Like every sport, tennis expects its players to be on good behavior when playing the game. Most players on the tennis tour don’t create trouble on the court, but tennis has its share of bad boys (and girls).
Bad behavior on the tennis court is not new. In his playing days, John McEnroe has regular run-ins with chair umpires and lines people. Every generation has its bad actors. That’s why tennis has rules in place to punish the offenders.
Common violations include abusing the ball, breaking the racquet, and audible obscenities on the court. Extreme violations such as hitting the umpires or lines people are less common.
Code Violations In Tennis
Point, game penalties, and defaults
The ATP (men’s tour) and the WTA (women’s tour) apply a sliding scale to code violations on the court.
- For the first violation, the player gets a warning
- For the second violation, the player loses a point
- For the third and subsequent violation, the player loses a game
- After the third violation, Supervisor can decide if subsequent violations constitute a default
Fines for code violations
For each violation, players also need to pay a fine. In many cases, players are involved in multiple code violations in a match – for example, breaking a racquet and using audible obscenities.
Ball and racquet abuse cost women players $2500 each, but the men only pay $350 for ball abuse and $500 for racquet abuse. Verbal obscenities cost both men and women players $5,000 per violation.
Unsportsmanlike conduct and not putting in proper effort cost the men $20,000, whereas it only costs the women, $10,000. If a coach is seen coaching a player from the stands, both men and women players will pay a fine of $5,000 per violation.
As you can see, the ATP and the WTA have taken different approaches to fines. For the most common code violations, such as ball or racquet abuse, fines are lower for the men than the women. This has led some to complain that women are treated unfairly and are held to a different standard of behavior compared to men.
Players who get the most code violations
Nick Kyrgios, Fabio Fognini, and Benoit Paire are some of the players who often get fined for their on-court outbursts. Fognini and Paire were breaking racquets so regularly that their racquet sponsor Babolat issued a statement criticizing their behavior.
Serena Williams, despite being one of the most successful tennis players ever to play the game, has racked up quite a few violations in her career. She has been fined for abusing umpires, and once for damaging the practice court at Wimbledon.
John McEnroe was in a league of his own when it came to causing trouble on the court. He was suspended from the tour multiple times for abusing officials.
Shocking behaviors by top tennis players
In 1995, Tim Henman was disqualified from Wimbledon after accidentally hitting a ball girl during a doubles match.
In 1995, Jeff Tarango called the umpire, “the most corrupt official in the game” before walking off the court. His wife slapped the umpire twice in the face. Tarango was banned from playing at Wimbledon in 1996.
At the 2012 Queen’s Club Championships, David Nalbandian injured a linesperson after kicking the advertising board.
At the 2016 Savannah Challenger, Daniil Medvedev was disqualified after questioning the impartiality of the umpire based on her race. His opponent was Donald Young.
In a 2017 Davis Cup World Group match, Denis Shapovalov (and Canada) was disqualified after hitting the ball in anger, but the ball hit the chair umpire.
At the 2020 US Open, where he was the favorite to win the tournament, Novak Djokovic the hit line judge and was disqualified.