Big ego. A fit of rage. Public display of violence.
These are just some of the phrases to characterise racquet smashing in tennis.
No one is indispensable when it comes such display of aggressiveness. Even the most polite tennis players ~ looking at you, Roger Federer ~ had their fair share of racquet smashing moments.
Alexander Zverev’s racquet smashing during an Australian Open match
What is it about racquet smashing that makes it so controversial?
Racquet smashing is as controversial as it appears because of bad behaviour modelling. Kids are watching the match, and they have this natural tendency to emulate how their idols behave.
Tracy Austin, a former US Open champion, said that the practice is destructive. It does not help anyone.
Not to mention, a racquet is expensive—almost a luxury to the fans. Seeing tennis players ruin the racquet like it was not instrumental to their success is next to absurd.
Why do tennis players smash their racquets in the first?
Tennis players smash, spike, bounce, and harm their racquets in any way they can to release emotions such as anger and frustration. When emotions take over, no player can avoid doing it.
Ex-player Ernests Gulbis said that he is against racquet smashing personally since a player can always fix the problems on the court in a different manner. However, admittedly, it helps in making feel better afterwards.
Naomi Osaka also mentioned that releasing the anger is easier than keeping it inside throughout the match.
Regarded as reverse psychology, it is also a strategy to make the opponent think that you are upset with the game.
Novak Djokovic echoes the same sentiment. A well-timed racquet smash can change the direction of any match. He sees it as a way to free himself from the pressure.
Djokovic pounded racquet during a French Open game. While it was something that he wasn’t proud of doing, it happens.
What happens if you smash a racquet?
A physical form of ranting, smashing a racquet has its costly consequences, including resulting in hefty fines or losing a point.
The latter was demonstrated in Serena Williams versus Osaka in the US Open where Williams lost a point since an earlier warning was already issued.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) issues a US$200 fine for smashing the racquet during the qualifying rounds. This can escalate to US$500 for the main rounds. It can go as high as US$5,500, which happened to Daniel Medvedev when he attacked the grass-court with his racquet.
Which tennis players have smashed their racquet?
Roger Federer, John McEnroe, and Nick Kyrgios are just three of the tennis players who have smashed their racquet several times on the court.
In 2009, Federer smashed his racquet again after about eight years. The crowd booed him and punished for a code violation. Indeed, he was once regarded as a bad boy on the court.
McEnroe, on the other hand, is a name synonymous to the biggest ego in tennis and, thereby, racquet smashing. Due to several moments so intense, people would label a dummy spit as “throwing a McEnroe.” However, McEnroe is a different case because he was usually much better after an incident.
And Kyrgios is definitely following his footsteps with his unique albeit violent on-court antics. He shattered his racquet once and handed it to a young fan as a keepsake.