Each day during the Australian Open we will take a trip in our tennis time machine to relive historical moments in the tournament's history. Today we will look at a classic John McEnroe lowlight from 1990. (Yesterday, we revisited Serena's first AO title.)
(January 14, 2013) -- Former World No. 1 and seven-time Grand Slam champion John McEnroe and the Australian Open were like oil and water back in the day. McEnroe, who fought tooth and nail to claim Wimbledon and U.S. Open titles during his illustrious career, never seemed to warm up to the event.
Johnny Mac rarely attended the "happy slam", and when he did, he was his usual brat-tastic self. Case in point: McEnroe's most memorable Australian Open moment came cloaked in controversy, as McEnroe was defaulted from his fourth-round match against Mikael Pernfors due to a rule change regarding player misconduct, which McEnroe claimed to have been unaware of.
Much to McEnroe's surprise, the old rule, which called for player misconduct to be punished by a warning, point penalty, game penalty, then a match default, had been replaced by a stricter version which called for a warning, point penalty, followed by a match default -- the game penalty had been removed. McEnroe, during his tantrum, had incorrectly assumed that he had more rope to play with, and ended up being defaulted when he thought he'd be surrendering a game at worst.
Reactions from players varied. "The bad thing is John obviously didn't know about the change of rules," Martina Navratilova said. "He's been much worse than this in the past and not even come near a default."
"It's a shame for the tournament that it happened, but players have to follow the rules," Stefan Edbgerg admonished.
After the incident, McEnroe would only return to Australia one more time, in 1992. In his five trips down under he never reached beyond the semifinals. He did reach three quarterfinals, but it will be his fourth-round exit in 1990 that will be most poignantly remembered by most.