As Novak Djokovic prepares to face Pablo Carren-Busta in his French Open 2020 quarterfinal, our mind goes back to what happened the last time they met – a tennis meltdown. Meltdowns on a tennis court are still part and parcel of the game, as seen by that stunning event and below are a few that created a buzz in the world of tennis and saw the players involved get their fair bit of criticism and stick.
Novak Djokovic is one of the top players in the world, but his quest for a fourth US Open ended early this year when he was disqualified for hitting a ball in anger and striking a line umpire in the throat.
Djokovic called the moment one of the worst of his life, and he was clearly concerned for Laura Clark as she lay on the floor. His match against Pablo Carreño Busta was awarded to his opponent and the 33-year-old Serbian left the US without the trophy he hoped for.
The meltdown might have made headlines around the world, but it was far from the worst seen on a tennis court. It was made all the more news worthy by Djokovic’s standing in the world game.
As demonstrated by an infographic on the ATP Tour by Bwin Sports, Djokovic is currently the highest-ranked player on the ATP Tour and was a clear favourite to win at Flushing Meadows. His temper ensured that opportunity was not afforded to him, but his actions only follow in a long line of famous tantrums on court.
So let’s have a look at some of the top tennis meltdowns of all time, starting with one that coined a catchphrase still used today.
John McEnroe – Wimbledon 1981
McEnroe was still only a bright young thing when he took to the Wimbledon court in 1981, but his encounter with Tom Gullikson still gets mentioned today. Umpire Edward James called one of his serves out, to which the player then named ‘Super Brat’ reacted badly.
“You cannot be serious,” he shouted. “That ball was on the line, chalk flew up! It was clearly in; how can you possibly call that out? How many are you going to miss?”
McEnroe was docked a point for the outburst but still went on to beat the legend Bjorn Bjorg in the final for his first of three wins in four years in London.
If you ask us, that one looked in.
Serena Williams – US Open 2009
McEnroe’s point deduction didn’t have huge consequences at the time, but in 2009 a similar punishment saw one of the world’s biggest stars eliminated from the US Open. Serena Williams had a terrific year, winning at the 2008 US Open, then taking the 2009 Australian Open and 2009 Wimbledon. Back at Flushing Meadows, so faced Kim Clijsters in the semi-final, but found herself serving a tiebreak.
Her second service delivered a foot fault, at which point she launched into a tirade against the lines-woman. Her venom saw her docked a point, which subsequently cost her the game. She did recover though, taking three US Open titles in succession between 2012 and 2014.
Jimmy Connors – US Open 1991
The previous two tantrums have cost the player dearly, but in 1991 Jimmy Connors used his outburst to swing a game in his direction.
The 39-year-old New York native was trailing Aaron Krickstein by a set, when a ball was called out by the chair, leading to a second set point. The game teetered on the brink, but the home crowd were firmly behind Connors in his fourth-round tie.
The five-time US Open winner stormed towards the umpire, screaming at him as a cacophony of boos rained down on the court. The mood turned sour and the young Krickstein wilted, losing the set 7-6 and eventually going down 3-2.
Connors won his quarter-final match against Paul Haarhuis before going out in straight sets in a one-sided semi-final with Jim Courier.
Serena Williams – US Open 2018
Another incident involving Serena Williams and this one came in the 2018 US Open final. A code violation warning was followed by a point penalty for a second code violation before the chair umpire had no choice but to dock Serena a game for her continuing rants at him.
It led to Serena losing the final in straight sets to Naomi Osaka, who lifted the trophy in another round of boos from, presumably, Serena fans who thought she had been hard done by.