John McEnroe – Game Analysis

John McEnroe - Game Analysis

Watching the professionals play tennis can give you a good insight how to play the game as they do. You can pick up invaluable tips and a number of ways to improve your technique as well as learning strategy and tactics.

Review video footage of the matches with your tennis coach or playing partner and look at parts of the game you know you have weaknesses, try to see how they cope in the same situation and take this into your practice and playing.

This blog looks into a rather controversial player, John McEnroe. McEnroe was as famous for his tantrums as for his good play. Undoubtedly he was a character of the game, and leaving out some of match tactics he was a great exponent of technique. He was one of the game’s classic net rushers, and had fantastic volley technique.


Mostly McEnroe uses an eastern grip, with his index knuckle on around bevel number 3, he swings inside-out and uses his body to generate power. But he does lose some acceleration by taking the racker back low rather than high. But his short compact motion lends itself well towards taking the ball early.


His backhand swing almost mimics his forehand one, he takes the racket back low rather than high and he has a short compact swing. Look how McEnroe uses his legs and body to lift and accelerate the ball. Overall he has a solid and strong backhand.


McEnroe also has a good effective slice, in particular when he uses it on low balls to advance into the net. McEnroe gets good results on his slice as he does not open up the racket face too much, and in consequence his slice shots really go through the court.


In some quarters it is believed that McEnroe is one of the best net players of all time. He plays the volley with a continental grip on both sides, and keeps the racket head very stable on the backhand as well as the forehand. Also notice that the racket does not move down too much on either volley.

Trying to play the serve-and-volley game properly is one of the most hard things to achieve in tennis and you must be able to incorporate the half volley also. McEnroe was one of the best exponents of this , he consistently manages to get difficult half-volleys deep to the baseline allowing him to move closer to the net.


McEnroe has a slightly unusual service action, he turns his back almost entirely towards the net in a very strange way. To be able to play the serve-and-volley game it is important to vary the speed, spin and placement which he manages to achieve despite his motion.

Watching McEnroe play is a great way for learning about serving and volleying and how he constantly looks for ways to probe to get into the net whenever he can. Although on the flip side of all this his temper and temperament does let him down, although some people say this is pure gamesmanship to put his opponent off. McEnroe is unconventional in many ways but still a tremendous tennis player.