A skilled left-handed player known for his serve-and-volley style, McEnroe dominated professional tennis during the early 1980s. He clinched three Wimbledon and four U.S. Open titles from 1979 to 1984, defeating tough competitors like Bjorn Borg, Jimmy Connors, and Ivan Lendl. Throughout his career, he secured a total of 17 Grand Slam victories, including nine in men’s doubles and one in mixed doubles. With an impressive Davis Cup record of 41 wins and 8 losses in singles, and 18 wins and 2 losses in doubles, McEnroe played a key role in the United States winning five Cups. Despite his exceptional talent, McEnroe’s on-court behavior often drew attention due to his fiery temper. Nicknamed “Superbrat” by the British press at the age of 20, he became known for his frequent arguments and criticism of umpires and linesmen.

At the 1990 Australian Open, McEnroe, then 30 years old, aimed to secure his first major tournament victory since the 1984 U.S. Open. On January 21, he faced off against Mikael Pernfors of Sweden, a two-time National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) champion, in the fourth round. McEnroe comfortably won the first set, but Pernfors raised his game to clinch the second set. In the third set, both players exchanged service breaks, with McEnroe leading 2-1. However, during a changeover, McEnroe confronted a lineswoman he believed had made a wrong call, glaring at her while bouncing a ball on his racket. As a result, the chair umpire, Gerry Armstrong, penalized McEnroe with a conduct code violation for unsportsmanlike behavior.

More significant trouble arose in the seventh game of the fourth set, with McEnroe leading 6-1, 4-6, 7-5, 2-4 overall. After hitting a forehand wide and falling behind 15-30, McEnroe angrily threw his racket to the ground, causing it to bounce on the hard court surface. Another wide forehand from McEnroe led to another racket smash, resulting in the racket’s head cracking. Armstrong penalized McEnroe with another code violation, this time for racket abuse. McEnroe began swearing at Armstrong, demanding the intervention of Ken Farrar, the Grand Slam chief of supervisors. When Farrar arrived and spoke with McEnroe, his complaints and curses were audible to both spectators and TV viewers. With Farrar’s approval, Armstrong issued a third and final code violation: “Default Mr. McEnroe. Game, set, match.” The crowd of 15,000 spectators rose to their feet, expressing their support for McEnroe through boos and chants, while McEnroe himself stood stunned with his hands on his hips. The last player to be disqualified from a Grand Slam for misconduct had been Willie Alvarez of Spain, at the 1963 French Open, 27 years earlier.

During a post-match press conference, a calm McEnroe clarified that he had misinterpreted the regulations and was not informed about the modification of the previous year’s four-step default process to a new three-step rule: starting with a warning, followed by a point penalty, and then a default.

Throughout his career, the American tennis star often displayed emotional outbursts on the court, with one of his most memorable moments occurring when he exclaimed, “you cannot be serious,” during a match at Wimbledon in 1981. Another infamous incident happened nine years later.

McEnroe didn’t frequently participate in the Australian Open, and his appearance in 1990 was particularly regrettable. He faced the underdog Mikael Pernfors in the fourth round in Melbourne.

While the seven-time Grand Slam winner was known for his fiery demeanor, he crossed the line on this occasion. McEnroe received three code violations during his match with the Swede, leading to his disqualification.

His first warning came after he was punished for unsportsman-like conduct after intimidating a court-side official. This was then followed by a racket abuse violation, after he smashed his into the playing surface as the American’s temper began to boil over. As a result of his actions, McEnroe was disqualified from the match. It serves as a reminder of the importance of maintaining composure, especially when emotions run high on the tennis court. Additionally, incidents like these highlight the need for fair play and respect for officials and opponents alike, ensuring that the integrity of the game is upheld. These days, fans can even bet on tennis online, adding an extra layer of excitement to the sport.

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