Sports

John McEnroe helping to find New York City’s next tennis star

John McEnroe hasn’t seen a player come out of New York and become a tennis star in a long time. Maybe since McEnroe himself.

And he’s trying to help develop one. After calling the Novak Djokovic-Matteo Berrettini U.S. Open quarterfinal into early Thursday morning, McEnroe was at Sportime on Randall’s Island to announce another wrinkle to his Johnny Mac Tennis Project.

The Johnny Mac Tennis Project has given scholarships to kids from low-income families who lack the financial capability to fully develop their children’s tennis potential.

McEnroe announced he’s expanding the program and looking for individual/institutional donors to sponsor a young tennis player from New York.

The Queens lefty legend is well aware no Americans made the quarterfinals on the men’s or women’s sides of the U.S. Open for the first time in its history.

In a motivational speech to 15 of his scholarship kids Thursday, McEnroe told them his tennis dream has still gone unfulfilled.

In referring to calling Djokovic’s victory in a match completed at 12:30 a.m. the tennis legend told the kids, “It would make it so much more exciting if one of you kids 10 years from now is playing in the U.S. Open final and what that could do to tennis in the New York area. It’s the greatest city in the world. It would be great to see more pros come out of here. I haven’t seen many pros come out of here the last 30 years — if any.

John McEnroe with scholarship winner David Clarke of The Bronx.
Johnny Mac Project

“That’s why I started this charity. It’s always been a dream of mine because growing up in Queens, eventually becoming the best player in the world, wanting to provide an opportunity for as many kids as possible to change their lives, get college scholarships they can utilize the rest of their lives. And possibly, maybe, one of you kids here will someday be a future U.S. Open champion.’’

McEnroe kicked off his new scholarship addendum by sponsoring on his own, David Clarke, a 13-year-old from The Bronx. The 8th grader finished last year No. 3 in the USTA’s 12-and-under division.

McEnroe hopes more donors come forward to sponsor tennis talents with financial barriers.

“I believe Dave wants it and believes he can get it,’’ McEnroe said.

McEnroe spent an hour hitting individually with all the kids. In his speech, he made sure to talk about mental health in light of recent events regarding Naomi Osaka.

“Novak is looking to be the greatest player that’s ever lived,’’ McEnroe said. “He’s worked extremely hard. It doesn’t mean you have to have this perfect diet at your age. You can wait. Be a kid. But he’s got himself to be at this tremendous place mentally. Try not to put too much pressure on yourself.

“We have to adapt. Some of these tennis prodigies are home schooled. We have to make sure they’re not more isolated since they’re already alone on the court, that they interact as human beings. Novak talks a lot about the mental part of it. Look at what’s going on with Naomi.

“It’s not something that wasn’t going on 40 years ago. We all feel stressed. These are type of things we have to make kids aware of and have them enjoy this process. Be a kid. You’re kids.’’

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