© Ella Ling

Stars and Stripes

Top 10 worst moments for John McEnroe


The top 10 worst moments of John McEnroe’s career:

Defaulted from the 1990 Australian Open. McEnroe had already been warned for intimidating an umpire, and been given a point penalty for breaking a racket, when he told the tournament supervisor,”go f— your mother”.

John McEnroe’s tiff on a practice court with the wife of the Queen’s Club chairman. McEnroe was stripped of his honorary membership, and banished from the Queen’s Club, after swearing at the wife of the then club chairman on a practice court. McEnroe apparently argued with Sheila Boden after she had denied him practice time on a court reserved for a mixed-doubles match. He eventually apologised to the Club and returned in 1992, ending an eight-year absence.

Splattered across the front pages of the the world’s tabloids in 1992 were headlines trumpeting the breakup of McEnroe’s and Tatum O’Neal’s six-year marriage. The two volatile, headstrong personalities – ‘SuperBrat’ and the Oscar-winning actress once nicknamed Tantrum – had defied the odds by staying together for as long as they did.

Once a brat, always a brat. McEnroe’s opponent, Johan Kriek, that Kriek decided he couldn’t take it anymore. ”I work too hard to be treated like this […] That guy McEnroe has got a screw loose.” What had McEnroe done to deserve these comments? First, he had demanded that the chair umpire have the lights on a nearby practice court turned off, and when questioned by her about it, snapped back, ”Don’t give me that s—.” Later, when he didn’t agree with a call, he screamed to the umpire, ”Get the hell off the court, lady,” and then hit a ball that barely missed her. This was on the seniors tour.

Old habits die hard. McEnroe, almost 50 at the time, turned back the clock at a veterans’ match at the over-30s Hall of Fame Champions Cup in Rhode Island. After being given a warning for uttering an obscenity, McEnroe directed his frustrations at the umpire which was soon followed by another two penalties for his tirade. When fans started yelling at McEnroe, he responded with a gesture and was defaulted.

First-round exit at the 1990 Wimbledon Championships. McEnroe was handed his earliest ever exit at Wimbledon in 1990 by compatriot Derrick Rostagno, a long-haired Californian ranked 129th in the world at the time.

“You cannot be serious!” Probably McEnroe’s most memorable moment, which came at the 1981 Wimbledon Championships. It was in the second round, in his match against Tom Gullikson, that umpire Ted James called a McEnroe serve out, despite (according to McEnroe at least) a puff of white chalk kicked up by the ball. Cue McEnroe’s “You cannot be serious” spiel, which ended with the American describing James as “the pits of the world.” He then went on a swearing spree aimed at tournament referee Fred Hoyles for good measure.

Taking time out. McEnroe’s issues came to an abrupt head in 1986, when he took a six-month sabbatical. At the Masters Cup in New York McEnroe eventually crumbled, on one changeover telling his opponent Brad Gilbert: “Gilbert, you don’t deserve to be on the same court as me! You are the worst. The worst!” Beaten 5-7, 6-4, 6-1, McEnroe announced his (first) retirement aged 27. “When I start losing to players like him, I’ve got to reconsider what I’m doing even playing this game,” he fumed.

Controversy behind the mic. While McEnroe has generally proved an insightful commentator, he’s never veered clear of controversy. When talking about the women’s tour, Mac once said: “They shouldn’t be playing as many events as the men […] The women have it better in tennis than in any other sport, thanks to Billie Jean King. But you shouldn’t push them to play more than they’re capable of.”

King of the Kastle. On a hot and humid Washington D.C. night, World Team Tennis took over Kastles Stadium, but it was McEnroe who once again stole the headlines. Pairing up with Robert Kendrick against the New York Sport Times team of Leander Paes and Scott Oudsema, the two teams rallied neck and neck in some truly exciting tennis. Paes took advantage of an volley by pounding it over the net, accidentally whacking Kendrick in the process. Incensed by Paes’ actions, McEnroe’s blood boiled and squared up to the Indian shouting in his face, “Are you kidding me! You can’t do that!”


  • biffula

    Well, one thing McEnroe got right…..his comments about Serena not being the best tennis player in the world. She’s the best women’s tennis player, but not the best in the world.

    • KingCaster

      Correct. And they both will acknowledge that. It’s like saying the best female shot putter is the best shot putter. Makes no fucking sense. At all. Now OTOH I have no problem with someone saying “Federer or Laver is the best MALE tennis player of all time….” because that is true as well. Duh.

  • Jessica Roberts-Thomas

    #McEnroe what are your thoughts on #Djokovic and this default?