John McEnroe, sport’s original superbrat, is advocating the radical removal of umpires in a bid to liven up tennis.
McEnroe made his stunning proposal while also recommending tiebreaks at four games all in the fifth and deciding set – rather than at 6-6 – in an effort to keep fans interested.
But it’s the former world No.1’s call to get rid of chair umpires that is sure to spark furious debate.
“There should be no umpires as well. That would maybe be a major innovation as well,” McEnroe told The Tennis Podcast when asked what changes he’d like to introduce.
“I’ll have to throw that in. That could excite things along with a tighter format, quicker format.”
It’s not the first time, of course, that McEnroe has sought the ditching of umpires.
He spent a career butting heads with officials and often demanded umpires controlling his matches be removed.
But he first raised the subject of permanently losing umpires and linespeople last year and now he’s continuing his crusade ahead of what shapes as another bumper summer of tennis in Australia.
The seven-times grand slam champion believes greater use of the challenge system, where players are currently allowed three unsuccessful challenges per set plus an additional one in a tiebreak – and having opponents umpire their own matches would really spice things up.
“So obviously there would be unlimited challenges and I think you’d see some little bloodbath between the two players,” McEnroe said.
“Or at least more of sort of this conflict that you saw back more in my day where the players seemed to be going at it more.
“It seems like to me they get along too well.”
Widely regarded now as tennis’s premier commentator, 56-year-old McEnroe believes earlier tiebreaks to decide matches are a must.
“In this day and age, people’s attention spans seem to be dwindling and the longer the match goes, it seems that it gets less compelling for too many people,” the American said.
“I think it’s too good a sport to not to try to think of ways to interest the fans.”