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McEnroe Meltdown in Memphis

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John McEnroe, one of the greatest tennis players in history, had an on-court meltdown in Memphis that nearly cost him an eye.

Playing Wayne Ferriera in the Stanford Championships, a seniors event at the Racquet Club, McEnroe bent over and smashed a ball on the court in anger during the tiebreaker after the players had split the first two sets. The ball bounced up and hit McEnroe in the face, either on or near his eye. He remained bent over for about a minute holding his eye as the crowd hushed and Ferriera walked around to McEnroe’s side of the court to see if he was all right.

McEnroe resumed play but lost his temper a few moments later in the middle of the tiebreaker. He berated a linesman over a call, then turned his anger on the chair umpire, yelling “shut up” at him. The umpire promptly penalized McEnroe a point, which caused McEnroe to continue abusing the official as he walked to the side of the court. McEnroe sat down in a chair and put his racquet in his bag. It appeared as if he was going to quit, but a tournament official walked over to talk to him for several minutes and play eventually resumed.

McEnroe lost the match, refused to shake the umpire’s hand, and left the court. He is scheduled to play at least two more times in the round-robin tournament which features former touring pros over 35. The event mixes socializing with competition, and most of the other seven players generally smiled and joked with the crowd during play. McEnroe, however, was all business from start to finish, showing flashes of the brilliance that made him the number-one player in the world for part of the 1980s.

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