John McEnroe famously screamed 'You cannot be serious!' 38 years ago today

John McEnroe of the USA

John McEnroe is known as a tennis legend, not only for his championship-laden career, but also his controversial antics on the court.

Never afraid to inform the umpire that he felt they had made a wrong call, it was on this day 38 years ago that he provided arguably the most memorable moment of his career and possibly in the sport itself.

McEnroe had already become well known for his short temper and been nicknamed 'Superbrat' by the press when he faced Tom Gullikson in the first round of the 1981 Wimbledon championship. 

He became irate when umpire Edward James ruled that his serve went out, initially barking "Excuse me?" before launching into a tirade after James explained his decision.

"You can't be serious man, you cannot be serious!" he screamed to the shock of the watching crowd.

"That ball was on the line, chalk flew up!" he continued. "It was clearly in, how can you possibly call that out? How many are you going to miss?

"He's walking over, everyone knows it's in, this whole stadium and you call it out? Explain that to me, will you? You guys are the absolute pits of the world!"

McEnroe was docked a point for his outburst and later fined $1,500 and threatened with disqualification, even though the crowd eventually applauded his complaints and replays appeared to show that he was right. 

Despite the controversy, he went on to win the tournament, defeating Bjorn Borg in an epic final to claim the first of three Wimbledon titles in four years.

"You cannot be serious!" became an iconic phrase associated with the American and was also the title of his 2002 autobiography.

He described the outburst as “a scream that came straight from Queens in my native New York, but that has travelled very far in the years since."

It may be almost 40 years to the day since McEnroe famously lost his cool, but watching it is still undoubtedly as entertaining as ever.

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