22 Jun: McEnroe’s Wimbledon Meltdown
John McEnroe was once the world’s No.1 tennis player, winning seven major Grand Slams. But he’ll always be remembered for his extraordinary rant against umpire Edward James at Wimbledon on 22nd June, 1981.
During his match with Tom Gullikson, James ruled that the New Yorker’s serve went out. McEnroe’s reaction – “You can’t be serious man, you cannot be serious!… You guys are the absolute pits of the world!” – staggered the genteel world of tennis.
In this episode, Arion, Olly and Rebecca discover that McEnroe had already established a bad-boy reputation with the UK press, who’d labelled him ‘superbrat’ in 1977; marvel at the reaction of the BBC commentators to the unfolding drama; and consider whether the general public would still actually remember who McEnroe was, if this had never happened…
• The rant unfolding (1981), from the ESPN Archives:
• The Washington Post, pre-rant, record McEnroe’s depiction in Britain as ‘superbrat’ (1979): https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/sports/1979/06/24/british-aim-fire-at-the-superbrat/7115ab3c-154a-4f5a-b99e-2632fbd2bc5f/
• John McEnroe on ‘Desert Island Discs’: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b08xxfz3