Patrick McEnroe broadcasts while dreaming about sushi.
Illustration: Margalit Cutler
For the past few weeks, ESPN broadcaster and former tennis pro Patrick McEnroe has been quarantined in a tennis tournament bubble. The US Open usually draws large crowds to Queens – just ask any New Yorker who took train 7 in late August. There are of course no fans this year. "It has to be weird for the top players, of course, for Serena and Djokovic every time they go out there is a huge amount," said McEnroe. “But it's still a tennis match. It's not that different when you get between the lines.” In the tennis bubble, he's constantly looking at players he's less familiar with and watching the greats practice. "I'm sitting in Arthur Ashe Stadium, which usually seats almost 24,000 people. There are maybe 50 people here right now," he tells Grub. He's also drank a lot of La Croix while in his tennis bladder – "I'm obsessed with sparkling water right now" – and ate some favorites like sesame chicken and grilled charcoal pizza.
Friday 28th August
My day starts with the ESPN production meeting in the morning at 9am where we go through the TV schedule and get our stats sheets on all of the players and games of the day. This week I covered the Western & Southern Open tournament, which usually takes place in Cincinnati and this year takes place at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, which is the home of the US Open, which I also cover.
After the meeting, I had a protein frittata with broccoli, mushrooms, onions … and a little spicy sauce for breakfast. I like this cholula. That's what they bring us here, I'll take that. I wouldn't say I'm a spicy sauce connoisseur, but I added it a little more. When I was young, I didn't like spicy food at all. I got into that more in my later years. Brad Gilbert, my comrade at ESPN, is a strong hot sauce guy. Maybe his influence affected me a little.
I then prepared to post a pre-game comment about an hour later with my colleague Chis McKendry and former world number 4 James Blake (whom I coached as captain of the US Davis Cup team). I try not to overeat before going on the air. Sometimes I'm a little tempted to pound sugar.
For lunch I had a Greek quinoa salad with grilled chicken, cucumber, tomato, feta, olives and pepperoncini. And I'm obsessed with sparkling water right now. La Croix is my favorite with all of its flavors (passion fruit, lime, mango, and tangerine in particular). They have an incredible range of comment booths, different flavors of La Croix. I'm the guy who started it so everyone is drinking it now.
When I go to the stand, the stage manager is not allowed to be with us at the stand, but is in the outside area. They will ask me, "What do you want to drink?" And I say, "Bring me a La Croix." And they say, "What taste?" And I say: "Surprise me!" Because I love all the flavors and that they come up with something else. I like the plain old lemon and lime, but they have a limoncello that is new.
I finished my lunch break and watched the women's semifinals from the ESPN production booth. The games were the former US Open and Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka from Japan against Elise Mertens from Belgium and the two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka from Belarus against Johanna Konta from Great Britain. Then I prepared to go back on the air to do live game commentary in the men's semi-finals.
For dinner, I ate sesame chicken with peppers, onions, snow peas, sauteed bok choy, and fried vegetable rice, paired with a lovely bottle of 2018 Matthiasson Village Cabernet Sauvignon. Oh boy. I love sesame chicken with a really nice fried rice. This is definitely one of my favorites. I like the little sweetness of it; I have a sweet tooth.
I love my desserts. Ice cream is my favorite. Ben & Jerry is usually here on site. But we don't have that this year, so I'll have to try to avoid it. That would be my nightly treat when I do a late match, I get a little tired, I need that sugar buzz. I'm a big cookie and cream guy and I love the basics man. I love coffee. When I choose a flavor that has something mixed in with it, I always choose simple vanilla.
Saturday 29th August
Before my 9am production meeting, I made a delicious (and healthy!) Smoothie with strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, almond butter, almond milk, almond slices, and some whey protein from Jarrow Formulas. I'm not trying to fuck too much.
After the meeting, I went to the Hotel Bubble gym for a morning workout: 20-minute intervals of uphill hikes / jogging on the treadmill, followed by upper body workouts with weights for the back and triceps.
I got ready to go on air on ESPN2 this afternoon. First there were some pre-match comments before the men's final between Novak Djokovic and Milos Raonic, then some comments on the live match. After losing the first set, he came back in real Djokovic way to win the match. This made him the 2020 Western & Southern Open Men's Champion and the favorite to win the US Open (which he had previously won three times).
For lunch I had a pesto and quinoa salad with walnuts, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and mozzarella … and of course some sparkling water from La Croix! The tournament will take care of the food. There is usually food everywhere and you can choose. This year, due to strict protocols, we have to order our food three days in advance through the catering. They send you an email and you have to reply what you want for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
The pesto quinoa salad was delicious – I was surprised. But I was really interested in pesto. During the quarantine, my wife made an incredibly fresh pesto sauce a couple of times. I never really liked pesto until I went to La Cinque Terre, Italy years ago, before my wife and I had kids. We were relatively newly married and their family has a lot of Italians in the background. We went on some kind of family outing there and I just fell in love with the pesto sauce.
Growing up I was very simple meat and potatoes. You know my mom used to make a great Bolognese sauce. I feel like I branched out a little bit in my adult years. Traveling around the world definitely helped. Most of the time I was on the tour we were in Asia. Then I got into sushi and some of the Chinese and Korean dishes that I like. I love Korean BBQ – I went to some Korean BBQ spots in the village when my wife and I lived in the city. I would be lying if I said I remember the name. Hopefully with this craziness they stay in business.
My Saturday night started with an important pre-US. Open announcement meeting that lasted about two and a half hours. Because after that, they were kind enough to bring some good old-fashioned New York style pizza and fresh garden salads for everyone. I've always loved pizza. When I was on tour, as soon as I returned to New York, the first thing I would do was pick up a piece. I am not that special. Over the years I've learned to like the really thin style that you get in Italy. But there's still a New York piece up there.
Sunday August 30th
I made one of my favorites for breakfast this morning: Fage Greek 2 percent yogurt with fresh blueberries, almonds and a touch of honey. After breakfast, I had my morning production meeting, and then I got ready to go live on a special US Open Edition of SportsCenter. I was out with colleagues Chris McKendry, Darren Cahill and Brad Gilbert to finish the men's draw and to discuss the first round games.
When the SportsCenter finished, I had a fresh turkey wrap with cranberries, goat cheese, and baby spinach to enjoy while I watched Serena Williams practice on Arthur Ashe Stadium Court. It's pretty cool to see these great players practice. As I noticed, Serena focuses on a few small things in her exercises. It's amazing when you watch someone doing a few things.
I had dinner in my "Hotel Bubble" room, a few slices of thin crust coals, grilled ham and arugula pizza, and some roasted Brussels sprouts with walnuts and raisins (Brussels sprouts have been one of my all-time favorites in recent years). It's really good, it's one of my favorite foods where I live. I was able to have this delivered to me sometime last week.
After dinner, I recorded an episode of my Holding Court podcast (which I started in quarantine earlier this year after testing positive for COVID-19). I would normally record in my studio in the basement of my Westchester house, but my "Hotel Bubble" room works fine. I showed a preview of the Open. In most of the episodes I interviewed special guests / friends from the entertainment and sports world. My next guest this month will be tennis icon (and four-time US Open champion) Martina Navratilova. Past guests this summer have included Alec Baldwin, Ben Stiller, NBA greats Steve Nash and Dirk Nowitzki, tennis legend and six-time US Open champion (and my ESPN colleague) Chrissie Evert, and Billions creator and producer Brian Koppelman.
After recording my podcast episode, I was preparing for the opening games of the US Open tomorrow. Then I spent the rest of my night relaxing with a glass of vino.
Monday 31st August
For breakfast, I kept it simple, just a protein bar and coffee before going to my 10 am ESPN announcement meeting.
I then worked out at the Hotel Bubble Gym late in the morning before heading back to the US Open grounds to prepare to go on the air around 1pm. for live game commentary with my brother John. But first I had to choose my outfits when I'm on TV: I went for a casual look for the day with a blue button-down shirt, and then a more chic look for the evening when I'll be back on Call the second game of the night on ESPN2. I opted for a pinstripe blazer, a white button-down shirt, and a blue silk tie with white daisies.
I had a Chicken Caesar Salad for lunch around 1:30 PM when I called the afternoon game with John. It is the men's first individual game on Arthur Ashe of the entire tournament with Alexander Zverev from Germany against Kevin Anderson from South Africa (a finalist of the US Open in 2017 who lost to Rafael Nadal). Zverev won. I like the chicken Caesar, I also like that I know what I'm going to get here. This is pretty healthy for me, I don't go croutons, the chicken is usually a pretty good chicken. The bonus is when I can reheat the chicken. Sometimes I go for a different dressing, like the balsamic vinaigrette. I don't always go to Caesar. I love salad and I love grilled chicken and I love parmigiano.
After the match, I had a break before getting ready for prime time that night. I was on the air with Chrissie Evert at the famous "Fountain Plaza" to do the intro segment before the opening ceremony and the night games. Later that evening, Chrissie and I called the second match of the night on Arthur Ashe, Naomi Osaka vs Misaki Doi. Osaka came out wearing the Breonna Taylor mask in the first round. It's amazing what she did to show herself off like this. It was definitely a topic of discussion for us on the air and it's something we keep watching. The tournament continues, just like the NBA, and it was nice to see someone like Naomi show up and be the leader in the tennis world. Over the years there have been many incredible tennis people – obviously Billie Jean and Arthur Ashe are the most obvious ones – speaking out on social issues and racial injustice. There is no doubt that Naomi took a big step and stepped forward.
Before I went back on the air, I had sesame chicken with peppers, onions, snow peas, sautéed bok choy, and fried vegetable rice again for dinner. The game between Osaka and Doi started at 10:15 p.m. and finished just before midnight. Osaka prevailed and won in the third set. But my night wasn't over yet … another match was played, so Chrissie and I ended the night with comments for the American Ali Riske against the German Tatjana Maria. Fortunately, Riske drove through the second set to win the match that ended a few minutes after midnight.
Tuesday September 1st
Before my 10am ESPN meeting, I made a power protein smoothie: spinach, frozen blueberries, bananas, raw almonds, peanut butter, flax seeds, chia seeds, organic semi-fat / almond milk, and ice cream. (I like to be icy and thick.)
We had a 3:50 p.m. late lunch, a gluten free chicken teriyaki wrap with cheddar cheese and roasted peppers and onions. The chicken teriyaki wrap, I won't come back to that. There won't be a second round. I usually like chicken teriyaki when it's hot and rice and there's broccoli and all. But the wrap was a mess. I wasn't done with that at all.
It was an easy day for me. I had most of the day off and then did the Venus Williams Match at night. That was a pretty good game. She played a seeded player from the Czech Republic, Karolína Muchová, who is a very good player. It was the first time in 22 years that Venus Williams lost in the first round of the US Open. She never has. It's amazing that she's still playing at 40. She hasn't been a factor in winning any of these over the past few years, but the fact that she's still playing out there and she loves it is pretty remarkable.
Serena turns 39 and she's still a factor in making this happen. It's just remarkable to think about how they started and their dad said they would retire in their early twenties and do other things. The fact is, they did other things. I think in a way that helped them have the longevity to want to play tennis for so long.
EAT LIKE THE EXPERTS.
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