To be a top performing professional in any competitive sport, you have to have a strong desire to win and a deep passion to be the best.
In the words of Patches O’Houlihan, “You gotta get angry, you gotta get mean!”
Those people who train harder than everyone else, who never let themselves off the hook after a loss, and who don’t get bogged down in celebrating a win but focus on the next challenge tend to be the ones who get to the top.
This almost machine-like obsession with winning can sometimes have side effects though.
Ultimately, there can only be one winner, which means a lot of equally dedicated sportsmen and women will lose along the way, and when that happens, emotions can get the better of them.
There are few sports where this is more true than in tennis.
Tennis has given us some of the angriest sports professionals the world has ever known, famous for racket smashing, screaming into the heavens – or at the umpire – and occasionally even whacking a tennis ball in the direction of an unsuspecting ball boy or girl.
Naturally, some players are angrier than others though, so in this article, we will meet some of the angriest tennis players to ever grace the court.
An entry on this list which will surprise precisely no-one, McEnroe is the original angry tennis player.
He had a very long career, and in that time became famous for losing his temper with… well, just about anybody and everybody.
Arguably his most famous meltdown was at Wimbledon in 1981, when he got into a barney with the umpire after a fault was called. Ironically, McEnroe was probably right about the fault being a bad call, but he was already on a warning and yelled, “You cannot be serious!” at the umpire.
He ranted for a while before play continued, but he couldn’t get past it and mouthed off at the umpire again later, calling him “the pits of the world”. A point was awarded against him, so McEnroe asked for the referee to come out and adjudicate, before calling the umpire an “incompetent fool” in front of the referee, at which point any support he had left in the stadium was gone.
This is just one of many outbursts from McEnroe. He has also been verbally abusive to the crowd on numerous occasions, got into spats with opposing players, and thrown so many insults at so many umpires that this article could be all about him if we tried to list them all.
Here are a few though:
- What’s wrong with you people? You can’t see the ball?
- You’re the worst umpire I have ever seen. You’re never going to work one of my games again.
- Answer my question! The question, jerk.
He was disqualified from the Australian Open in 1990 after a string of tantrums, including intimidating a lineswoman, smashing a racket, and swearing at the umpire and referee, costing him the tournament and a $6,500 fine.
His other most famous outburst came in the 1984 Swedish Open.
Already on a warning for firing a ball towards someone in the audience, McEnroe was one set down but leading 4-2 in the second, when a linesman called a serve long.
This triggered a sarcastic rant at the umpire who simply asked McEnroe for his second serve. McEnroe called the umpire a jerk, so a point penalty was awarded. McEnroe lost the game and went over to his bench in a huff, whacking all of the water glasses and soda cans with his racket, and covering the King of Sweden who was in the front row, with fizzy pop.
He won the match but was fined $2,100 for his behaviour, which ended up getting him suspended for 21 days because it took him over the $7,500 annual fine cap.
Hilariously, the fine cap only existed in the first place because of John McEnroe.
Jimmy ‘Jimbo’ Connors (he hates being called Jimbo) wasn’t just angry on the tennis courts. If his biography is to be believed he is probably one of the angriest men there ever was.
A regular adversary of John McEnroe, the two would often square up to each other during the 34 times they played, and occasionally it looked like pushing and shoving might be on the cards, although it never actually got physically violent.
It wasn’t just McEnroe that got the Jimmy Connors treatment though.
In 1988, he was so rude to Andre Agassi in the locker room, that Agassi has since said it spurred him on to beat Connors. Agassi had worshipped Connors growing up, and met him as a child, but Connors refused to acknowledge him. Agassi beat him 3 sets to nil.
He often got violent with his rackets too, smashing them onto the ground or into inanimate objects around him. He once gave the finger to the linesman and even put his racket between his legs in a crude gesture on another occasion.
He was also once caught on mic swearing and using homophobic language towards an opponent, although in his defence (if you can defend this behaviour) he was saying it to himself and this was in 1992 when certain types of language were more accepted.
He might have been incurably angry, but he wasn’t always wrong.
In 1982 during the Sydney Australian Indoor Championships, Connors was having an even worse time than usual with the umpire, who at one point changed his mind about a fault 3 times.
At this, Connors called for the referee and told him that “one of us has to go”. He then said to the referee, “This guy has no control of the game since we started, and I want you to send him out.”
He got his wish. The umpire was replaced in the 6th game of the second set, which Connors won, but he still ended up losing the match.
The female John McEnroe in many ways, or perhaps the ‘Karen’ of tennis, Serena Williams has an almost equally long list of temper tantrums, and is no stranger to warnings for verbal abuse either.
One example of a Serena Williams tantrum would be the 2019 US Open, when she was given a warning because her coach was allegedly making hand signals to her.
This enraged Williams, who repeatedly demanded an apology for the warning as it called into question her character. She also told the umpire he would never be on another court of hers as long as he lived.
Later in the match, Serena smashed a racket and was given a point penalty since she had already had a warning. At this, she accused the umpire of stealing a point from her, so the umpire levelled a game penalty against her.
The referee was called but the penalty was upheld, and Williams lost the second set and therefore the match shortly afterwards.
She then tried to claim sexism by essentially saying that men get away with much worse…
Back in 2009, again at the US Open, she had been given a warning for racket abuse when a lineswoman called a foot foul during a serve.
Serena Williams had lost the first two sets already, and was only one point away from losing the third and losing the match, so when she gave the lineswoman grief and allegedly threatened to kill her, the point penalty issued ended the match.
She denied any wrong doing and even avoided apologising afterwards until pressure mounted for her to do so, at which point she amended her statement on the matter to include an apology.
The wonderful thing about Andy Roddick, is that while he certainly has had angry moments, he’s also extremely funny as well, and sometimes these two personality traits collide to great effect.
For example, in 2011 when Roddick met Flavio Cipolla at the ATP Masters 1000 in Spain, he gave away a point when hitting the net on a fairly simple return.
It lost him the second game in the 3rd set, and he smashed his tennis racket into the clay, drawing boos and whistles from the crowd.
As he walked to get a new racket from his kit, which was next to the umpire’s chair as always, he asked the umpire if he had given him a warning yet.
The umpire said he was about to, but before he could, Roddick smashed the racket against his bench a few times for good measure, getting all of that extra anger out before the warning was given, and signalling to the umpire that he was done.
While most of the other players in this article don’t seem like particularly nice people, despite being undoubtedly brilliant at tennis, Roddick comes across more as a decent guy who just flies off the handle every now and again.
He was incensed after a dodgy call in the 2001 US Open quarter final, flailing his arms around and calling the umpire a moron, for which there was a code violation against him.
It was the final game of the 5th set, and the point penalty against him surely helped his opponent Lleyton Hewitt to victory. It was a terrible overrule, but Roddick’s behaviour didn’t help him.
On the other side of the coin, he did a tongue in cheek anger management video series teaching people how to hit a ball in anger, how to throw a racket, etc.
See? Funny guy.
We couldn’t mention everyone in this article, so went for those who were both very angry and very well known, but there are plenty of equally vein popping players that are not household names.
Here is a list of a few, with nicknames that might give you some clue as to how their emotions are most often expressed.
Before anyone mentions it, yes, we know the sulky Scotsman isn’t here anywhere, because even when he’s angry he’s boring.
Anyway, here’s the list:
|The Flinging Fury
|Little Miss Petulance
|The Banned Brawler
|Are You Not Entertained?
To be clear, these are nicknames we have made up for them, you won’t hear commentators using them on the TV.
That would be quite fun though, wouldn’t it?