Best Wimbledon Outbursts of All Time
If you’re looking for a great punk show in London, you might try the Underworld in Camden Town, or the New Cross Inn in Lewisham. But if you really want to see some fireworks, head on down to the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club for the annual Wimbledon Championships. For two weeks out of every year, this normally quiet private member’s club hosts the biggest event in professional tennis – and everyone loses their minds, resulting in some of the best Wimbledon outbursts imaginable.
Don’t be fooled by all that strawberries and cream. Wimbledon may still call their champions Ladies and Gentlemen, but on the whole, the players who show up every summer at SW19 are even more tightly wound than their racket strings.
They aren’t afraid to express themselves, either. Tennis has always had its share of bad boys and girls, but now it’s becoming trendy. “Sporting behaviour” is dead; today’s athletes prefer to vent, both to clear their heads and as a means of gaming the system.
Tennis fans love it when their favourites go berserk. Okay, most tennis fans; the old-schoolers out there still have compassion for the officials and attendants who are now increasingly expected to suffer the abuse heaped upon them, rather than punish the offending players that everyone paid to see.
Whichever side of that net you’re on, there’s no debate that Wimbledon has seen some epic meltdowns over the years. Bodog Sportsbook is pleased to present our top five favourites, listed in chronological order and starting with arguably the most famous tantrum of all-time.
Sit back and enjoy our best Wimbledon outbursts of all time.
1981: John McEnroe
To be fair, chalk did indeed fly everywhere when John McEnroe hit what should have been ruled a winner during his first-round match against Tom Gullikson. But that’s not how umpire Edward “Ted” James saw it. After James declared the ball “out,” the 22-year-old McEnroe unleashed a stream of invective that still hasn’t been matched in arguably any sport, calling James an “incompetent fool” and the entire officiating staff “the absolute pits of the world.”
McEnroe nearly got tossed for his outburst, but settled down enough to beat Gullikson in straight sets before going on to win the championship over Bjorn Borg, thus getting his revenge for the previous year’s final. The future Hall of Famer would get fined $1,500, though, and refused to attend the champion’s dinner afterward.
1995: Tim Henman
It’s one thing for a New Yorker like McEnroe to go mental; Tim Henman was from Oxford, and was considered the paragon of Englishness during the peak of his fame at the turn of the millennium. He is not someone you would expect to feature on a list of the best Wimbledon outbursts of all time. However, Henman was anything but genteel during his fateful first-round doubles match with partner Jeremy Bates versus the team of Jeff Tarango and Henrik Holm.
The meltdown came after Henman and Bates lost an important point during their fourth set tie-breaker on a net cord. Frustrated, Henman took a tennis ball out of his pocket and smashed it with his racket – directly into ball attendant Caroline Hall, who burst into tears.
It was accidental, of course, but the team of Henman and Bates was disqualified nonetheless, making them the first players ever to be kicked out of Wimbledon during the Open era. Henman, to his credit, apologized profusely afterwards and presented Hall with a bouquet of flowers. She forgave him.
1995: Jeff Tarango
It wasn’t long after that match when Tarango found himself in the third round of the Gentlemen’s Singles versus Alexander Mronz, and things were not going well for the California native. Tarango was down 6-7, 1-3 and was about to serve when he turned to the increasingly hostile crowd (they were still sore over the Henman disqualification) and told them to shut up. Umpire Bruno Rebeuh issued a code violation for audible obscenity – then another after Tarango called him “one of the most corrupt officials in the game.”
After the second violation, Tarango picked up his gear and left the court in a huff, losing the match by default. Tarango’s wife at the time, Benedicte, physically attacked Rebeuh and landed a pair of slaps to the face. “She’s French,” Tarango explained to reporters afterward. He was kicked out of the rest of the tournament, plus the Wimbledon after that, and eventually paid about $30,000 in fines.
2003: Greg Rusedski
We were tempted to put Denis Shapovalov on this list for his behaviour at the 2017 Championships, but it didn’t measure up to former Canadian up-and-comer Greg Rusedski and what he did 14 years earlier at Wimbledon. Born in Montreal, Rusedski took his talents to London in 1995 so he could play internationally for Great Britain – a decision that made him a pariah in the Great White North.
Rusedski may have changed his citizenship, but he didn’t acquire that English stiff upper lip. Down two sets to none against Andy Roddick in the second round of the 2003 Gentlemen’s Singles, Rusedski was triggered when someone in the crowd at SW19 incorrectly called a Roddick ball “out” and caused a confused Rusedski to stop playing the point. Rusedski fired a Henman-like volley, fortunately not hitting anyone this time, then absolutely destroyed the umpire with all the f-bombs in his arsenal before losing the next five games in a row and dropping the match.
2016: Victor Troicki
The most recent outburst on this list won’t be the last. Troicki, a Serbian player and close friend of Novak Djokovic, is a textbook example of today’s more vocal athletes. He was up against Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the second round of the 2016 tournament when Ramos-Vinolas was awarded an ace that Troicki did not agree with.
His response? Fire the ball into space, then call Damiano Torella “the worst umpire in the world.” Troicki fell apart from there, lost the match, refused to shake hands with Ramos-Vinolas, and kept insulting Torella afterwards. Maybe all this venting doesn’t give you a competitive edge after all.
2022: Nick Kyrgios
Love him or hate him, you simply can’t ignore Nick Kyrgios if you are a tennis fan. He has built something of a reputation as a bad boy during his time on the tour, and is often described as the most naturally talented player to never win a Grand Slam.
He come close in 2022, taking the first set against the formidable Djokovic in the Wimbledon final before the Serb recovered to lift his seventh SW19 title.
Known for his ability to combust, the Australian had an altercation with the umpire in which he accused a spectator of being drunk and distracting him between serves.
He stressed: “I know exactly which one it is. It’s the one who looks like she’s had about 700 drinks, bro.” A genius line from a genius player, and Kyrgios is every bit the entertainer for one reason or another.
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