Wimbledon 2014: Let’s get rid of all the umpires, says John McEnroe... and he’s serious

He advocates players making line calls and challenging cheats to give game ‘a little edge’

Few players had more run-ins with umpires and line judges than John McEnroe. Now, on the eve of the tournament which featured some of his most notorious confrontations with officialdom, the veteran American is advocating the ultimate revenge. His latest plan to make tennis more appealing? “Do away with the umpires and linesmen completely.”

If you think McEnroe cannot be serious – and you are sometimes uncertain whether he has his tongue in cheek or not – it is clear that the former Wimbledon champion has thought through  the idea.

“You want a little edge,” McEnroe said. “If you had no umpires but you had a challenge system and the players called their own lines, all of a sudden things would get a whole lot edgier. Obviously it would have to be on every court. That goes without saying.

“You could challenge calls. If you thought the other guy was blatantly cheating you could challenge it. Then the fans would boo him and people would get way more into it. People would say: ‘See this guy? This guy is such a cheater.’

“It would be unbelievable for tennis, I promise you. The problem is, there’s no way in hell they’ll do it. But I guarantee you that tennis would be 30 per cent more interesting.”

He added: “You’d end up sometimes calling in balls that were out. Because I know as a kid that I would be mortified if someone said I was cheating. And it would be like you’d second-guess yourself.”

McEnroe, who commentates for BBC TV at Wimbledon and presents the phone-in programme 606 – or Six Love Six as it is pronounced for tennis purposes – on Radio 5 live, believes that tennis needs to widen its appeal.

“You can’t just stand on your heels and do nothing,” he said. “We’ve got to keep trying to do things, in my opinion, to grab fans.”

Another change he advocates is scrapping the pre-match warm-up. “Why the hell do players have to go hit a couple of balls with each other?” he asked. “They haven’t gone out and practised? Wouldn’t that make it interesting [if we abolished the warm-up]? Like, [we could see] who is the best starter. You would know that the first ball you hit is going to mean something. That to me is a great idea.”

McEnroe would also like to see an end to players being treated for cramp during matches. “That’s why you train for months and years,” he said. “Ivan Lendl would take great pride in seeing a cramping and exhausted opponent. You feel pretty proud of yourself because you’ve outlasted this guy and broken  him down.”

Any other pet hates? “High-fiving doubles players when their opponents miss returns,” McEnroe said. “That should be against the rules. I’m so sick and tired of everyone high-fiving no matter what happens. It should only be when something good happens.”

BUY WIMBLEDON TICKETS

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy