During the height of his stellar tennis career, playing on a tour in his late 50s never crossed John McEnroe's mind.
Rather, McEnroe was busy winning seven Grand Slam events and playing in one of the most memorable Wimbledon finals matches in the tournament's long history against Bjorn Borg. At 53, he may not have the endurance for playing five-set matches in Grand Slam tournaments now, but a competitor still lives in him.
So, he competes.
McEnroe is one of four former Grand Slam winners playing Saturday night at the Arena at Gwinnett Center in the Powershares Series Champions Shootout.
"It's sort of like a second chance for players," McEnroe said. "You stop playing at a very young age and a lot, if not all of the players, get pulled back into the sport of tennis. I get to go compete and they are actually playing me for this. There are not many sports, that as you get older, your body can hold up to it."
Saturday's event features McEroe, Michael Chang, Jim Courier and Mats Wilander facing off. Courier will face Chang in a one-set match at 6:30, followed by McEnroe Wilander at 8:15. The winners of the two matches then meet for the tournament title in an eight-game pro set match. Tough for older players, but more managable then full professional matches.
"If we don't feel somewhat lucky to be out there, there is something wrong with us," McEnroe said. "People want to see that we can still play at some level."
And McEnroe keeps playing at a high level. He currently leads the tour's standings, going into a tour stop Friday in Tampa before coming to Gwinnett.
"I'm giving away a good 10 years (to some of these players) and that makes it tough," McEnroe said. "Pretty much everyone at this point are quite a bit younger than me."
At some level, McEnroe has played on a senior-type tennis tour for about two decades. It keeps him in shape and strengthens his appreciation for current top players, aiding his television commentary.
"It helps me realize how tough it is," McEnroe said. "You forget how tough it is to excel under pressure."
The atmosphere in the events is more relaxed than regular tour events, though the players still compete once they hit the court. They interact with fans and are more accessible.
"(It gives) guys like myself a chance to go out there and allow the fans to see them in a slightly different light," McEnroe said. "I look at it as something that I didn't think I'd be doing, but I'm glad I'm doing it now."