It was 30 years ago? You cannot be serious!

Fri Jun 24, 2011 4:58am EDT
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By Mitch Phillips

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - It was 30 years ago this week when John McEnroe uttered what has become the most immortal phrase in tennis, if not all sport, when he screamed "you cannot be serious" at a Wimbledon umpire while disputing a line call.

For players brought up in an era of Hawkeye electronic detection devices, when line-call challenges are enshrined in the rules of the game, it is impossible to understand the furor McEnroe's outburst caused in the civilized world of tennis.

McEnroe already had a reputation and had been labeled "Superbrat" by the British tabloid media for his verbal volleys during his previous Wimbledon appearances.

His moment came in a first-round match against fellow American Tom Gullikson, who was serving at 15-30 and 1-1 in the first set when a McEnroe shot was called out.

Approaching the umpire, he said: "Chalk came up all over the place, you can't be serious man."

Then, his anger rising, he bawled the words that would stay with him for a lifetime and, for all his wonderful play and myriad achievements, earn him a special niche in the sporting annals.

"You cannot be serious," he screamed. "That ball was on the line.

"Chalk flew up, it was clearly in, how can you possibly call that out?" he went on.   Continued...

<p>Four-time U.S. Open winner John McEnroe grimaces in pain during his exhibition match against former two-time Australian Open champion Ivan Lendl at the BNP Paribas Showdown at Madison Square Garden in New York February 28, 2011. REUTERS/Mike Segar</p>