The McEnroe brothers have talked up Andy Murray’s chances of winning the US Open – then knocked the Scot down by insisting he will never be in the same league as Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal, writes David McCarthy in New York.
Murray begins his quest for a second US crown against Czech Lukas Rosol on Tuesday, and is regarded as favourite for the Flushing Meadows title after his triumphs this summer at both Wimbledon and in the Olympic Games.
And with Djokovic, who starts his campaign on Monday, struggling with a wrist injury and admitting that he has had to contend with problems in his personal life, John McEnroe believes Murray has a great chance.
But he and his brother Patrick, a former US Davis Cup captain, insist Murray still falls just short of the trio of superstars who have dominated tennis for more than a decade.
Four-times US Open champion John said: “Novak is the most obvious obstacle to Andy.
“He has been playing at a level the last couple of years that Murray has not been able to attain. That’s frustrated him, but things have changed the last couple of months.
“It was a shock when Novak lost early at Wimbledon because the level he’d set the bar at was higher than anything I’ve ever seen as far as consistency goes.
“So there’s still a way to go for Murray to be able to do what Novak has done the last couple of years and is going to continue to try to do.
“But Murray’s playing the best tennis of his life. He seems to have everything in order. He’s in a good space.
“He wants to get closer, to be talked about in the same breath as these three guys that are three of the five greatest players that ever lived.
“Murray’s been meticulous, he has done a great job, but he still has a way to go even to get close to these guys.”
Patrick McEnroe is even more dismissive — which may serve to fire up Murray ahead of the tournament.
The younger McEnroe brother attained a career-high of worldbut never made a Grand Slam singles final.
Like his brother, he is never short of an opinion and will air them on ESPN during the US Open.
He said: “Murray’s got an opportunity, but he’s never going to get to the level of those others.
“I’m not meaning he’s not a great player – he is a great player, he’s got three Majors, two Olympic gold medals. He has the opportunity to win a couple more Majors.
“But I don’t think he has the type of game that can dominate week in, week out, for a long period of time, the way that those other three guys were able to do.
“He just doesn’t hit the ball as clean, as early.”
John is unconvinced that Djokovic’s injury is serious and believes the Serb may even be trying to play mind games in a bid to recover from his Wimbledon and Rio disasters.