How to Throw the Perfect Tennis Tantrum Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

How to Throw the Perfect Tennis Tantrum

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Do you feel stressed? Do you feel as if the whole world is against you and you are left to cope with all its problems alone?

Do you ever get that feeling that the ball was on the line, but cannot bring yourself to appeal to the umpire? Do you believe that the chalk flew up or Cyclops, the fault-detecting machine, is itself faulty?

Do you think that the linespeople are wrong every time a linecall doesn't go your way? When you are in a situation similar to these, are you willing to shout, scream and break all the rules of etiquette just trying to get an overrule?

In that case, why don't you let it all out in a good, old-fashioned tennis tantrum?

There has rarely been one tennis tournament in the history of the sport that does not have at least one person having a tantrum. Notably, the famous tantrums always happen at Wimbledon, but some also happen at other Grand Slams1 on the circuit. Notably, it is usually the same people who have them.

These are the ways of throwing a tantrum at a Grand Slam.

The Haves and the Haven't Quites

There are some people who have built up considerable notoriety for throwing tantrums on the court. Several times. These include:

On the other hand there are those who wouldn't, or in some cases, haven't quite got round to doing one yet:

Types of Tantrum

There are many types of tantrum that have occurred during a tennis match. They usually happen in important matches, like semi-finals or even the final. As already noted, it is usually the same people who have them, and they each have their own particular style.

I Shall Not Be Moved

This involves let-callers. Unfortunately, with the invention of the electronic let machine, this type of tantrum is a little antiquated. However, it does not stop you from killing the net in any way possible.

First, the let-caller must take their time in deciding whether the serve clipped the net or not. A good five to ten seconds is appropriate. The tantrum must be done if the second serve (or the fourth quarter) is called a fault.

At this point, the player must go up to the umpire and appeal, then profusely insult the let-caller, letting them know of your persistence. For example:

I'm not gonna f..king run away from you like that f..kface McEnroe!
- Jimmy Connors, referring to John McEnroe when disputing a let-call.

It helps if you have a rival which you both hate and despise. In this case, Jimmy Connors refers to his.

This Really Is the Pit of the World

This occurs after every single linecall that doesn't go your way. The motto is: If it is disputed, you are always right. It doesn't matter what the umpire says, just argue.

Use every method: bend the rules, appeal all the time, throw your racquet, waste time, etc.

Remember - there is always a slight possibility that the umpire will overrule.

I saw chalk! Chalk flew up!
- John McEnroe, appealing to the umpire when a linecall didn't go his way.

And a few minutes later...

You cannot be serious! This is outrageous! I've never seen anything like this in my life! These are the pits of the world!
- John McEnroe, still not getting the overrule and now in full tantrum mode.

John McEnroe is arguably the father of the full-blown tantrum.

Language, Young Man!

Andre Agassi - one of the greatest tennis players in the world, is one of the biggest swearers as well. Code violations, warnings, fines; they all build up. And they all usually start off with the linespeople.

Wimbledon 2001 Semi-Final: Andre Agassi v Pat Rafter

There is a disputable linecall which does not go Agassi's way. Obviously, the usual player would appeal. However, Agassi swears instead. Quite audibly. A lineswoman hears this and reports it to the umpire who gives the annoyed player a code violation for obscenities on the court. Agassi gets put off by this, and Rafter serves out the set 7-6.

Advice for Tantrum Throwers: To avoid getting given a code violation, don't swear. However, an effective tantrum does involve swearing a whole lot.

Cyclops: Deus Ex Machina

This isn't really a tantrum, but more a disagreement over terms. However, it is worth mentioning on its own.

The fault-detecting machine used in Grand Slams is called Cyclops. It produces a beep every time a serve is a fault. It does prevent disputes on whether the serve was in or not and it is almost 100% accurate.

Almost, because there is one part of a service box which does cause some controversy. And it happened twice to Tim Henman.

Wimbledon 2001 Third Round: Tim Henman v Sjeng Schalken

Henman serves what looks like an ace in the bottom right corner of the service box. Cyclops does not beep, but the lineswoman calls it out, and the umpire takes it as read. Henman, however, appeals to the umpire. His reason is that Cyclops did not beep and therefore it was in, as Cyclops is such a great machine and is never wrong.

The umpire agrees with Henman and it is called an ace.


Wimbledon 2001 Semi-Final: Tim Henman v Goran Ivanisevic

Ivanisevic serves what looks like an ace in the botton right corner of the service box. Cyclops does not beep, and the linesperson cannot judge whether it was in or not. Henman, however, appeals to the umpire. His reason is that the ball was on the tramline, but out of the service box. As there was chalk on the ball, his reasoning is possible, but it was also possible that it was in. However, Cyclops is such a great machine and it is never wrong.

The umpire disagrees with Henman and it is called an ace. Henman then curses under his breath but is not picked up on the microphone.

In both cases, viewed through a slow-motion replay, these serves were actually out.

Advice for Tantrum Throwers: Don't quibble over rulings for a small advantage if they might bite you back later.

Cyclops: The Revenge

If you are really having a bad time with Cyclops, there is an alternative. Do what Andy Roddick did in his US Open 2001 quarter-final against Lleyton Hewitt.

When running back to hit a low groundstroke, trip over, slide across the court helplessly, way over the baseline, and slam straight into Cyclops. If done with enough force and enough speed, this should cause the fault-detecting machine to topple over and stay out for pretty much the rest of the match. A recipe for sweet revenge.

Patience is a Virtue

This applies to Venus and Serena Williams. Racquet-throwing and appealing are both specialities. A time-wasting episode is usually part of their tantrum.

Unfortunately, there aren't really any notable examples to their type of tantrum.

Advice to Tantrum Throwers: Just time-waste in any way possible. This should include throwing all your racquets and losing your head. Anything to put off the other player and increase your chances of winning the match.

The 'Ivanisevic' Tantrum

Ivanisevic's volatile temper is well known. Nobody can tell which of his split personalities will come into play. The personality responsible for Goran Ivanisevic's tumultuous and vicious tantrums is Bad Goran.

Bad Goran is the personality which comes into play when Ivanisevic is stressed, close to winning or on the verge of defeat. When this personality arrives, there is only a very slim chance of him recovering from it.

Wimbledon 2001 Final: Goran Ivanisevic v Pat Rafter

Ivanisevic thunders a serve down the line. A lineswoman foot-faults him. As it was his first foot-fault of the entire tournament, he gets a little annoyed. He serves his second down the line, but it is just out. He gets very annoyed.

The 'Ivanisevic' Tantrum in this case involves in order of occurrence:

  • Throwing the racquet to the ground
  • Kicking the net
  • Shouting and swearing at the umpire
  • Almost hitting a ball at the linesman who called the second serve out
  • Appearing to spit at the lineswoman who called the foot-fault

During his furious tantrum, Ivanisevic said:

I've just won the last five f..king points, don't do this to me!

Ivanisevic lost his appeal and the game went to Rafter, who then went on to win the set.

This was the full-blown, anger-filled, noisy and strangely entertaining tantrum that would make John McEnroe applaud. Another 'Ivanisevic'-style tantrum would involve breaking all three of your racquets and defaulting from the tournament due to lack of appendages to play with. For the highly-stressed and irritated, this is the tantrum to go for.

Or alternatively, this one:

The A-Rod Overrule

The young players involved in the New Balls Please campaign are renowned for their attitude on the court. Although they may look sweet and innocent to begin with, they will suddenly spark into a massive tirade of gesticulation and swearing.

US Open 2001 Quarter-Final: Andy Roddick v Lleyton Hewitt

It is the fifth set, with no breaks of serve. The score is 5-4, with Roddick on serve. The game score is love-15. Roddick and Hewitt are engaged in a massive baseline battle, with both smashing brilliant groundstrokes at each other.

The stress and tension is building up in the Arthur Ashe Stadium, with the capacity-filling crowd towering over both players.

Andy Roddick hits a massive forehand to the part of the court diagonally opposite him. Lleyton Hewitt is standing on the first tramline in front of the lineswoman, waiting to receive it but unintentionally blocking her view.

The ball bounces and the point is over. From Roddick's view, it was in. The lineswoman doesn't call it out, and all seems to be well.

Suddenly, the umpire gives an overrule, calling the ball out.

At this point, it must be made clear that nobody is quite sure whether the ball was on the line or just out. But the fiery 19-year-old Roddick is furious.

He throws his racquet across the court, goes up to the umpire and makes his argument quite clear, whilst thrusting his arms about around him and pointing repeatedly at the place where the ball hit. The veins are bulging out of his neck and he looks like he is about to climb up the umpire's chair and throttle the umpire if he doesn't get the overrule overruled.

The umpire, Jorge Dias3 tries his best to calm the understandably angry A-Rod, but gives the player a code violation for his F-word tirade and unsportsmanly behaviour.

However, the code violation could have equally been for this:

What the hell do you think you're doing?! It was in! It's 5-4, I'm love-15 down; you can't go and make a decision like that! It was in! What kind of umpire are you? You're an absolute moron!

Andy Roddick doesn't get the overrule overruled, then loses the game and the whole match.

Incidentally, it appears from the replay that it was in. The reason that the lineswoman didn't call it out was because she had the entire 5'11'' of Lleyton Hewitt blocking her view (not that it's necessarily a bad view in any case...).

The Perfect Tantrum

The perfect tantrum however, is one which is memorable like John McEnroe's, repeatable like Tim Henman's, violent like Goran Ivanisevic's, a time-waster like the Williams sisters', foul-mouthed like Jimmy Connors' and Andre Agassi's, and finally, as fiery as Andy Roddick's.

In fact, a bit like this:

  • Throw your racquet across the court. It doesn't matter if it breaks as you should have at least two spares left.

  • Swear at the linespeople and gesticulate rude signs.

  • Shout and appeal to the umpire, using flattery to get your way.

  • If this doesn't work, use swear words to get your way.

  • Turn around as if in defeat, then turn back and carry on insulting and shouting profusely.

  • If the crowd start booing, feed off their heckles.

  • Spit at anyone who you think is wrong, ie, the umpire, linespeople, innocent ballboys or ballgirls.

  • Shout and swear at your opponent if he/she is your arch-enemy. If he/she is not, then do not shout or swear at them as it is etiquette not to.

  • Call the umpire 'an absolute moron', or words to that effect.

  • Repeat until desired effect occurs or you run out of racquets to break. Whichever comes first.

  • After the match and for the rest of your life, you swear that the ball was on the line or chalk flew up.

Of course, you may get fined a huge sum of money, thrown off the court and forced to default from the tournament.

However, you do get the notoriety of being the most 'tantramatic' tennis player of all time.

Game, Set and Three Broken Racquets

So remember, when you feel the strain getting to you, and you are boiling up inside you, then let it all out. Not only will you feel much better for expressing your disquiet, but it provides great entertainment for everyone else.

Some Interesting Tennis Tantrum Trivia

  • Marat Safin broke a total of 48 racquets in 1999.

  • Marat Safin broke his racquets at an average of two per week in 2000.

  • Goran Ivanisevic started playing tennis at the age of seven. He also broke his first racquet at the age of seven.

1Grand Slam tournaments are the major tennis tournaments on the tennis tour. If a player wins all of these, they have won the 'grand slam'. Very few players have done this.2But her father probably makes up for this.3Ironically, the same umpire who was on the receiving of the 'Ivanisevic' tantrum.

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