The Worst Tennis Tantrums
Bad sportsmanship isn’t unique to open tennis. Over the years sports viewers have been exposed to all manner of infantile theatrics in a number of sports, ranging from the Oscar winning dives of football players in the FIFA World Cup, through to the relentless sledging of the Australian cricket team in the Ashes.
However, while bad behaviour on the field of play is as common to team sports as it is to tennis, it is definitely not as noticeable.
When Andy Murray decides to do his best impression of a hopelessly spoiled 9 year old in front of a few million television viewers, it happens on a virtually empty stage comprising his half of the court. Strangely enough the laser like focus of the crowd and the television audience does little to put players like Murray off this sort of behaviour, and over the years a number of men’s open tennis players have attempted to outdo one another in the tennis tantrum stakes.
Here’s our pick of the some of the worst behaved male tennis players of all time:
Since retiring from tennis, England’s Tim Henman has set himself up as the world’s greatest authority on the subject of Andy Murray. As part of his preoccupation with Murray, Henman has criticised the Scottish youngster for his behaviour on court.
Tennis fans who remember Henman in his heyday will find his statements about Murray somewhat ironic, particularly given that Henman is the only tennis player in history to be kicked out of the Wimbledon Open Championship.
Henman achieved this impressive feat by attempting to smash a hole through the head of one of the staff members at the 1995 Wimbledon Open. The incident happened during a doubles match when Henman reacted angrily to a failed play by thrashing a tennis ball in the direction of the nearest ball-girl.
Andy Murray has more in common with Tim Henman than being British and a perennial under-achiever. Murray has undoubtedly been the worst behaved player ever on the ATP Tour, and is widely despised outside the United Kingdom for throwing his toys (more specifically his racquet) around when things don’t go his way – which is rather often.
A testament to Murray’s bad behaviour is the fact that it’s difficult to isolate a single incident that has stood out during the course of his short and underwhelming career. This is because Murray balances inconsistency in his game with consistently bad behaviour, and has the rare talent of being as ungracious in victory as in defeat.
Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny makes our top five tennis tantrums list by virtue of an incredible performance of immature behaviour that he displayed at the 2008 Miami Masters tournament. Youzhny had just missed an easy shot while attempting to come back from 5-4 down in the third set when he decided to attack his tennis racquet with his head.
Youznhy whacked himself three times on the head in front of a stunned audience, opening a wide gash in his head, and forcing a stoppage in play. ATP authorities stopped just short of forcing Youzhny to wear a helmet in all future matches, and remarked that it was a good thing he didn’t play cricket.
Jimmy Connors takes the award for being the most foul-mouthed player in the history of professional tennis. Connor’s favourite past-time was swearing at umpires when things went against him, but the tennis legend was also not above scuffling with the crowd, as happened at the 1977 US Open.
Besides achievements in linguistics, which centred on introducing the F-word to juvenile tennis audiences around the world, Connors also managed to alienate other players on tour, building a deserved reputation as the least popular player of his era.
John McEnroe set the bar for bad behaviour in tennis matches during the 1970s. McEnroe boasted a complete repertoire of bad behaviour, ranging from racquet throwing, swearing and fighting with umpires to some of the most ungracious defeats ever witnessed by tennis fans.
It is estimated that McEnroe paid back a significant portion of the $12 million he earned out of tennis in fines for bad behaviour, swearing and misconduct. McEnroe’s behaviour was so despicable that he struggled to find endorsement deals as few companies wished to have their products associated with him.
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