Tatum O'neal has implied she was attracted to John McEnroe because he reminded her of her allegedly abusive father.

The 51-year-old actress had three children - Kevin, 29, Sean, 27 and Emily, 24 - with the retired tennis professional during their six years together as a married couple between 1986 and 1992, and claims he reminded her of her dad, Ryan O'Neal, who she previously claimed abused her as a child.

When asked whether it was John's temper which attracted her to him, she said: ''Absolutely''.

The 'Paper Moon' star continued to say her friends have previously suggested she fell for the 56-year-old sportsman because his fiery attitude was similar to Ryan's, but insisted he ''is a much better man'' than her father.

She told The New York Times newspaper: ''He was powerful. He could take care of me and let me hide. Because I had no inner core back then. I was so beaten down.

''Everybody says, 'Oh, you married your father.' I've heard that a million times. But John is a much better man than my father. A decent man. Is he bitter at me? Yes. Is that OK? No. But that's his problem.''

Tatum made claims about her father's physical and emotional abuse, which she attributed to drug use, in her autobiography 'A Paper Life', in which she also claimed to have been molested by her dad's drug dealer.

However, Ryan said at the time: ''It is a sad day when malicious lies are told in order to become a 'best-seller'.''