We remember John McEnroe for a lot of things – the hair sticking out of those headbands, the impossibly tight shorts of his day, the way he crisscrossed the Wimbledon grass every summer, volleying at unreachable angles, annoying Jimmy Connors, stretching Bjorn Borg.
But the sharpest memories of Mac are the rants, the rasping New York symphony of anger that unsettled the tennis establishment and pushed TV ratings through the roof.
As much as the game is hitting a peak of unprecedented excellence, when Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray contest the men's championship at the All England Club over the next couple of weeks there will be no such aural theatre, no tantrums, no raw drama to go with the high-level physical struggle.
And McEnroe regrets that. He agrees with the Latvian timebomb Ernests Gulbis that the main players do not show their emotions often enough or say what they really think. "In some ways, it was a unique time in the sport, when I was coming up," McEnroe says. "There just seemed to be a lot of people that had personality. Personality was almost as important as how good you are. It's a big plus if we can get more of that."
Maybe things are changing. There are moments, such as Murray crying on Centre Court at Queen's on Sunday after winning his third title and just before taking part in an exhibition doubles match to raise money for the Royal Marsden hospital, where his friend Ross Hutchins was treated for cancer.
"People could relate to him as a human being a lot more easily," says McEnroe. "I don't suggest that we should start crying all the time. [But] I come from that school. Nadal and Djokovic do much more of that than Federer and Murray. If your personality means that's just not the way you do it and you've had the type of success that these players have had, it's not like you can say: 'Hey, listen man, can you just let it go a little more?' It doesn't work that way."
For Murray the trick is controlling those bubbling-under emotions, McEnroe says. "The emotion was negative. It's one thing if you turn negative emotion into better playing. It's another if you express negativity and your level of play drops. It was pretty clear that was happening with him. Some people – I won't mention names – for a while were able to use negative emotion in a positive way. But eventually, even for this unnamed person, it could get in the way of things."
That unnamed person won Wimbledon three times among seven slam titles and went on to harness his personality to the point where he has become one of the game's best commentators, again blessing the airwaves for the BBC.
"[Jimmy] Connors was incredible," McEnroe recalls. "He could come out with all different things. Murray's first step was the right one: try to clean up that part and get away from that, not being so negative. That has helped him. He does probably need a way to express himself and get some of this stuff out. If he could do it and be more positive about it, that would be incredible. It's easy for me to say. I'm not the guy having to do it now. I'm just the guy encouraging the person to do it."
He saw the manifestation of raw emotion during the London Olympics, as a nation got behind its athletes, nowhere more obviously than at Wimbledon.
"When the crowd started to really get behind Murray at the Olympics, that made a big difference. It bothered and annoyed Federer [in the final] because he never experienced, as far as I know, that people were actually against him. That benefited Murray. At first he wasn't doing a whole lot. But eventually he pumped his fist and jumped around a bit. That was great to see. You win an Olympic gold medal, you want people to jump for joy. And I do think it helped him to win the [US] Open."
McEnroe also thinks Murray's four-week break to rest his injured back – missing the French Open in the process – may help him at Wimbledon. "I made a calculated choice a handful of times not to play because I wanted to get myself ready for Wimbledon. That's exactly what he's done. Could he have played if he had to? Maybe he could have, I'm not really sure. The odds are by far the smallest that he was going to win [at Roland Garros]. So it makes sense to me, particularly if there is an issue, to try to regroup and come on strong at Wimbledon and the Open."
As for winning the title, McEnroe just missing out in 1980 inspired him to finally get there the following year, and he thinks the same might apply to Murray. "It was definitely big for me. It was huge. I really felt like that was my time and that was an opportunity I blew. It taught me something. It helped me down the road, because I realised that you have to find another gear you don't even know you have. This is the type of thing that Murray, if he's going to win a handful of majors and not one, he's got to learn. Can he? Absolutely. He's already had some of those experiences."
McEnroe concedes there is no escaping that the central theme of the modern game is fitness. Tennis has become a little cold, an intense, hyper-test of stamina, strength and will which can marginalise the finer arts of the game. Finals now regularly last five hours, brutal, daunting experiences for the players. But McEnroe sees subtleties in the debate that others do not.
"It's a different fitness and strength. The older players sound so feeble and pathetic now and it is a little unfair. Borg was as fit as anyone out there – and faster. I don't see a faster player. Ivan Lendl? You are not going to tell me that Andy Murray is fitter than Lendl? Maybe Lendl [Murray's coach] is saying it because he is being paid to say it. He wouldn't have said it three years ago.
"Murray has clearly had to work on his fitness like everyone. What you don't see in the same way are the Patrick Rafters, myself, serve-volleyers like [Stefan] Edberg: that explosive movement you have to make to move forward to the net and moving very quickly in certain directions. That takes it out of you.
"I suspect they are going to make some rule changes. A lot of guys play similarly now. Is it easier to serve and volley, explode forward, be ready to hit a volley – the movements are more intense – than what Lendl did, which is to serve bigger, stand in one place, move a foot or two in either direction, have the ball come back to you and control the point with your forehand?
"Are they moving more than people who were serve-volleyers? Yes, when you get caught in 30- 40-shot rallies, but that doesn't happen that often. How often do these rallies go more than eight shots, even on clay?
"I do think these guys are incredible athletes but you should not discount what was going on before, which was just a different style. You had to attack it in a different way. Someone is going to [go back to that sort of tennis], I am convinced of that. And they will do it well and start dominating. It is not over forever."
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