Barney Douglas’ biographical documentary brings us the life story of one of the best tennis players of all time, John McEnroe. Although in recent years we have had a veritable flood of biopics about everything and everyone, this one is unique in that McEnroe himself tells his story and looks reflectively at his life and career. McEnroe himself is the narrator, and unlike many biographical documentaries that often focus on trivialization, mere listing of events or aim to create a monument to someone, the protagonist here brings his own view of well-known events.
Of course, all of this is enhanced by numerous archival recordings, interviews with witnesses of the time, and among them is McEnroe’s greatest rival, the Swede Björn Borg. Even in the moments when he has already passed 60 years, McEnroe tries to look at his life and career, to be honest and soberly and realistically admit that he is to blame for the many problems he got into and because of which his career was not even more successful. The first association with McEnroe is probably his grumpy nature, constant arguments with judges, outbursts on and off the tennis court, and we seem to forget that he was one of the greatest tennis players in history. The only one ever to be world number one in singles and doubles at the same time, the winner of seven Grand Slams in singles and nine in doubles, the only one to win more than 70 tournaments in singles and doubles and with a win-loss ratio of 82-3 in one year and still holds the record.
It’s a story about the pressure he had to deal with, the loneliness caused by constant travel and the realization that tennis is not everything in life. So at one point, Borg talks about how in the early eighties he had the status of the best tennis player of all time, and he wonders why he doesn’t feel that way? Why there is a void in him and how he realized that tennis is not everything, and only by retiring at the age of 26, which shocked the world, did he achieve some peace. McEnroe tells how as a kid, while making his way through, he dreamed of one day taking down Borg, and when he succeeded and when he said goodbye, how he missed someone like him who would push him to be even better. It’s as if McEnroe himself is trying to understand himself in his younger days, to understand what it was and how it happened, and we see that he is still trying to find some inner peace.