Tennis list: The most controversial players the sport has ever seen

Tennis has seen some colourful players who have generated controversy either for an offence on the court or outside in their personal life.

John McEnroe was notorious for his outbursts in Tennis and it earned him the nickname of 'Bad Boy of Tennis'. (Image credit: Twitter)

Tennis is a super-competitive sport. Physically, it is one of the most demanding sport of all time, with every part of the body being subject to intense exertions for close to two hours or for a massive six hours at least. There have been instances when the emotions of the game have gotten the better of the player. This has resulted in violent outbursts on court. However, for some players, the fame and the prize it offers might affect their personality off the court as well. These players have been known to create controversy both on the court and off it on various occasions. Here are instances of the most controversial players that have ever played the game of Tennis. 

Jeff Tarango (Wimbledon 1995 outburst)

In the third-round of Wimbledon 1995, Jeff Tarango was trailing 6–7, 1–3 to Alexander Mronz. During the course of the match, Tarango became infuriated with French umpire Bruno Rebeuh, who had ruled against the American several times. During the match, when preparing to serve, the crowd heckled Tarango and he responded “Oh, shut up!” Rebeuh immediately issued a code violation to Tarango on the grounds of audible obscenity. Tarango protested this and called for the tournament referee calling for Rebeuh to be removed. No relief was given to Tarango and he was instructed to continue to play. He then accused Rebeuh of being “one of the most corrupt officials in the game”. When Tarango said this, Rebeuh gave Tarango another code violation, this time for unsportsmanlike conduct. Tarango was furious as he packed up his rackets and stormed off the court. Tarango would be banned from Wimbledon. To make matters worse, Tarango’s wife would slap the umpire twice.

John McEnroe (Violent outbursts on court)

John McEnroe is without a doubt one of the greatest players the game has ever seen. However, his antics on the court were often subject to massive controversy. His behavior and his swearing at umpires would have been legendary meme-material in this era. McEnroe remained controversial when he returned to Wimbledon in 1981. Following his first-round match against Tom Gullikson, McEnroe was fined U.S. USD 1,500 and came close to being thrown out after he called umpire Ted James “the pits of the world” and then swore at tournament referee Fred Hoyles. He also made famous the phrase “you cannot be serious”, which years later became the title of McEnroe’s autobiography, by shouting it after several umpires’ calls during his matches. While playing and winning the tournament in Stockholm, McEnroe had an on-court outburst that soon became notorious. After questioning a call made by the chair umpire, McEnroe demanded, “Answer my question! The question, jerk!” McEnroe then slammed his racquet into a juice cart beside the court in anger, and the stadium crowd booed him. He was suspended for 21 days for exceeding a USD 7,500 limit on fines that had been created because of his behavior. As a result, he was disqualified from competing in the following week’s significant Wembley (London) Indoor tournament.

Bernard Tomic

An upcoming talent who has wasted all the opportunities plainly due to lack of enthusiasm or due to arrogance. Bernard Tomic was expected to make waves in Tennis in Australia but sadly, he has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. In 2012, Tomic was fined by the police on the Gold Coast three times in one day. Later that day he also ran from the police and locked himself in his house. In November 2012, Tomic pleaded guilty in court to failing to stop for police in his orange BMW M3 and was fined AUD 750, as well as being put on a 12-month good-behaviour bond. Tomic accused a police officer of trying to hit him. He was also found guilty of three other traffic offences committed in January and was fined a further AUD 1000. In July 2015, Tomic was arrested in Miami and charged with resisting arrest and trespassing.

However, the more serious allegations against Tomic was of tanking. Tanking refers to the practice of intentionally fielding non-competitive teams to take advantage of league rules that benefit losing teams. His various altercations with fans and officials make him controversy’s favorite child.

Novak Djokovic

Novak Djokovic may be a legend in the world of Tennis along with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. But, the Serb has had his fair share of controversies. In 2020, Djokovic organised a series of tournaments in Croatia and Serbia despite the surge in coronavirus cases. This resulted in plenty of new positive cases with Djokovic himself testing positive for COVID-19. This led to immense criticism from fans and fellow Tennis players. In the same year, during the US Open, he was disqualified after hitting a lines person with the ball. In the French Open, Djokovic was once again involved in a heated situation which saw him smash racquets in frustration. The No.1 Tennis player repeated it in the build-up to the Australian Open. His withdrawal from ATP Council Elections as well as the threat of a breakaway player’s body threatened the future of Tennis tours itself. Djokovic may be an 18-time Grand Slam winner, but he has also had his fair share of controversies.

Sportslumo Desk

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