to hit a tennis ball.