Well-heeled Wimbledon needs a touch of McEnroe attitude

Thu Jun 25, 2015 10:11am EDT
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By Mitch Phillips

LONDON (Reuters) - Watching a gray-haired, smart-suited 56-year-old John McEnroe speak with mature insight about all-things tennis it seems odd to think that many feel that what the sport needs is a dose of the "superbrat" attitude of the brash New Yorker’s youth.

McEnroe is still the number one off-court draw at the All England club which, as a "bunch of 70-year stiffs", once snubbed him by refusing to award him the usual honorary membership after his maiden singles victory in 1981.

That was the year when "you are the pits of the world" and "you cannot be serious" entered the sporting lexicon as McEnroe mixed sublime tennis with boiling frustration en route to eventually dethroning Bjorn Borg as Wimbledon champion.

At the time, McEnroe’s behavior, as well as the sharp tongue of fellow American loudmouth Jimmy Connors and Romania's Ilie Nastase, was considered an outrageous affront to an event where players were, and still are, termed "gentlemen" and "ladies".

Off the court too, the antics of the likes of Nastase, Vitas Gerulaitis, Boris Becker, Henri Leconte and Andre Agassi ensured there was never a dull moment.

Three decades on, despite the superlative tennis being served up by the game’s "big four", there is something of a yearning for that attitude to make a re-appearance.

The development of the Hawk-Eye system has just about eliminated the always entertaining rows with line judges while on-court microphones and fines seem to have deterred players from letting off steam.

Not that it ever seemed to stop McEnroe.   Continued...

John McEnroe of the U.S. argues with match umpire Gerry Armstrong during his fourth round match against Sweden's Mikael Perfors at the Australian Open January 21, 1990. Armstrong defaulted McEnroe in the fourth set of his match against Sweden's Mikael Pernfors, for being guilty of using "particularly foul language."   REUTERS/Mark Baker