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Showtime Shines Documentary Spotlight on John McEnroe

Team World Captain John McEnroe and Team Europe Captain Björn Borg arrive on the black carpet during the Laver Cup Opening Night Gala presented by Moët & Chandon ahead of the 2021 Laver Cup at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston on September 23, 2021 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images for Laver Cup)

John McEnroe played—and sometimes lived— on the edge.

In McEnroe, a new Showtime sports documentary films, the mercurial McEnroe wonders if it was all worth it.

The compelling documentary film dives deep into the life of John McEnroe, one of tennis’ all-time greats who rose to world No. 1 for four consecutive years, all the while battling intense bouts of perfectionism and self-doubt.

The documentary will have its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on Friday, June 10th, and will be available Friday, September 2nd on all streaming and on demand platforms for Showtime subscribers, before making its on-air debut on Sunday, September 4th at 8 p.m. ET/PT. The film will release theatrically in the U.K. on Friday, July 15th.

Here’s the trailer for McEnroe.

McEnroe takes viewers inside the mind of one of the most controversial tennis players in the history of the sport as he traverses the streets of New York City over the course of a single night, retracing his life in previously unseen archival footage. From his upbringing in Douglaston, N.Y., to a Wimbledon semifinals run as an 18-year-old qualifier, to his sole year at Stanford University winning the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championships and his Hall of Fame professional career where he captured seven Grand Slam singles titles, the documentary covers everything inside and outside the lines.

“Greatness is a combination of things,” McEnroe says as the film opens. “You look back and you say, ‘Well, someone gave me an ability to do something better than others.’ You have to recognize that and put yourself on the line. Especially when you’re out there by yourself.

“And I didn’t do a good enough job of that. In fact, I did a sh—y job of it. I’m the greatest player who’s ever played the game, at this point. Why does it not feel that amazing? I felt like I was doomed.”

McEnroe’s journey to the top of the sport wasn’t just championships and accolades, there was loss and heartache along the way too. And while every sports icon needs a rival, McEnroe lost his when Björn Borg walked away from the sport at the age of 26 following a devastating loss to McEnroe at the U.S. Open Tennis Championship in 1981.

“The complexity, intensity and depth of John’s multifaceted persona makes this film transcend from sports documentary to character study,” said Stephen Espinoza, President Sport and Event Programming, Showtime Networks Inc. “John McEnroe is not just a tennis great; he is a true icon whose career created cultural touchstones and captured the world’s fascination.”

McEnroe features interviews with Borg, tennis icon Billie Jean King, doubles partner Peter Fleming and rock stars Chrissie Hynde and Keith Richards. While they attest to his impact on the sport and culture at large, it is McEnroe’s children and his wife Patty Smyth who provide a profound level of intimacy and take the film beyond sports biopic and into the realm of the deeply confessional.

“That singular drive is part of what made John great,” said younger brother Patrick McEnroe, who often sits next to John in the commentating booth at tennis Grand Slam tournaments. “And also, part of what maybe got in the way.”

McEnroe is the third theatrical documentary written and directed by Douglas (Warriors, The Edge). The film is produced by Sylver Entertainment with producers Victoria Barrell, Paddy Kelly, and Anna Godas for Dogwoof and executive produced by Simon Lazenby, Oli Harbottle and Gary Swain

“Everyone has an opinion on John McEnroe,” Douglas said. “In making this film I was interested in creating something intimate and unexpected. I had to get in his head and find out how he thinks. To reach as many people as possible, this film needed to tap into the universal themes of connection, purpose and love. What develops feels deeply confessional at times, as if John is interrogating himself.”