Legendary tennis star John McEnroe will undoubtedly go up against his toughest opponent this week – himself.
Michelob ULTRA invited the four-time U.S. Open champion to “celebrate his joy” and to look back at his career accomplishments. McEnroe will go head-to-head against five different versions of himself – in 1979 when he won his first Grand Slam title, becoming the world’s No. 1 tennis star in 1981, excelling as a tennis player in 1982, arguably his best year ever in 1984 and his final year on the ATP in 1992.
The match will pair technology and artificial intelligence to share McEnroe’s personal journey to becoming one of the best tennis players of all time.
John McEnroe told Fox News Digital it was an "awesome" opportunity.
“It’s awesome because it sort of gives me a chance to have my cake and eat it too. I sort of get to be involved in something, obviously not getting any younger, and sort of do something that’s like way beyond what I can even imagine technologically because I’m sort of like a dinosaur in that regard,” he told Fox News Digital ahead of the one-on-one matchup.
“This whole A.I. thing, me playing against myself, I get to look back and sort of play against myself – almost all of my best years – and then sort of see how this is put together and how this can work. I’m sitting there going, how the hell is this going to work? But I think I was very into it because I was like, if this works, this is going to look amazing. I’m leaving it up to the experts, the techno whizzes that are involved in this event that’s going to take place. I’m excited.”
John McEnore enters the arena.
McEnroe said there were a few things that drew him to the project – beer, Michelob ULTRA and the technological aspect of the event. He said the thought of playing against himself was surprising.
“I’m going to do something technologically more advanced than almost anything I’ve seen out there. I’m playing against myself. At first, I’m like, no you gotta be kidding. And then I was like no, no, this is really serious,” he said, adding that the event underscores Michelob ULTRA’s mantra of “it’s only worth it if you enjoy it.”
“I think that’s really for me apropos at this time because I felt like, especially the avatars that I’ll be playing, I wasn’t appreciating it this much despite all the success that was happening. This type of thing, I feel like it’s important as I’ve gotten older to sort of appreciate and enjoy things more. I think this is the perfect example of that.”
When asked by Fox News Digital who has the advantage going into the matches, McEnroe said it would be “safe to say” the older versions of himself.
“I’d like to tell you my experience at this stage will trump all athletic movement of my younger self but that would be probably a bit of a stretch. Even if I knew what I was going to do, like because I was playing myself so I knew what the young guy was thinking, I think that’s true. But I also think its true that it may be the younger guy might hit it so good that even if I knew what’s coming I might not be doing much about it,” he said.
The idea of playing an A.I. avatar also opens McEnroe up to some other potential historic matchups in the future.
He told Fox News Digital who he would want to face off against.
John McEnroe gets ready go square off against himself.
“Obviously, I would want to face Roger Federer on grass at Wimbledon, I’d like to play Rafael Nadal on clay at Roland Garros and I’d like to play Novak Djokovic at the U.S. Open. Those, to me, are (arguably) the three greatest players that ever lived. Rod Laver was an idol of mine and it’s hard when you play your idol, that would be different. But those would be awesome challenges. Obviously, unbelievably tough ones,” he said.
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The McEnroe vs. McEnroe match will be streamed on ESPN+ starting on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET. McEnroe’s brother, Patrick, James Blake and Ashely Brewer will be on the broadcast.
Ryan Gaydos is the sports editor for Fox News and Fox Business. Story tips can be sent to Ryan.Gaydos@fox.com.