The tennis world has been in turmoil all week following the US Open Final between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka last weekend. The match was filled with tension between Williams and the chair umpire Carlos Ramos, who Williams called “a thief” after he accused her of cheating.
Williams, who is not known for holding back, lashed out at Ramos and verbally criticised him throughout the match. Ultimately, this cost her a number of sanctions, possibly the match, and a $17,000 fine ($10,000 for verbally abusing the umpire, $4,000 for receiving a warning about coaching; and $3,000 for breaking a racket.)
Williams claims that her male counterparts are often shown more leniency when they vent their frustrations at umpires. Furthermore, she often claims that she is unfairly treated in relation to the sport, such as being routinely drug tested more times than any other male or female player.
This is far from the first time that Williams has got into trouble on court, perhaps most notoriously in 2009 at the US Open in a semi-final against Kim Clijsters. After a foot fault from Williams that gave Clijsters two match points, Williams unleashed a rant that included a threat to the lines woman to “shove this ball down your throat”. On that occasion Williams was fined $82,500 and the point penalty awarded cost her the match.
Amid the debate about whether men are given more leniency in tennis, here are some of the biggest male outbursts from tennis history.
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I just wanted to write a quick message to apologise to the British davis cup team and all the fans who are coming to watch in Glasgow and support on tv. I have genuinely loved competing in this Davis cup format over the course of my career and have had some of the most memorable and special moments (the lob) of my career competing for my country. With this possibly being my last chance to compete in Scotland as a professional I really wanted to be there with team and found this decision emotionally quite challenging. I had spoken to our captain, Leon, about possibly coming to just play doubles but having been recommended to take a couple of weeks off hitting to continue my reconditioning I didn’t want to just show up not ready to perform to a high enough standard and ultimately let my teammates/country down. If I don’t get the chance to compete in Scotland again I just want to say thank you so much to all the fans who have come along to watch and support the team over the years. You have created some incredible atmospheres for me and the team to play in and I will always remember that. Having been born in Glasgow and growing up in Scotland I would never have imagined I would see such passionate fans packing out stadiums for tennis matches. Playing with my Big Bro in those stadiums has been very very special. Thank you so much again.. I’ll miss you 😢👋 🎼 by yon bonnie banks and by yon bonnie braes🎼 #tennis
At the 2016 Cincinnati Masters in Ohio British tennis player Andy Murray kicked a ball towards an umpire’s head and suffered no consequences for his actions. The umpire ducked, shook his head and then let the incident go. This is despite the ATP rulebook stating, “Players shall not violently, dangerously or with anger hit, kick or throw a tennis ball while on the grounds of the tournament site except in the reasonable pursuit of a point during a match”. Murray then then went on to win the match.
The five time champions Jimmy Connors enjoyed a fantastic run during the 1991 US Open, far exceeding everyone’s expectations for the then 38 year old. However, while his performance may have been pleasing, he was clearly highly frustrated.
In the fourth round of the tournament, trailing by a set, he hit an overhead that was called out by the chair, giving a set point to his opponent Aaron Krickstein that could give Krickstein a two set lead. Connors then delivered a verbal attack on the umpire, repeatedly calling him “an abortion”. Connors then won the next three points to even the match, and as well as attacking the umpire again later in the match, he went on to win the match.
The decade before that saw Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe battle it out in the 1982 Michelob Light Challenge. After getting into a bit of a fight with McEnroe, Connors said, “The boxing gloves are going to start coming out, I’m afraid”. The two went on to exchange words and McEnroe calmly asked Connors if he was going to beat him up. Connors almost took the bait, wagging his finger as he crossed the net to stand toe-to-toe with his rival.
The usually calm Roger Federer famously lost his temper in the 2009 Us Open final against Juan Martin Del Potro.
The match was level at one set all, and four-four in the third set when Del Potro hit a shot that was judged to be out. He then took his time before challenging the call, which triggered a surprise explosion from Federer.
Turning to chair umpire Jake Garner Federer snapped, “Don’t you have any rules for this? I wasn’t allowed to challenge after two seconds. The guy takes, like, 10. You can’t allow that stuff to happen.” The umpire then asked Federer to stay calm to which he responded, “Don’t tell me to be quiet, OK? When I want to talk, I talk. I don’t give a s*** what he said.”
Del Potro then went on to win the match 3-6, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 6-2. During the entire match Federer received no reprimand and he was fined just $1,500. This incident was just a few days after Williams was fined $10,000 for her clash with Kim Clijsters.
Back in 1991 the tennis legend Andrew Agassi called the umpire Wayne McKewen a “son of a bitch” and spat on him during a second-round US Open match. McKewen initially punished Agassi with a penalty point, but a supervisor overturned the decision and agreed with Agassi that the spitting was unintentional. However, Agassi was later fined $3,000.
Throughout his career John McEnroe was famous for his temper. One of the largest fines that he ever received was during the 1987 US Open final, when he was fined a massive $17,500 and given a two month suspension from the game for using profanity and criticizing calls.
Three years later, at the 1990 Australian Open, he became the first player in the Open Era to be defaulted from a Grand Slam match. He had avoided playing at the Melbourne major for almost his entire career, but made a late-career trip to the Australian Open and quickly set about making his mark. During the fourth round he menacingly stared down a lineswoman, smashed a racquet, and had a few choice words for the tournament referee. However, McEnroe was unaware that the rules of conduct had changed and reduced the number of warnings needed for a DQ from four to three. He was surprised at the decision but later said that he understood it.
Speaking to reporters at the time McEnroe said, “I don’t feel good about it, but I can’t say that I’m totally surprised. If I’d known the rules, I would probably have still broken my racquet, but I probably wouldn’t have said what I said to the guy.”
The American tennis player Andy Roddick has displayed his temper on a number of occasions. At the 2008 Australian Open he was playing a late night match in the third round when he came out with his now infamous “do you have ears?” diatribe. Following a bad line’s call, Roddick went on a two-minute rant, and at the same time delivered some advice to future generations, “Stay in school kids or you’ll end up being an umpire.”
A couple of years later, at the 2010 US Open, he was called for a foot fault. He repeatedly ridiculed the lineswoman who had called the fault, despite replays showing that he clearly crossed the line. Roddick then began to swear and question the quality of the officiating. However, he was not penalised, and the lineswoman was replaced after the set.
In 2012 at the AEGON Championships, David Nalbandian was leading his final against future major champion Marin Cilic when he lost his cool and kicked the linesman’s box following a break of serve. The box broke apart and he injured a judge’s chin resulting in Nalbandian receiving the maximum penalty of $12,560 for unsportsmanlike conduct. Furthermore, as he was stripped of $57,350 of prize money, Nalbandian’s total fine was $69,910.
Jeff Tarango’s famous outburst came at a time when he already had a bad reputation in the sport for cheating in junior play. At Wimbledon in 1995 he was fined $43,756 for “aggravated behaviour and conduct contrary to the integrity of the game.” After a disputed ace, he returned to the service line, shouted “shut up” at the fans, and then acted in disbelief when he was assessed a warning. He then went on to lambaste the chair umpire, for which he received another warning, and then amazingly, he walked off the court and quit, becoming the first player to do so in a major tournament.
Tarango’s wife, Bernadette then crashed Tarango’s press conference to announce that she had slapped the umpire, Bruno Rebeuh, twice because he “deserved a lesson”. In a report after the match Rebeuh said, “[She] walked up behind me, pinched and twisted my arm and then slapped my face twice and said, ‘Anyway, I will see you again’”
Tarango was then suspended from two Grand Slam tournaments.
Denis Shapovalov most likely didn’t mean to hit a ball at 90mph straight into the eye of a chair umpire at the 2017 Davis Cup, but it is exactly what he did and it led straight to a default. The umpire, Arnaud Gabas, suffered a fractured eye socket, underwent surgery, and was back in the chair just two months later. Since then, Shapovalov has said that he and Gabas have become friends.
The third round of the 2013 Italian Open saw a marathon tantrum from Viktor Troicki. He was upset at a call and then went on a four-minute rant. It started normally, but as the crowd began to laugh, Troicki built his tantrum up, making jokes about space, threatening to retire, and the culminated by dragging the cameraman on to the court to get a close-up of the mark.