Tennis player tantrums are always entertaining. Last night, Novak Djokovic’s 2020 US Open default – after hitting a line judge with a ball – reminded us they’re also really common.
The rules state: “Players shall not at any time physically abuse any official.” By accidentally striking a blow to the official’s throat, Djokovic ensured we’ll see a new male grand slam champion this year.
In doing so, Djokovic passed up a crucial chance to catch Federer and Nadal in his quest to be the greatest male tennis player ever. Let’s look at nine other top tennis player tantrums.
Henman’s ball girl
1995 Wimbledon was one to forget for 19-year-old Tiger Tim. Leading (and close to winning) his doubles match, Henman lost a service point and fired a ball in anger. It clipped a ball girl on the ear, reducing her to tears.
The crowd watched in amazement as Henman and partner Jeremy Bates became the first people to be disqualified from Wimbledon in the open era.
An apologetic Henman returned with flowers for the unfortunate ball girl the next day.
McEnroe’s expletive-filled tantrum
At the 1990 Australian Open, John McEnroe became the first player in almost 30 years to be disqualified from a grand slam.
The SuperBrat (30 years old at this point) got his first code violation for glaring threateningly at a lineswoman he felt had wronged him. Following it with broken rackets and rants at the umpire, he was soon sent packing.
Don’t like the crowd? Fire balls at them
Anastasia Rodionova didn’t like a portion of the crowd cheering for her opponent in a 2007 first-round match. Tied at one set all, she decided to give them a scare near the start of the decider.
It turns out launching a ball in the direction of spectators is frowned on and the Russian-Australian was disqualified. She later said: “If you’re afraid of the ball, don’t sit in the front row.”
Medvedev’s racism default
For those of you who haven’t heard of him before, Daniil Medvedev is the Russian brick wall and new favourite to win the US Open. Last year he hit headlines en route to the final after giving the crowd the middle finger.
In 2016 he was ranked 250 in the world. Competing in the Savannah Challenger, he was defaulted for questioning the “impartiality of the umpire, based on her race”.
Serena stealing Osaka’s thunder
Naomi Osaka’s tennis in the 2018 US Open final should have stolen the show.
Instead, Serena Williams took umbrage with the umpire’s code violation and penalty decisions claiming he was being sexist. Demanding an apology, she labelled the official a “liar” and a “thief”.
Osaka won 6-2 6-4, making her the first Japanese grand slam victor. In what should have been the greatest moment of her career, the crowd booed, and she wept. Serena later apologised to her young opponent.
Hitting an umpire in the face
Denis Shapovalov fell foul of his unconscious aim in a Davis Cup match against Britain’s Kyle Edmund.
Losing a service game, the young Canadian rifled a ball toward the heavens. Unfortunately, the umpire’s face got in the way and it was game, set and match to Great Britain.
Hitting himself in the face
Deep into the deciding set at the 2008 Miami Open, Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny lost a long rally. He didn’t have a problem with the umpire, however. Instead, he repeatedly whacked himself in the face with his racket.
Blood oozed down his forehead and the match had turned into a horror show.
Kyrgios chair antics
He may have got away with launching a water bottle at the umpire’s chair – “it slipped out my hand” – but Nick Kyrgios didn’t have the same luck when he threw his chair.
Competing at the 2019 Italian Open, the big-serving Aussie was already walking off court as his disqualification was announced.
Hewitt’s ‘not racist’ argument
Another Aussie, Leyton Hewitt, took issue with a black linesman who twice called him for foot-faulting. His American opponent, James Blake, was also black.
Hewitt screamed in his tantrum that the official should be removed on the grounds: “Look at him (the linesman) and tell me what the similarity is (pointing towards Blake).”
He later tried to claim his remark wasn’t racist.
Let us know if you think we missed any of the best tennis player tantrums.
In the absence of some of the most hot-headed players at this year’s US Open, world number one Djokovic made sure we still had something to talk about.