For those who argue that tennis is a gentleman’s game, you need only tune in to the Australian Open to find evidence of the contrary. Regardless of the ranking, or their nationality, the chances are high that should tension on the court hit breaking point, shots will be fired – only this time, they won’t be at the opponent’s service box.
Over the course of its history, tennis has granted us numerous dummy spits, some of them so iconic they’ve created their own catchphrase, like “throwing a McEnroe,” or doing an “Andy Roddick.” Federer might come to the court as an image of resplendent composure and glory, but even the man who has converted thousands of non-tennis fans into worshippers of his backhand is guilty of voicing his frustration out on the court from time to time.
But just how expensive is it to throw a tantrum on the court?
Admittedly, concrete figures are somewhat lacking when it comes to the penalties fronted by tennis players from smashing their rackets, at least when it coms to the ATP/WTA events. As for the International Tennis Federation (ITF) tour, the fines can add up.
For qualifying rounds, racket or ball abuse clocks a $US200 fine, which can escalate to $US500 for main draw rounds. But these figures can escalate into the several thousand of dollars category if the chair umpire sees fit, and there are a number of players who have had to foot the bill for their behaviour.
At the 2019 Wimbledon tournament, umpires handed down a record amount of fines in the competition’s first week. Russia’s Daniil Medvedev was fined $5500 for attacking the grass court with his racket.
Meanwhile, Serena Williams was slapped with a staggering $10,000 fine for “unsportsmanlike conduct” after the tennis veteran damaged an outside court at the Wimbledon Championships before the tournament began by throwing a racket during a practice session.
But all of that pales to the fine copped by Nick Kyrgios in 2019 during an ATP event, where a racket-smashing rant saw him fined $113,000 for audible obscenity, verbal abuse, and unsportsmanlike conduct.
It goes without saying that the rackets of professional tennis players aren’t cheap, which makes the prospect of a player voluntarily damaging it hard to fathom. But hey, tensions run high when you’ve got a world watching you and the pressure of a Grand Slam winner’s cheque on your hands.
It’s understandable then, that the only instrument you could get your hands on in the moment would be the first to go when presented with a duel with the turf.
Perhaps it’s time more racket manufacturers took a more hard-line approach. Like that favoured by Yonex in 2017, when it introduced a controversial clause that entitled the company to strip a chunk of their clients’ retainer for every racket smashed. Who could blame ole Yonex, a manufacturer that just wanted to retain its squeaky-clean image, and not be dragged into the mess of a player’s squabbles.
We may only be into the third round of the Australian Open, but as players get ever closer to that winner’s trophy, expect some more racket smashes – and fines – to be witnessed along the way.