Lendl vs McEnroe
Ivan Lendl’s agent and Olympic skater, Nancy Kerrigan’s husband, Jerry Solomon, called me and told me that Ivan was thinking of quitting professional tennis because he felt he was losing to players he should be dominating–including Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe.
Ivan had become extremely frustrated, and Jerry simply did not want to lose his golden goose client–especially one oozing with unfulfilled potential. Clearly, there was a missing piece of the puzzle, but neither of them could pinpoint it.
At the time, I was the only sports nutritionist on the professional tennis circuit who had developed a dietary and supplemental protocol with a proven record of success. Only a few of the pros knew about me and my work.
Most professional tennis players didn’t know how to eat to win, and many ate diets that hampered their endurance and performance; n a few cases, their diets even jeopardized their health. All that was about to change with the publication of my #1-bestselling book, Eat to Win, which would literally launch a worldwide sports nutrition revolution.
When I first met John McEnroe in the men’s locker room at Wimbledon, I found him to be surprisingly shy–which was a shock given his notorious on-court behavior. I had been trying for about a year, through conversations with his doubles partner, Peter Rennert, to convince John to work with me. John would have no part of it. He simply didn’t believe that my advice could make any difference in his win-loss record. He even mocked the value of my diet in the press, albeit in a good natured way.
Even so, my offer still stood.
To prove my point, I told Peter Rennert that I would demonstrate the immense value of sports nutrition counseling to John the hard way–by working with one of his rivals, who would, as a result, dominate him in match play.
I thought it was going to be Jimmy Connors (another sports nutrition skeptic) because I had already begun talking to Jimmy about changes in his diet. But Jimmy’s stubbornness became a stumbling block to extending his career longevity and win-loss record. Instead, it would be another gifted player who would become my client and dominate McEnroe (and Connors): Ivan Lendl.
“Everyone used to ask me if I was on the Haas diet,” McEnroe said, referring to Dr. Robert Haas, who has been credited by Martina Navratilova and Ivan Lendl as a prime reason for their success. But I told them, ‘No, I’m on the Häagen-Dazs® diet. I still am.’ ” — NY Times
Novak Djokovic recently wrote a book, the title of which is an homage to my book, Eat to Win, entitled, Serve to Win, in which he credits his specialized diet and team approach with helping him become the number one player in the world.
Today’s tennis pros have realized the immense value of my approach. Regrettably, such skeptics as McEnroe and Connors could have enjoyed far more illustrious careers and won many more titles and more prize money had they heeded my counsel.
I wanted to work with McEnroe but he turned me down even after I had graciously given him my only snack (a banana) in the gentleman’s locker room at Wimbledon prior to his center-court match.
John’s soon-to-be nemesis, Ivan Lendl, immediately hired me and shortly thereafter, we promptly and permanently terminated McEnroe’s domination of the men’s pro tour. By the time McEnroe realized what I had done for Lendl, it was too late. He was never able to again dominate men’s tennis even though he tried to “shape up.” It was a case of being a day late and a dollar short.
I began working with Ivan just after he lost to Jimmy Connors in the finals of the 1983 U.S. Open. Coincidentally, I had accompanied Connors to the men’s locker room with ATP trainer, Bill Norris, after Connors beat Lendl. Another coincidence: Martina Navratilova handily defeated her arch rival, Chris Evert, in the US Open women’s finals that year.
Through my diet and sports supplement protocol, Ivan had became the poster boy for what personalized sports nutrition counseling and training could do for a professional athlete. It was no surprise to me; my work with Martina Navratilova had helped her rise to the top of women’s pro tennis and stay there–which she publicly acknowledged many times.
By 1984, Ivan had become one of the fittest athletes on planet Earth. As Martina had before before him, he
began decimating the competition, effectively ending the reign of both Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. Ivan enjoyed his revenge and so did I.
Although all three players were roughly overall equal in tennis skill and competitive spirit, neither Jimmy nor John could possibly hope to match Ivan’s endurance, overall fitness level, strength, or mental focus that he enjoyed from following my counsel.
McEnroe attempted to diminish the value of my sports nutrition advice in a very public way; Connors had privately rejected its value, even though as he admitted to me when I ran into him at Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas, that he believed he won a tournament due to an ergogenic sports drink I gave him to take on court.
Ivan broke numerous records while setting new ones in the process, not to mention setting the bar very high for future champions–much higher than it had ever been in the history of the sport.
It’s Deja Vu All Over Again
In just a few months after beginning to work with me, Ivan could routinely make mincemeat of McEnroe, who would never again dominate men’s professional tennis. and in a case of deja vu, I was at again at the finals of the U.S. Open in 1984, only this time, instead of heading to the locker room after the championship match with Connors as I had in 1983, I was walking with the new U.S. Open champion, Ivan Lendl. Whom did Ivan defeat in the finals? Why, his former nemesis of course, Mr. James Scott Connors.
McEnroe Vs. Lendl: Head-to-Head Stats
NUMBER OF WEEKS AS #1
: Lendl: 270; McEnroe: 170
HEAD-TO-HEAD RECORD: Lendl: 21; McEnroe: 15
W = Wimbledon; USO = U.S. Open; AO = Australian Open; FO = French Open
TOTAL GRAND SLAM WINS:
Lendl: 8 — 2 AO, 3 FO, 3 USO
McEnroe: 7 — 3 W, 4 USO
GRAND SLAM RUNNER-UP APPEARANCES:
Lendl: 11 — 2 AO, 2 FO, 2 W, 5 USO
McEnroe: 3 — 1 FO, 1 W, 1 USO
GRAND SLAM SEMIFINAL APPEARANCES:
Lendl: 9 — 3 AO, 5 W, 1 USO
McEnroe: 8 — AO, 1 FO, 3 W, 3 USO