John McEnroe, the seven-time Grand Slam winner, has proposed that tennis should be played without umpires or line judges, as it could breathe a new lease of life into the sport.
That is just one idea that was put forward by the rebellious former player, and while he is known for being anything but conventional, he will have surprised many in the tennis world by saying that players should officiate matches themselves.
The American was known for disagreeing with calls on multiple occasions from umpires, an element of the sport that has become less common since the introduction of the Hawk-Eye challenge system in 2006, and it is has been largely unopposed by players since its inception.
It is a system that the three-time Wimbledon champion is happy for players to use, but he feels it could add to the excitement of the sport if players were allowed to challenge calls made by their opponent, as opposed to challenging officials.
The former world number one thinks it could also add to the excitement of the game for spectators.
He is quoted by the Guardian as saying: “You’d have a system where the players would call their own lines. All of a sudden things would get a whole lot edgier.
“But you could challenge it. Say the guy was, like, blatantly cheating and you challenge, people would be, like: ‘Boo!’ People would get way more into it. And then you’d be, like: ‘See this guy? This guy is such a cheater!’ It would be unbelievable for tennis, I promise you.”
Whether he is optimistic that these proposed changes could be implemented on the tour are a different matter, as he feels that he is likely to be in a minority with his thinking for the future.
“The problem is, there’s no way in hell they’ll do it. But I guarantee you that tennis would be like 30% more interesting,” he added.
The 55-year-old is also dismissive of the 25-second rule for serving, which sees players impeded for slow play between points, and is often enforced by French umpire Pascal Maria.
“I’m not sure that that’s a good rule, to be honest. I think you should go with the flow of the match. Sometimes it’s almost better," he said.
“I mean, God, (Jimmy) Connors and I would never have finished a match. Or (Ivan) Lendl. Some people do abuse it, but I just don’t think that’s a winning thing for tennis.”
Another change that McEnroe would make to tennis would be the abolition of on-court warm-ups before the start of matches and high-fiving between doubles players after points.
“Wouldn’t that make it interesting? Like, who’s the best starter? Then you could build it up like boxing: ‘On this side …’ And they could bounce around a little, and the first ball you hit is going to mean something. That to me is a great idea.
“High‑fiving doubles players when they miss returns – 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. But that’s just my opinion."
While his ideas may seem radical, McEnroe holds a high amount of concern for the growth of the sport, and he does not wish to see the format of the game remain the same, particularly if it wants to attract a new fanbase.
“You can’t just stand on your heels and do nothing. We’ve got to keep trying to do things, in my opinion, to grab fans.”
McEnroe was recently linked with the job of being the replacement for his old adversary Ivan Lendl as Wimbledon champion Andy Murray’s new coach, and he had said that he was open to the idea, but the Briton chose Frenchwoman Amelie Mauresmo for the job.
Viewers in the UK will be hearing plenty more points of view from the outspoken analyst, as he continues to work as a commentator and pundit for the BBC during their Wimbledon coverage, with the 2014 tournament beginning this week.
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