Andre Agassi, 1990 Lipton Open

From Hard courts: real life on the professional tennis tours, by John Feinstein:

As always, the Lipton was full of strange matches on the men’s side. None was stranger than Ivan Lendl’s three-set loss to Emilio Sanchez in the fourth round. Sanchez was a good player, solid on hard courts although more comfortable on clay, but he never seemed to beat the big names. This time he did – even after blowing four match points in the third set and letting Lendl break. Down 4-5, Lendl went up 30-0, serving to even the match. Then he collapsed, losing the last four points.
The wind swirled around the stadium throughout the match and Lendl clearly was unhappy with that. Lendl doesn’t like anything that takes away from his precision. Gerry Armstrong, umpiring the match, knew Lendl was in trouble when he tossed the coin before the match began and the wind took it.

“Ivan had this look on his face,” Armstrong said, “that said, ‘I want out of here’.”

Lendl certainly didn’t tank. He is beyond the stage in his career where he does that. But when the match was over he made no bones about the fact he was delighted to get out of town.

“I’ve never liked playing in south Florida,” he said. “The only reason I’ve always played here is because it was in my adidas contract. I committed to play this year when I still thought I was going to be with adidas. I’m not with them anymore, so I probably won’t play here again in the future.”

Now he was gone from the Lipton and not at all sorry about it.

Boris Becker was gone too. He lost a round earlier than Lendl, in the third, to Jean-Philippe Fleurian 7-6 6-1. Becker’s mind just wasn’t on tennis. He was in the process of breaking up with his girlfriend of the previous two years, Karen Schultz, and still not all sure about what he wanted to do with his life. Play tennis? Party? Save the world? All of the above? None of the above?
Becker didn’t leave Miami after his loss. He stuck around to play the doubles, reaching the finals with partner Casio Motta, and to hang out with friends. After starting the year on the verge of wresting the No. 1 ranking from Lendl, Becker had now dropped behind Edberg into the No. 3 spot. If truth be told, he didn’t much care.

With Lendl and Becker gone, the Lipton became your basic Andre Agassi-fest. There was no doubt that Agassi was playing good tennis. He won three straight three-setters over Andres Gomez, Jim Courier, and Jay Berger (who reached the semis when Sampras had to default), and then beat Edberg in the final.
Edberg was there only because a line judge had botched a call on match point in his quarterfinal against Jakob Hlasek. Hlasek had hit a half volley winner just inside the line while ahead 6-5 in the final set tiebreak. The line judge called it wide. Hlasek lost the next two points, and Edberg made the final even though he wasn’t playing very good tennis.

Agassi rolled him in four sets, then acted as if he had won Wimbledon.

“I guess people can’t say I don’t win the big ones anymore, can they?” he crowed afterward.

Clearly, the kid had lost touch with reality. Even Butch Buchholz wouldn’t claim the Lipton was a big one. Bigger than a bread box, perhaps, bigger than Memphis or Sydney or Bologna. But not quite up there with the Slams.
After all, the Slams all knew where they were going to be held the following year. As the workers began tearing down the temporary stadium on Key Biscayne, Butch Buchholz had no idea where his tournament would be held in 1991.

John McEnroe, Australian Open 1990

On January 21, 1990, at the Australian Open, John McEnroe becomes the first player since 1963 to be disqualified from a Grand Slam tournament for misconduct. Leading Mikael Pernfors 6-1 4-6 7-5 2-4, McEnroe is disqualified by chair umpire Gerry Armstrong after breaking a racquet and insulting the supervisor.
The last player to be disqualified from a Grand Slam for misconduct had been Willie Alvarez of Spain, in the 1963 French Open, 17 years earlier.

John Mcenroe

From John McEnroe’s autobiography Serious:

“In January 1990, I was playing Mikael Pernfors in the fourth round of the Australian Open. At one set all, I disagreed with a call a lineswoman had made, and I walked over to her. I didn’t say anything; I just stood in front of her and stared at her, bouncing a ball up and down on my strings. ‘Code of conduct warning, Mr McEnroe’, the umpire announced. That seemed debatable to me, and so I debated for a few moments. The umpire prevailed, and I calmed down and won the third set.

Then, serving at 2-3 in the fourth, I hit a forehand approach wide. Suddenly, on that very hot Australian afternoon – it was 135 degrees on the court – I saw red. I slammed my racket to the ground. The frame cracked. ‘Racket abuse, Mr McEnroe’, announced the umpire. ‘Point penalty’ My anger did not subside. I went up to the umpire, let him know how I was feeling for a minute or two, then demanded to see the tournament supervisor. The supervisor materialized and calmly said that a cracked racket frame was an automatic penalty. That was when I broke some new ground. As the supervisor turned away, I made an extremely rude suggestion, in a very loud voice. Thee was a gasp in the stands – McEnroe had topped himself.
‘Verbal abuse, audible obscenity, Mr McEnroe’, the umpire said.

Default. Game, set and match, Mr Pernfors

It was the only other time in my career, besides the doubles at the 1986 US Open, that I had been defaulted. I had also made history by becoming the first player defaulted out of a Grand Slam event in the Open era.

I plead idiocy – but I also plead ignorance. If you look at my career, you’ll see that in dozens of matches, I took matters to that edge where if I incurred one more penalty, I was gone. However, the one ond only time that I went over the edge, I literally didn’t realize that the default rule had been changed, from four steps to three.

At the moment the words flew out of my mouth, I thought, OK, I’ve lost the game. I thought that it was going to be four games to two in the fourth, but that I was still up two sets to one. I still felt certain I’d win the match. But when the umpire said, ‘Game, set and match’ the first thing I thought was that my agent, Sergio Palmieri, had forgotten to tell me about the rule change.
Obviously, I can’t just say, ‘It happened because my agent forgot to tell me about the change.’ Of course I have to take the responsibility for the whole incident. I truly believe, though, that if I had known the new rule, I would have contained myself. I sometimes went off the rails, but I always knew where I stood.