Wimbledon is widely regarded as the most prestigious tennis tournament in the world and players are desperate to flourish at the All England Club. Victorious stars stand resplendent in their all-white kit, bathe in the adulation of a genteel crowd and salute the Royal Family.
However, the pressure to succeed can result in some truly epic meltdowns when things go wrong. Players have smashed rackets, painted the air blue and left spectators spluttering into their Pimm’s glasses. These are the 10 biggest Wimbledon meltdowns of all time:
John McEnroe, 1981
The most famous tantrum in Wimbledon history belongs to three-time champion McEnroe. “You cannot be serious, man,” he shouted at umpire Edward James. “You cannot be serious! That ball was on the line.” He also called James “the absolute pit of the world”. The moment went down in tennis folklore, and McEnroe was fined £1,500 for his outburst. However, he went on to win the match and then the entire tournament, so he ended the week in profit.
Tim Henman, 1995
The clean-cut Englishman was actually the first player in the Open era to be disqualified from Wimbledon after a spectacular meltdown in 1995. He lost his cool after missing a volley in a doubles match, and he whacked the ball at the net in anger. However, his aim was wayward once again, and it ended up smashing a ball girl in the ear. Cue floods of tears and Henman being disqualified.
Jeff Tarango, 1995
The American was heckled mercilessly by the crowd after fans took umbrage with his delaying tactics during a third-round clash with Alexander Mronz. Tarango told them to shut up, and he grew increasingly irate as the match progressed. He demanded umpire Bruno Rebeuh be replaced and branded him “the most corrupt official in tennis”. In the end, Tarango stormed off court before the match ended, and his wife tried to slap Rebeuh.
Greg Rusedski, 2003
Rusedski was 5-2 up in his set against big-serving American Andy Roddick back in 2003, when a rowdy fan called “out” during a rally. Rusedski thought play had stopped, and he did not bother returning. The umpire refused to replay the point, so Rusedski went ballistic. He ended up losing the next five games, then lost the entire match and was fined £1,500 for his trouble.
Anna Smashnova, 2010
The Belarusian lived up to her name by smashing the ball into the crowd following her match against Katalin Marosi-Aracama in 2010. She was aiming for her opponent’s husband, who had allegedly provoked and goaded her throughout the match. However, Smashnova missed and ended up striking an innocent fan instead, leading to a hefty fine and a significant stain on her character.
Nick Kyrgios, 2015
The bad boy of tennis has lived up to his reputation with many a meltdown at Wimbledon over the years. The most memorable came in 2015, when he was admonished for muttering “dirty scum” during a heated clash with Diego Schwartzman. Yet Kuyrgios has frequently turned the air blue and thrown his toys out of the pram at Wimbledon, and he is likely to do so again in future. He is often among the favourites in the tennis markets due to his formidable talent, but he often loses his cool and ends up underperforming.
Victor Troicki, 2016
The Serbian star went ballistic after his opponent was awarded a match point during a clash with Albert Ramos-Vinolas in 2016. He seized the ball from a ball boy’s hand and demanded the umpire look at it. “No white!” he screamed. The official was unmoved, and Troiki called him “the worst ever umpire in the world”. He refused to shake his opponent’s hand after losing the match, and then called the umpire an idiot.
Daniil Medvedev, 2017
The 21-year-old Russian wunderkind announced himself as a force to be reckoned with when he dismantled world number three Stanislas Wawrinka on Centre Court. Two day later, he ended up throwing coins at the umpire after slumping to a five-set defeat at the hands of Belgium’s Ruben Bemelmans. Medvedev responded badly to going 5-2 down in the final set and demanded umpire Camilla Alves be replaced. When that request was denied, he began flipping coins as if to suggest she had been bribed. He ended up being fined $14,500 for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Novak Djokovic, 2018
Djokovic is normally unflappable in his pursuit of silverware, but he lost his cool and received a code violation for racket abuse in 2018. He smashed his racket into the ground after losing a point, and ended up arguing with the umpire. “You’re saying in the point if I toss my racket like this I’m ruining the court?” he said. “You think I ruined the court by tossing the racket two metres behind the baseline? Be honest! Come on!”
Fabio Fognini, 2019
Fognini yelled that “a bomb should explode here” after being placed on Court 14 for his straight sets defeat to Tennys Sandgren in 2019. The fiery Italian is never far from controversy, but this was his most memorable meltdown at Wimbledon. He also needed treatment after punching his racket into the grass during the match, causing his knuckles to bleed.
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