The Biggest Male On-Court Meltdowns in Tennis History
Serena Williams was fined $17,000 after her controversial loss at the U.S. Open on Saturday
Tennis great Serena Williams was fined $17,000 following her controversial loss to Naomi Osaka on Saturday at the U.S. Open final. The match was filled with boiling tension between Williams and chair umpire Carlos Ramos, who Williams called “a thief” after he accused her of cheating. Williams, 36, did not hold back when it came to verbally criticizing Ramos throughout the match, which ultimately cost her the game.
The match has sparked a conversation around sexism in tennis, and in interviews with reporters following the loss, Williams said she feels her male counterparts are often given more leniency when venting their frustrations at umpires. She has also long spoken about the apparent unfair treatment she is given in relation to the sport, such as being routinely drug tested more times than any other male or female player.
Williams has had her fair share of on-court spats through her career, including an $82,500 fine in 2009. A break down of her fine following the U.S. Open loss reveals she was docked $10,000 for verbally abusing the umpire, $4,000 for receiving a warning about coaching; and $3,000 for breaking a racket.
“When a woman is emotional, she’s ‘hysterical’ and she’s penalized for it,” tennis great Billy Jean King tweeted after the match. “When a man does the same, he’s ‘outspoken’ & there are no repercussions.”
Here are some of the biggest meltdowns of male tennis players and the fines (and, sometimes, the lack thereof) that were imposed.
British tennis player Andy Murray kicked a ball toward an umpire’s head during the 2016 Cincinnati Masters in Ohio, and suffered no consequences for the action. One publication even lauded his actions, saying Murray had “showed off his football skills.”
Murray went on to win the match.
Five-time champion Jimmy Connors enjoyed an astonishing run during the 1991 U.S. Open, having surpassed everyone’s expectations for the then 38-year-old. But his performance did not do much to mitigate his frustrations, as Connors unleashed a tirade at umpire David Littlefield, repeatedly calling him “an abortion” throughout one of his matches.
Despite the insults, Littlefield did not give the tennis star a penalty, and Connors went on to win the match.
At the 2009 U.S. Open men’s final, Roger Federer berated umpire Jake Garner, repeatedly telling him, “Don’t [expletive] talk to me” and “Don’t tell me when to be quiet, okay? When I want to talk, I’ll talk.”
Federer was only fined $1,500.
Tennis great Andre Agassi called umpire Wayne McKewen a “son of a bitch” and spit on him during a second-round U.S. Open in 1991. Though McKewen accessed a penalty point for spitting, a supervisor rescinded it and sided with Agassi that the spitting was unintentional.
He was later fined $3,000.
McEnroe was infamous for his massive outbursts throughout his career. One of the largest fines he received came during the 1987 U.S. Open final, when he was given a massive $17,500 fine and two-month suspension for using profanity and criticizing calls.
Three years later during the 1990 Austrailian Open, McEnroe became the first player in Open history to be defaulted from a Grand Slam. He was fined $6,500 for smashing his racket and yelling at judges, and McEnroe could barely cough up anything resembling an apology after the match.
“I don’t feel good about it, but I can’t say that I’m totally surprised,” he told reporters then. ‘”If I’d known the rules, I would probably have still broken my racquet, but I probably wouldn’t have said what I said to the guy.”
American tennis player Andy Roddick was called for a foot fault during the U.S. Open in 2010. Roddick repeatedly ridiculed the lineswoman who called the fault, even though replays showed he did cross the line. Despite this, Roddick began to swear multiple times and questioned the quality of the officiating, according to the New York Times.
He was not penalized, and when the set was over, the lineswoman was replaced.
The Argentinian tennis player was fined a maximum penalty of $12,560 for unsportsmanlike conduct after he kicked a lineman’s box that broke apart and injured a judge’s chin during the AEGON Championships in 2012. Interestingly enough, Nalbandian was leading the match when the outburst occurred.
Because he was stripped of $57,350 of prize money, Nalbandian’s total fine totaled some $69,910.
Then 26-year-old Jeff Tarango was fined $43,756 in total for “aggravated behavior and conduct contrary to the integrity of the game” following an outburst at Wimbledon in 1995. Tarango had berated the umpire, Bruno Rebeuh of France, throughout his match, and yelled “shut up” at the crowd who became impatient with his complaining. Tarango called Rebeuh “the most corrupt official in the game,” and following the match, his wife reportedly slapped Rebeuh twice in the face.
“[She] walked up behind me, pinched and twisted my arm and then slapped my face twice and said, ‘Anyway, I will see you again,’ ” Rebeuh said in a report after the match.
Tarango was also suspended from two Grand Slam tournaments.