One clip that always seems to be thrown into match replays is a player smashing their racquet when they occur. It usually happens at a pivotal point in a match, and it can help illustrate how everything is going for one player.
Why do tennis players smash their racquets? It mostly relates to a player being frustrated or angry, but what triggers each player is slightly different.
Mad At Themselves
In a solo sport like tennis, it is very easy for players to get frustrated with themselves and start muttering words under their breath. As things get more and more frustrating, the volume of self-talking may begin to increase. It starts to boil to the point that the player gets so mad at themselves that they become physically frustrated, and that can ultimately lead to smashing a racquet.
When this happens, umpires have a little bit more flexibility as far as issuing any penalties. They understand the frustration that many players can have during a tennis match, and if the racquet smashing is very tame, they might even look the other way.
Some players slam the racquet against the ground, but it does not actually break. If that happens and it is very quick, the umpire might not even give a formal warning.
Only when a racquet actually breaks and the players are forced to replace it will an umpire be forced to take some type of action. Fans might also react negatively to this type of action, but a player has no one to blame but themselves in the situation.
Mad At The Opponent
Tennis matches can get very chippy between two players if there seems to be a bit of deception going on. Maybe the two players are arguing verbally, or they have a history of not particularly liking each other. That can ultimately lead to smashing a racquet as a way to let some frustration out.
It does not happen nearly as much as just being frustrated with individual play, but umpires understand that they need to deal with this issue much more quickly.
Violence is something that tennis has no tolerance for. Even a bunch of verbal arguing will lead to warnings to try to get everything under control. The umpire usually has a good handle on any arguments, but a racquet smash can lead to some pretty stiff punishments right away.
There have even been instances where players have thrown their racquet at least somewhat towards their opponent, which can do a ton of damage if they actually connect.
Mad At The Umpire
Sometimes, players are upset with the umpire for one reason or another. Maybe they made a bad call on a shot, and they feel like they are getting robbed of a point that is theirs. In other cases, the umpire could be giving them a time violation or a hard time in general in-between points.
All of this can lead to frustration that ultimately results in a racquet slam. When a player is already not on the umpire’s good side, they are more likely to get a penalty after slamming the racquet down. Umpires are already looking for warning signs, and perhaps a player already received one for unsportsmanlike behavior with their talk.
There is a time when every player feels like they are not getting a fair shake during the match, but they can always call for the head referee or tournament supervisor to help out with a disagreement. This usually calms everyone down for the most part, and can get everything trending in a positive direction.
What Penalties Do Players Face When They Break a Racquet?
If a player quickly slams a racquet down on the surface of the court and does not actually hurt the racquet, they might get away with receiving just a warning. In fact, there are some instances where a player does not even receive a formal warning, and they just go about their business. If it seems a bit out of character, players usually get away with it a little bit better in that situation.
According to both the ATP and WTA rulebook, players can be fined for each racquet they end up breaking. Not only that, but if they have already received punishment for something else they have done already in the match, they could receive a point penalty, game penalty, or even a disqualification. You can read more about the code violation system in this post.
The largest fine ever issued for breaking a racquet and going on a tirade happened in 2019 at the Western and Southern Open. Nick Kyrgios received a fine of $113,000 for not only smashing his racquet, but leaving the court, shouting audible obscenities, and receiving a handful of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. All that money was not due to the racquet smash, but it certainly pushed things over the edge.
Who Are The Most Notorious Racquet-Breakers In Tennis History?
There comes the point in time when just about every tennis player has either smashed their racquet, or come very close. However, some pro players are much more prone to it than others. These are the most notorious racquet breakers in the game’s history.
The short temper of Marat Safin led to more than a few racquets being broken throughout his career. He would sometimes use this as a way to motivate himself to get up formats. It did not always work, but his displays of anger led to a pretty well-known reputation during his career. He said in an interview that he finished his career breaking a total of 1055 racquets.
Any player who has a few notable racquet breaks in their career deserves to be on this list. He could seem like he was cool, calm, and collected on the court when things were going right, but he quickly got out of hand when it all fell apart. When he actually broke a racquet, he made sure that it was completely destroyed before letting go.
He has already been talked about a bit in this article, but he is the current champion of breaking racquets on tour. He has received quite a few fines for this behavior, and puts on a show every time he actually breaks one in front of the crowd.
There are not as many broken racquets on the WTA Tour as there are in the ATP Tour, but that does not mean women do not like breaking racquets themselves. In fact, the best player of her generation might just also be the best at breaking racquets. Serena Williams is no stranger for letting some of her anger out in one way or another, and breaking a racquet is one way to express herself.
Breaking Racquets: A Mixed Bag
Ultimately, breaking a racquet is a bit polarizing. It usually catches the attention of fans at the match and on TV, but it is viewed as unsportsmanlike character.
Tennis seems to be fine with it once in a while, but does not want it to be a consistent habit. It is not going away any time soon, even if it is technically a fineable offense.