The 3 Worst Moments of Unsportsmanlike Conduct in Tennis History

Called the “Sport of Kings” for over a century, today’s royal family members, including Kate Middleton, love watching tennis at competitions like Wimbledon. The royal family, along with the rest of us tennis fans, have been privy to some foul cases of unsportsmanlike conduct on the courts.

Tennis pros will slam their racket on the ground or yell in frustration about a questionable call. Some even jump over the net to celebrate a victory. These moments don’t usually make it on TV. However, the worst examples of meltdowns are highly-publicized. These are the top three worst moments of unsportsmanlike conduct in tennis.

3. Serena Williams

This tennis star achieved her first Grand Slam at the U.S. Open in 1999. Now, Serena Williams has won 39 Grand Slam titles and more than $88 million in career prize money, reports CNN. The four-time Olympic gold medalist is a fierce competitor and isn’t afraid to call out a referee. Williams’ most publicized moment came at the 2018 U.S. Open against Naomi Osaka.

As the tennis star struggled to keep up with the much-younger player from Japan, Williams responded to claims from the umpire that she was cheating by accusing him of being sexist. Williams said, “I don’t cheat to win. I’d rather lose.” She asked for an apology and later called him a thief for stealing a point from her.

The outburst sparked a debate among tennis fans. Legendary tennis star Billie Jean King even chimed in on Twitter in support of Serena, saying in part it’s a double standard when women speak out publically as they get accused of being emotional and hysterical.

2. Lleyton Hewitt

This No. 2 rank is suitable for Australian tennis player Lleyton Hewitt as he pulled the race card during a rant. At the 2001 U.S. Open, the Australian faced off against James Blake, an African American tennis star.

During the match, “a black linesman twice foot-faulted Hewitt on crucial points in the third set,” The Telegraph reports. Hewitt stormed over to the umpire and screamed for the linesman’s removal, saying, “Look at him [the linesman] and tell me what the similarity is [pointing at Blake]. “I want him off the court.” After winning the match, Hewitt denied that his remarks were racially motivated, saying he is not “racial in any way.” The evidence spoke to the contrary.

1. John McEnroe

When people hear “tennis tantrum,” the first name that comes to mind is John McEnroe. The seven-time Grand Slam winner is famous for his rocky relationship and eventual split from actress Tatum O’Neal. But McEnroe more well-known for smashing, throwing, slamming, and otherwise destroying his equipment.

Fans enjoyed his lengthy outbursts and arguments with umpires. McEnroe’s most famous tirade came after a botched call from official Edward James during his 1981 appearance at Wimbledon. Although he won the match, his quote, “You can NOT be serious,” became synonymous with the athlete, who branded James an “incompetent fool.”

Honorable mention: Mischa Zverev

If you look at this topic from a standpoint of dollars and cents, Germany’s Mischa Zverev was slapped with the biggest fine in the history of tennis. During the 2018 Australian Open, Zverev bowed out of a first-round match he was clearly losing (6-2 4-1) against Korea’s Hyeon Chung. His cowardly exit cost him a record-breaking $56,165 fine ($45,000 in U.S. dollars).