Chennai: Had YouTube been there in the 90s, Gerry Armstrong would have become a sensation. Gerry carved a niche for himself calling matches from the chair and as a supervisor on the ATP Tour since 1987, but he is better known as the umpire who belled the cat that was John McEnroe.
“Verbal abuse, audible obscenity, Mr McEnroe. Default. Game, set and match, Pernfors (Mikael),” announced Gerry from the chair defaulting McEnroe at the 1990 Australian Open after the maverick American unleashed a verbal volley on the umpire. McEnroe had already been warned twice in the match for intimidating a lineswoman and smashing a racquet. The archived footage of Gerry punishing McEnroe is a cherished video on YouTube.
Mention McEnroe’s name, pat comes a response from Gerry. “It was an infamous match. A lot of people started recognising me for that even though I have been a regular on the tour since 1987,” said the 57-year-old, who is the ATP supervisor of the Chennai Open.
Hailing from a British family of tennis umpires, Gerry started as a linesman before going through the ranks. His first tournament as a linesman was at the 1975 Wimbledon in which his father George officiated the final between Arthur Ashe and Jimmy Connors.
Over the years, Gerry has officiated a lot of high-profile matches, but he says those involving McEnroe are always memorable.
“There are a bunch of Wimbledon finals which is close to me heart. Stefan Edberg vs Boris Becker in 1990, Pete Sampras vs Cedric Pioline in 1997, Roger Federer vs Mark Philiposis in 2003 and Federer’s first Big W meeting with Nadal in 2006.
“But the one that stands out is an epic doubles final in 1992. It was McEnroe-Michael Stich vs Jim Grabb-Richey Renebery. It went over two days and the fifth set was 19-17. That was a riveting tennis though it was long,” recalled Gerry.
Gerry also recounted an interesting incident involving Goran Ivanisevic. It was a Tour match at Brighton in 2000 where Ivanisevic had to concede his match against an unseeded Hyung Taik Lee because the Croatian ran out of racquets after breaking it one after the other.
“The umpire called me on to the court to check what to do. I asked Ivanisevic’s doubles partner Ljubicic whether he had a spare one, but it was a different brand so he had no other choice than throwing in the towel,” recalled Gerry....