Ranking the Most Ridiculous Tantrums in Tennis History

Jeffrey RuthFeatured ColumnistSeptember 26, 2013

Ranking the Most Ridiculous Tantrums in Tennis History

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    Serena Williams shows off her teeth, 2013 Australian Open 2013
    Serena Williams shows off her teeth, 2013 Australian Open 2013Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

    Tennis tantrums have taken many shapes and sizes throughout the sport's history. Certain players even evoke the imagery of outbursts merely by the mention of their names.

    Consider, for example, John McEnroe and Ilie Nastase.

    Yelling and racket breaking have become blasé, though. They are now the standard tantrum. The ridiculous sort go well beyond the norm to include the surreal, the politically incorrect and the outright criminal.

    Whereas McEnroe might have held up the action with a verbal outburst, Xavier Malisse found a different, enchanting way of halting the proceedings. Marcos Baghdatis discovered that breaking one instrument is never enough. And on and on go the tantrums.

    Check out the top five examples of this evolution of tennis tirades.

     

No. 5 Xavier Malisse 2005 Miami Masters

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    Stopping a match for a tennis tantrum is one thing. If it is halted because a two-year-old unexpectedly took over the court, that is quite another.

    In Miami's 2005 Masters event, Xavier Malisse played the role of toddler, and the court became his crib.

    It seems he was unhappy with a line call, and wanted to bring attention to the mark. However, he didn't gain the results he wanted and thought that acting out would put him in the power position.

    Well before the racket destruction and court kicking, the Belgian pony-tailed player actually lay down upon the sideline and petulantly refused to play. Fortunately, the chair umpire took on the part of good parent and simply ignored him long enough for Malisse to have to get up to receive more attention.

    For sheer, unexpected immaturity, this one is difficult to beat. Somehow the video is even more surreal without subtitles.

No. 4 Marcos Baghdatis 2012 Australian Open

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    A tennis tantrum is not a tennis tantrum if it only involves breaking one racket.

    Marcos Baghdatis did that thrice better at the 2012 Australian Open.

    What makes this ridiculous is the presence of two facets:

    1. He doesn't even stop at the rackets close at hand. Baghdatis rifles his bag for some extras, and the final two don't even make it out of the wrapper.
    2. The absolutely pleasant look on the Cypriot's face as he continues his assault is wonderful. He actually begins enjoying himself, and the crowd only cheers him on.

    It makes one wonder what would have become of the Xavier Malisse incident had the fans took his side, rather than verbally berate him.

No. 3 Goran Ivanisevic 2000 Samsung Open

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    Walking off a tennis court in the middle of a match is unacceptable by any standards. It does, however, make for a memorable tantrum.

    Goran Ivanisevic's self-imposed exile at the 2000 Samsung Open in Brighton, England, qualifies, then.

    For sheer enjoyment and tongue-in-cheek commentary, no one put it better than Reuters, via CNNSI.com:

    Goran Ivanisevic, the three-times Wimbledon finalist, was eliminated from the Brighton Open on Thursday because he ran out of racquets.

    The hard-hitting Croatian broke three racquets in his second round tie against Hyung-Taik Lee of South Korea and at 3-1 down in the final set was forced to abandon the match through 'lack of appropriate equipment.'

    Ivanisevic later told a news conference: 'It's me you know—unique.'

    What makes this special is the profound calm that took over as Ivanisevic strolled up to the chair umpire, shook his hand and continued on to the locker room. Just another day at the office, right?

No. 2 Lleyton Hewitt 2001 U.S. Open

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    Now, the tantrums take on a whole new life of seriousness. The final two contestants weren't just ridiculous.

    They crossed the line altogether.

    Lleyton Hewitt turned the gentlemanly sport on its ear when he decided to get more-than-personal with a linesman at the 2001 U.S. Open. Although he would claim later that, "I am not racial in any way," as reported by Telegraph.co.uk the record seems to speak for itself.

    Hewitt usually crowds the baseline as he serves. He doesn't often get called for the foot fault. It is true that many times players aren't docked for the offense. This time it was different.

    The Australian former number one couldn't believe it. The crowd couldn't believe his response.

    The most telling of comments offered during the tirade was when Hewitt pointed to James Blake and then to the black linesman and said, "Tell me what the similarity is."

    Not racist? At the very least, difficult to defend or rationally explain.

No. 1 Serena Williams 2009 U.S. Open

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    If Lleyton Hewitt's display of racial intolerance upped the ante of tantrums to a level rarely seen in professional sports, Serena Williams did him one step better at the 2009 U.S. Open.

    Her behavior wasn't just unacceptable, it was criminal.

    As with Hewitt, the incident began simply enough with a few ill-timed foot faults. Filip Bondy of NYDailyNews.com somehow managed to describe the spectacular meltdown with polite, proper language. His coverage actually became an ironic backdrop to Williams' tantrum.

    Serena Williams will be missing from the U.S. Open with a foot injury when first-round matches begin Monday, but her tantrum still echoes and rattles inside Ashe Stadium.

    The Tantrum was a remarkable tirade, really, a spectacular explosion of profane outrage that spilled all over the National Tennis Center's show court—directed at a smallish, Japanese lineswoman who had called a foot fault on Williams at the worst imaginable time. Among other things, Williams threatened to jam a tennis ball down the throat of Shino Tsurubuchi, who understandably appeared horrified at the notion.

    This represented, in a way, a final evolutionary step for the well-traveled tennis tantrum, as we have known it now for practically a century. "Had to be the all-time worst," says Bud Collins, the tennis historian and columnist. "The language and everything. It was ridiculous."

    Really, now. If Williams has caught the negative attention of Collins, that is saying something special. The long-time face of Breakfast at Wimbledon can put a positive spin on nearly anything in the tennis world. And when he describes something as "all-time" he is really covering a lot of ground. After all, he has seen much of the sport's history personally.

    Shame on Williams. Four years later, she was still smashing rackets and acting menacingly.

    One can only hope that after her success at the 2013 U.S. Open, she will begin living up to the "Serene" part of her given name.