Officials at the Wimbledon tennis championships announced today they had fined John McEnroe $500 for "an audible obscenity" following a doubles match Saturday night.
The incident occurred after McEnroe and Peter Fleming, who are trying to win the doubles title for the third time in five years, had beaten Bud Cox and Jakob Hlasek.
During the match, McEnroe had succeeded in getting the net judge changed following disputed calls. As the players left the court, he said something to a spectator.
Umpire David Mercer's complaint to a supervisor was upheld and tournament referee Alan Mills announced the fine.
This punishment, coming after McEnroe's tantrums cost him $3,350 in fines at the recent French Open, brings him within $1,200 of the $7,500 maximum for a 12-month period. Should he pass that figure, he would face an automatic three-week suspension, although he could appeal.
McEnroe has had a stormy first week at Wimbledon, but this was the first time he had been fined.
Mills was twice called to the court during McEnroe's second-round match against Florin Segarceanu. The New Yorker was given a warning for bashing the grass with his racket. He was given a penalty point for slamming a ball into the net between points, but this was rescinded after an argument.
"I want tennis to be more fun," McEnroe said. "Jimmy Connors says he gets fun from his tennis. I'm sure he's right and I want to do the same. I'm tired of all these arguments with court officials."
Wimbledon has seen more than its share of bizarre goings-on in its first week.
As the tournament began, the strawberry man fretted. The berries were scarce. There had been too much rain. "They're the thing one has to have," said Martin Sanders, Wimbledon's manager of strawberries and champagne. "Henley, it's Pimms No. 1. Ascot, it's champagne. Strawberries and cream are Wimbledon. If the weather is like this for a few more days, we should have a jackpot."
But the sun came out and stayed out, bringing berries and crowds galore. Maybe it's the sun spots, but everything has been a bit whacky ever since.
After the traditional Sunday respite, play in the round of 16 will take place Monday. One week into the tournament, only seven of the 16 seeded men and nine of the 16 seeded women remain alive.
There were cries of pain off the court, as well. Players have complained about everything from the food to foot faults to the courts and umpires they have been assigned.
It was also a week with real feeling, real charm, real farce. Ivan Lendl showed some emotion, admitting just how badly he wants to win a Grand Slam event. Martina Navratilova called a press conference to deny published reports in the New York Post that Nancy Lieberman was no longer a part of her entourage.
Trey Waltke became the first player in decades to appear on court in a cable-knit sweater, button-down shirt and white flannel pants, which he bought in the cricket department of a London department store.
The next day, 20 of the top male players, including McEnroe, signed a petition supporting Vilas, who has been suspended for a year and fined $20,000 for accepting guaranteed appearance money from a tournament in Rotterdam. For the most part, the signees refused to discuss the issue. Asked if he had read it, McEnroe said his father had "checked it out."
On the court, McEnroe would seem to be headed toward a final appearance against Jimmy Connors, the defending champion. Both are pleased that their games seem to be improving round by round. Lendl seems increasingly comfortable on grass, despite his allergy problems, but so did Mats Wilander until Roscoe Tanner taught him a thing or two about playing on the green stuff. If Lendl gets past Pat Cash, an Australian who was the junior Wimbledon champion last year, he could face Tanner in the quarterfinals.
Predictions, of course, are dangerous. Who could have anticipated that Chris Evert Lloyd would lose to Kathy Jordan (and a stomach virus) in the third round. Evert, who had won the previous three major tournaments, has been in bed, nauseous, ever since. She says she will try to remain in the doubles and mixed doubles competition.
"You guys said it was just a two-woman tournament," Navratilova said wryly. "Now that it's just a one-woman tournament, why don't you just give me the trophy. The way everybody's talking, I don't have to play my matches."
Despite that tongue-in-cheek twitting, a reporter dared to ask who she preferred to play in the final. "Bobby Riggs," she replied.
But it is not beyond possibility that she will meet Riggs' nemesis, Billie Jean King, who is alive and well at 39.