The 13 Nastiest On-Court Spats in Tennis History (Video)
Forget breaking a racket—that isn't too bad. These guys and girls are getting nasty.
Giving out abuse and getting physical with officials, fellow players and even getting nasty with the crowd, these really are the 13 moments where tennis players turned nasty on the court.
Some of these clips include scenes of aggression, even violence, and a lot of profanity. The worst of the English language has been bleeped out, but some may still be audible—and if you can read lips, then beware.
Native Spanish, French and German speakers may also want to cover their ears. I'm not a linguistics expert, but I'm pretty sure the things being said are not nice!
If there is a moment that you feel deserves to be on the list, comment with a link to the video and it might just get added in.
But for the moment, sit back, relax and don't be offended.
Andy Roddick: The Honorable Mention
The honorable mention goes out to those who didn't make the final cut, the spats not quite nasty enough to make it in here. For this slide, I can think of nobody better than Andy Roddick.
Forever falling out with everyone, Andy has become very inept at showing his disappointment and frustration with line calls and wet courts, but he's just not nasty enough to make it onto the list.
Another incident not lucky enough to make it onto the list is Lleyton Hewitt's long-running spat with James Blake that began with an apparently racist comment concerning Blake and a line judge back in the 2001 U.S. Open.
A worthy entry maybe, but neither player has ever made a big deal of it, and recent exchanges have been as simple as over-enthusiastic fist pumps—hardly nasty stuff.
13. Rafael Nadal vs. Chair Umpire and Referee
Thomas Berdych and Rafael Nadal have a little history on the tennis court, which made this match interesting even before the start of play. When the umpire made controversial calls, however, things started to boil over.
After a very late overrule from the chair, it looked like Berdych was the one about to lose his temper and spit the dummy out—but instead, he decided to challenge the call.
As Hawk-Eye showed that the ball was in (by a matter of milometers), the umpire proceeded to award the point to Berdych instead of ordering it to be replayed.
Nadal did not like this at all: Not only had he stopped playing, but he had returned the ball in court. Berdych should have been awarded the point only if his shot was deemed nonreturnable. It is difficult to claim a ball is nonreturnable when it was, in fact, returned!
Even after reading through the rule book, it is difficult to figure out what call the umpire and, indeed, match referee were making. Surely, as Nadal had returned the ball, the only option was to replay the point.
No wonder he went crazy.
12. Serena Williams vs. Chair Umpire: US Open 2011
Serena Williams is a big personality who won't take cr*p from anyone, even though she is pretty happy to give it out.
In the 2011 U.S. Open final, Serena was getting emotional. After missing a year with injury and health problems, she made a dramatic return to the game in time for the Flushing Meadows tournament.
After reaching the final, Serena was faced with Sam Stosur and quickly found herself a set down. Facing yet another break point, Serena was quick to celebrate a powerful forehand winner. The problem was—she was too quick to celebrate.
When she was informed that Stosur had been awarded the point as a result of the early celebration, things quickly turned sour.
Williams not only had one go at the chair umpire, but went back for more. In the end, Williams was fined a measly $2,000 for the outburst.
11. John McEnroe vs. Chair Umpire
This is probably the most famous spat there has ever been on a tennis court. The amount of times McEnroe has gone crazy on the court is barely countable, and at times it seemed like he was simply playing to the crowd, or even trying to distract his opponent.
I bet you already know what he is going to say!
Immortalized by Hugh Laurie in British comedy sketches, this outburst at Wimbledon in 1981 will go down in history as one of the greatest on-court spats ever. Not the most violent or rude of spats, even for McEnroe, it is his blatant disregard for the umpire that shocked the Wimbledon crowd.
In my opinion, the polite and upper-class voice of the umpire makes it for me: "I'm going to award a point against you, Mr. McEnroe."
10. Jimmy Connors vs. Chair Umpire
Jimmy Connors was always a colorful character during his playing days, but when playing on his 39th birthday at Flushing Meadows, emotions were running high. Up against Aaron Krickstein, just 24 years old, the aging Connors knew he needed things to go his way if he was to win.
The problem is, it didn't all go his way, and during a first-set tiebreaker, the chair umpire overruled a call he probably shouldn't have.
Then it started.
Connors, a five-time U.S. Open champion, let out a tirade of foul-mouthed abuse at the umpire, letting him know exactly what he felt. But it wasn't over there.
Eventually winning in five sets, Connors made sure the umpire knew exactly what he felt about him for the rest of the match.
9. Jeff Tarango vs. Wimbledon
Jeff Tarango was having a bad day—he must have been for this to happen. Back in 1995, at the All-England Club, the American ended his tournament in dramatic fashion by storming away from the court mid-match.
Beginning with a disputed call, things escalated enough that Tarango demanded to speak to an umpire supervisor, who was unable to calm the situation enough.
After Tarango received a code violation for claiming umpire Bruno Rebeuh was corrupt, he'd had enough and left the court. Although Mr. Tarango never made contact with Rebeuh again, his wife waited outside the changing area and slapped Mr. Rebeuh upon his exit.
In later interviews, Tarango spoke about how he had heard stories about French umpire Rebeuh being favorable to some players, although it was never proven and Rebeuh continued as an umpire for six years after the tournament.
8. Lopez/Monaco vs. Paes/Bhupathi
It's an age-old tactic in any sport to try and psyche out your opponent on the court/field/ice, but it's not very often that you actually see it work.
Yes, players get inside each other's heads and performance can be affected, but on this day, Feliciano Lopez and Juan Monaco really showed their emotion.
Leander Paes, who has been involved in more than one spat, and his doubles partner, Mahesh Bhupathi, (both of India) pushed the Spanish-speaking pair a little too far.
Both sides appeared to make deliberate efforts to hit the ball directly at one of their opponents before more verbal back-and-forth led to a confrontation at the net.
In the end it worked, and the Indians won in straight sets, showing that tennis isn't always played on the court; sometimes the match can be in the head.
7. Serena Williams vs. Line Judge: US Open 2009
Serena Williams has already appeared once on the list for a relatively easy-going outburst against the chair umpire at the 2011 U.S. Open, but this outburst was even more serious.
Having been called for a foot fault in the 2009 U.S. Open, Serena felt there was a chance that the line judge may have been wrong, so she politely asked if that was the case.
When I say politely, I mean Serena actually threatened to shove a tennis ball down her throat.
With the tie at match point against Serena, the code violation for foul and abusive language/threatening an official meant Serena lost the match without facing the match point.
6. Mikhail Youzhny vs. Mikhail Youzhny
With the match tied at one set each, Nicolas Almagro found himself needing to hold serve in order to defeat Mikhail Youzhny at the 2008 Sony Ericsson Open in Miami. Having battled his way to a match-saving break point, Youzhny felt he was in a good position.
A long and tense rally ensued, but it ended when Youzhny made an unforced error and left the ball in the net.
His reaction was unbelievable.
Where most players can control themselves, those who feel the need to express their anger generally smash their racket on the floor, but not Youzhny. He took it out on his own head, and the racket won.
With blood pouring from Youzhny's head, a medical timeout was called and the game was delayed at deuce and Almagro still needed to serve for the match.
Whether the delay affected Almagro, or if the (several) blows to the head simply motivated Youzhny, it was the Russian who came back and won the match, moving into the Round of 16.
5. Robert Kendrick vs. Leander Paes
World Team Tennis was a great idea, putting all the big personalities on court together. It showed that the tennis was entertaining, but also meant there was a good chance that personalities would clash.
Leander Paes has history in tennis, especially in doubles. He is regarded as a player who winds up his opponents very well, and back in July 2009, it worked again—this time with Robert Kendrick and his entire team.
It's likely there was a lot of verbal back and forth beforehand, but the first real sighting we get is when Paes smashes a volley into Kendrick's face. That move resulted in both team managers and John McEnroe on the same side of the court, ready to fight.
Kendrick responded differently, waiting to pounce. Later in the game, he smashed his serve way off target and straight at Paes, causing another managerial battle. Eventually, Kendrick's manager, Chuck Adams, was sent away from the match, but not before opposing manager Murphy Jensen and team member Olga Puchkova got involved.
4. McEnroe vs. Connors
There is no love lost between John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, especially not on the tennis court. Their biggest spat came not in a grand slam final, but a 1982 exhibition match in Chicago.
While most expected a light-hearted but competitive match between the two Americans, it soon became clear that this was more than a friendly exhibition to both of them.
A few back-and-forth moments resulted in this amazing scene where Connors crossed the net and confronted McEnroe face-to-face. McEnroe seemed calm but pushed Connors away before the officials got involved.
Connors went on to win the match in five sets after almost five hours of tennis.
3. Juan Ignacio Chela vs. Hewitt
Lleyton Hewitt has already made it onto the honourable mention slide, and he is there purely on a lack of evidence or nastiness. This incident with Juan Ignacio Chela, however, just shows it wasn't a one-off.
Granted, on this occasion it was Chela who provided the nasty, but Hewitt played the instigator. The Australian has made a habit of loud and enthusiastic celebrations when winning points, and Chela seemed to be getting sick of it throughout this Australian Open clash.
The tipping point came when Hewitt made a point of celebrating very loudly after Chela made an unforced error. As frustrating as that must be for any player, it did not warrant what came next.
Chela appeared to hit his next serve directly at Hewitt—either that or he was just a long, long way off target. Then, at the end of the game, he proceeded to spit at Hewitt.
A good amount of verbal abuse was given back by Hewitt, but in fairness to the Aussie, he could have reacted a lot worse after such a nasty moment from Chela.
2. Martina Hingis vs. France
Martina Hingis came so close to beating Steffi Graf in the 1999 French Open final, but just when she seemed in complete control, she took on the French crowd and lost.
Already a set and a break up, things started going wrong with a disputed line call. Hingis crossed the net and argued with the umpire, earning herself a code violation, and that got the crowd started.
From then on, Hingis played the bad girl, twice serving underhand and leaving for a bathroom break mid-set. The crowd really did not take kindly to any of it and, in the end, they came out winning the spat, as Hingis eventually lost to Steffi Graf and left the court in tears.
1. Daniel Koellerer vs. Stefan Koubek
Daniel Koellerer spent his days as a professional tennis player building a reputation as a questionable character, winding up opponents and smashing rackets.
In his career up to this match, Koellerer had already received two suspensions for bad behavior on the court. So imagine the surprise when they realize it was actually Stefan Koubek doing the throat grabbing back in 2010.
Well, that isn't the whole story. The video was rolling because Koellerer had already been the instigator, and had reportedly thrown verbal insults at Koubek, having knocked his racket from his hands.
The crowd's reactions—jeering the assaulted Koellerer as he left the court, and applauding Koubek—confirms that the video merely caught the last of the spat, and whatever happened beforehand meant Koellerer left as the bad guy.
Since that match in 2010, Koellerer received a two-year suspended sentence and fine for encouraging betting on his website. A year later, he was banned for life after being found guilty of match-fixing.
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