8 of the Mightiest Tennis Meltdowns

Imagine this, you’re on court. Down 1-5 (30-40). You rip a down the line forehand winner. You get ready to celebrate because now you’re at deuce. This is the turning point in the match. You hear “OUT!” What do you do? Chuck your racquet over the fence of course! Tennis is a sport and every sport comes with it’s share of meltdowns, dramatics, and shocking events. Let’s go through some of the major events we’ve had in tennis history!


8. Friends with Benefits

Have you ever been so angry you walked away from a match? Well, that is exactly what American, Jeff Tarango, did in the 1995 Wimbledon third round match against Alexander Mronz of Germany. Tarango has been known, in part, for his crazy antics, which include his pulling down of his shorts against Michael Chang in Tokyo in 1994. During his match with Mronz, Tarango was getting ready to serve at 15-40 and 1-2 in the second set when he told some spectators to “shut up” eliciting a warning for an audible obscenity from the umpire, Bruno Rebeuh. From there, things escalated with Tarango calling Rebeuh “corrupt” by awarding matches and points to players who were friends. Tarango ended up being disqualified from his match when he walked off court because he did not want to play with such a “corrupt” judge. It’s hard for us to play against a player who calls bad lines, but can you imagine an “impartial” judge working against you?



7. Oh we’re serious…

No top list of meltdowns would be complete without John McEnroe. The former number 1 from New York was known for his fiery temper on the court. In 1981, armed at Wimbledon with a wood racquet and a headband to hold back a mane of hair, McEnroe serves what he believes is an ace against his fellow American, Tom Gullikson. When the chair umpire called the serve “out”, it gave rise to McEnroe’s iconic phrase “you cannot be serious!” The chair umpire awarded the point to Gullikson at which point McEnroe swore at the umpire causing another penalty. McEnroe would later go on to beat Bjorn Borg in the finals to win his first Wimbledon. The phrase gained so much traction that he titled his autobiography “You Cannot Be Serious”. Pick up your copy and see what it was like for an 18-year-old at Wimbledon to sky-rocket to world number one and live in a time when tennis players were treated like rock stars.



6. You can’t teach an old dog new tricks

The US Open has seen its fair share of freak outs and drama from all sorts of players. But one of the most memorable experiences came from a living legend, a 38-year old Jimmy Connors. He was bringing fans, both new and old, out to watch tennis as he tried to make a run for the trophy past what many would consider his prime. He won his first round match against Patrick McEnroe in a four-hour 5 setter. During his fourth round match (an incidentally his 39th birthday), Connors took on fellow compatriot, Aaron Krickstein. During this match, Connors was having issues with the chair umpire, David Littlefield. The most noteworthy exchange happened at 7-7 in the tie-break of the 2nd set.  During the point, Littlefield overruled  a call awarding the point to Krickstein. Connors, known for his outbursts on court suggested that Littlfield remove himself from the chair stating that he get “out of the chair, you bum” and then later called Littlefield an “abortion”. Maybe he expected the umpire to just hand him the match on his 39th birthday?



6. If at first you don’t succeed…try, try, again!

Racquet breaking, the epitome of showing everyone you’re angry and frustrated. Tennis fans have seen countless racquets broken as many players have fallen during matches. The Cypriot, Marcos Baghdatis, has broken his fair share….in one match. In the 2012 Australian Open, Baghdatis was down two sets to zero against Switzerland’s Stanislas Wawrinka when he decided to let out a tad bit of frustration, on FOUR racquets. It’s pretty understandable when you are down in a best of five match with a need to win every set afterward.  Many players find relief in the cathartic destruction of his or her racquet and while this may have been the case for Baghdatis since he did go on to win the third set, it did not prevent him from losing the match in four. Have you ever been close to destroying one of your racquets?




4. So close you can almost taste it

Most of the players on this list flew off the handle during the match but not this player. We all remember a time when we were up in a match, ready to win but then choked. It is such a horrible feeling. Jana Novotna did just that, but in the Wimbledon final in 1993 against the ever-steady Steffi Graf.  Novotna was leading the match 7-6, 1-6, 4-1 (40-30) in the final set when she delivered a string of double faults eventually losing the match to Graf 7-6, 1-6, 6-4. The young Czech player was overwhelmed with emotion that as she was receiving her runner’s-up trophy, she burst into tears on the Duchess of Kent’s shoulder. Talk about a meltdown!



3. I don’t think that’s what they meant by using your head

Smashing racquets on courts and benches are common not only on the professional but the recreational circuits. There is just something so great about punishing a $200 piece of equipment and releasing all of your frustration. Well, until you realize you need to replace your racquet. What is uncommon is taking that racquet and hitting yourself. That’s exactly what Mikhail Youzhny did in his first-round 2008 Sony Ericsson Open match against Argentinian, Nicolas Almagro. This Russian player who reached as high at 8 in the world has been known to break a racquet or two but this incident took the cake when he drew blood. After this particular meltdown, Youzhny collected himself and ended up winning the match. You know what they say, no pain no gain!




2. Dethroning of a queen

There has been such a long list of rivalries in tennis for the fans to enjoy. We’ve had Lendle/McEnroe, Evert/Navratilova, Williams/Williams (although no animosity in this rivalry exists) and countless others. There is just something to be said about rooting for your favorite that needs to elevates his or her game in order to win. Although many of these rivalries remain on court or in the bar, one sadly crossed the line. The young Monica Seles had quickly risen in the ranks of women’s tennis and was beginning to give Graf a run for her money in match ups (winning 4 of 10 match ups). Seles secured the number 1 ranking in 1991 and 1992 with her impressive winning of 7 of the 9 previous majors and her last win of the 1993 Australian Open led many to believe she would obtain a calendar-year Grand Slam. April 30, 1993 became one of the darkest days in Tennis History when a crazed Graf fan came on court and stabbed Seles in the back, causing her to withdraw from tennis for two years returning as a shadow of her former self.



1. She claims she was not at fault

The current number one WTA player, Serena Williams, has had her ups and down while on tour. From the Serena slams to the long list of ailments and injuries, Williams has been considered the greatest tennis player of all time. But her shining accolades have been subject to some blemishes. In the 2009 US Open semifinals match against Kim Clijsters, Williams’ had thrown her cool out of the window after a first set loss of 6-4. A line judge later called a foot fault causing an already disgruntled Williams to turn on the line judge claiming she would shove a tennis ball down the line judge’s throat.  This bit of drama came at an opportune time for Clijsters who was only up 6-5, 30-15. The line judge called the foot fault on a second serve, not only giving Clijsters double match point, but because of the nature of the meltdown and a previous racquet smashing, an additional point penalty was awarded giving Clijsters the match. Naturally Williams defended herself, stating she did not claim to be threatening the line judge. But you know what they say, no hell hath fury like a woman scorned.


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