We're serious: McEnroe's Wimbledon rant turns 30

Fri, Jul 1

John McEnroe made a lasting impression 30 years ago at Wimbledon.

Sure, 1981 was his first Wimbledon title, defeating Bjorn Borg to avenge a loss in the all-time classic match the previous year.

John McEnroe
Robb HarskampClick here to see the full-sized version of this illustration.

But that may not be McEnroe's most enduring feat of the tournament. Or his career, even.

In that Wimbledon, on June 22, 1981, McEnroe scored his biggest upset. He was able to avoid a default after melting down and screaming at umpire Edward James after a disputed call.

After a shot was called out, McEnroe slowly approached umpire Edward James. "Chalk came up all over the place," he said. "You can't be serious, man."

But as the simmer turned to a boil, he unleashed history, screaming what the British newspaper The Independent recently called "the most famous four words ever uttered by a tennis player."


He followed it up by saying, "You guys are the absolute pits of the world."

The assault rattled the prim-and-proper British tennis scene. The tabloids, which had already labeled McEnroe "Superbrat," went into a frenzy. He was docked a point for the initial assault, and later lost another point after he slammed his racquet to the ground in the match.

The tantrum was merely the most famous example of his disdain for what he regarded as bad calls.

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