Two weeks ago, we heard that Gilles Simon had broken a vertebra after trampolining with Gael Monfils… A year ago, he had already cracked a rib after... coughing. But Simon hasn’t the monopoly of stupid injuries amongst tennis players. Proof with this anthology. Where you will see that no one is safe, not even the greatest... and of course the French are in numbers.
Yannick Noah, the repeat offender
Yannick Noah could never do anything like the others. In victories as in injuries, the great "Yan" always put a great deal of panache. In 1986, the French was at the top of his game, ranked third in the world, perhaps even stronger than he was three years earlier, when he won Roland Garros. Finalist in Monte Carlo, winner at Forest Hills and semi-finalist in Rome, he was once again amongst the favourites in Paris. Except that it would have been way too easy. At the airport, in transit from Rome to Paris, Noah got injured... with a suitcase that fell on his foot. The Achilles tendon was badly hurt. Worse still, he decided to take care of it himself by using a laser and he completely burned his skin! He arrived at Roland Garros on one leg, passed three rounds in pain before finally withdrawing in the round of 16. Far from vaccinated from the flames, he had another accident in 1989, during a late summer barbecue where he tried to speed up the cooking of the sausages with gasoline. Obviously, the fire became out of control. "I started running in the garden with flames all over me, he said. I thought I was going to burn to death." He got away with a flesh wound, a week in bed and two more without tennis. "It's okay, I bought an electric barbecue," he joked after returning to the competition.
Unavailability: light in terms of duration but heavy by making all his hope for Roland Garros vanish.
Henri Leconte and the Becker wall
Genius troublemaker in the 80s, Henri Leconte yet ran into a wall against Boris Becker, whose game put him to death. By correcting him on Milan’s indoor carpet in February 1988 (6/1 6/2), the king of fast surfaces then brought their face-to-face to 5-0. Humiliated by the magnitude of the score - until then he always managed to take at least one set to the German - Leconte was completely mad when he came back to the locker room and let his anger run wild by punching a wall. And what was bound to happen did happen: wrist fracture.
Unavailability: six weeks. But an injury can also be salutary: after coming back on the courts, Leconte made an outstanding season, complete with a final at Roland Garros... and two victories against Becker.
When Marc Rosset emulated Leconte
January 1996. Rosset Marc started his season with the Hopman Cup, a mixed national teams tournament where he was associated with a young rising star, Martina Hingis. Nothing more than an exhibition, a trial run before the Australian Open, which was starting ten days later. But the competitive spirit was too strong: the decisive mixed doubles opposing the Swiss to Goran Ivanisevic and Iva Majoli’s Croatia was tight, and even tense in the final set. At 6-3, 6-7, 5-4, Rosset and Hingis missed four match points on Ivanisevic’s service. The Olympic champion in Barcelona saw red on one of them, aggrieved by a refereeing error. Furious, he struck with all his strength in an advertising tarpaulin. Unlucky: the tarpaulin was hiding a concrete block. Fractured wrist. Goodbye Australian Open. "Goran is the best server in the world, he explained afterwards. Can you imagine what it means when a referee makes a mistake on such an important point?"
Unavailability: three weeks and only one tournament missed. But what a tournament.
Michael Stich and the vicious shorts
Michael Stich and injuries, it's a long story. It must be said that the tennis player was as crystalline than his body. But his injury at Milan’s tournament in 1996 has a very special place in his health records, which by the way, must be filled out. The German, who won Wimbledon five years earlier had to face Guy Forget in the knockout stages. Routine of tennis player, he entered the locker room, started to change, passed his right leg in his shorts... and while he was in equilibrium on his left foot, he suddenly lost his balance. By falling, he revived a foot pain appeared in Vienna at the end of the previous season. Unable to walk, panicked at the idea of having a relapse, Stich logically decided to forfeit. His coach Nikki Pilic commented, fatalistic in front of the persistent bad luck of his protégé: "We arrived in the locker room. Everything was fine. I left something like five minutes, the time to make a phone call. I came back. And he told me he was not playing."
Unavailability: six weeks. Which didn’t prevent him, for his comeback, to make a splash by reaching the final of Roland Garros without any preparation.
Goran Ivanisevic, walking in the sand...
...and cutting open his foot on a seashell. Guilty of wanting to enjoy the fine sands of Miami, Goran Ivanisevic only harvested an injury, having gashed his left heel with a mollusc’s skeleton. In Miami for the Masters 1000 in early 2003, the Croatian thought that he could still keep his place in the table. Only the wound, although healed, remained painful: additional medical examinations revealed that a piece of the shell was still inside his foot. Mandatory operation, and hard blow for the 2001 Wimbledon champion that injuries have largely prevented from enjoying his status of Grand Slam winner acquired later on.
Unavailability: Theoretically, three weeks. But effectively, after all his injuries, it almost meant the end of his career.
Sam Querrey and the tricky shoestring
"The worst day of my life." We believe Sam Querrey. But seriously, what was he thinking when in Bangkok in 2009; he decided to put his 14 stones on a coffee table to lace his shoes? The fragile glass table obviously couldn’t support such a weight and broke, causing the American tennis player to fall with it. Unlucky, Querrey cut open his right arm on a piece of glass. Bleeding heavily, it had to be operated in emergency in the Thai capital.
Unavailability: six weeks. And end of the season for the player who was then 22nd in the world.
Williams, anything but a serenade
When, in July 2010, Serena Williams won her fourth Wimbledon, a few months after winning the Australian Open, she seemed to be on the highway to a Small Slam at the U.S. Open. But it was not to be. Shortly after her coronation in London, the World No. 1 injured herself upon leaving a restaurant in Munich. She said: « "We were walking out of the restaurant and, all of a sudden, I felt pain. The pain felt like kind of a stubbed foot, like 'Ow' and I thought, 'Wow, I stubbed my foot.' Then in 20 seconds, or a minute, I started walking again. And it hurt some more. So we looked down and there was glass all over the floor. I was standing, recovering, thinking I got a little cut and telling my nephew, who was with us, to be careful. Then my practice partner put a cellphone down to the floor so we could see, and there was a huge puddle of blood. I said, 'OMG, I don't think this is good. I came back to the United States and knew something was not right. My big toe was drooping, and I thought, 'My toe shouldn't be hanging like this.' I saw a specialist in New York and had an MRI, and he said I had a tendon that was torn.»
Unavailability: at the beginning, three months. But after rushing her comeback in order to play the Masters, the American had a relapse and had to end her season.
Julien Benneteau and the dangerous chopsticks
Restaurants are definitely a dangerous place for tennis players. Shortly after Serena Williams, it was the turn of Julien Benneteau to leave his ambitions for the upcoming Grand Slam at his table. Within hours of the beginning of the Australian Open in January 2011, the French and his friend Nicolas Mahut went for dinner at an Asian restaurant. But anyone who has ever tried knows that the mastery of chopsticks is a fine art: Benneteau, the genius, even managed to cut open his thumb with the said chopsticks. Result: an operation, and a forfeit for the Australian Open.
Unavailability: Three weeks.
Kim Clijsters, one funky chicken dance
We've all seen one at a wedding: you know, the annoying guest, the one who’s full of good intentions but eventually transform the party into a nightmare on the chorus: "Is there a doctor in the house?" In the spring of 2011, Kim Clijsters was that person at the wedding of her cousin Tim. While dancing, the Belgian, barefooted, fell badly and writhed in pain on the floor. Simple sprain? Unfortunately not: severe strain of both the medial and lateral ligaments of the right ankle and a torn ligaments, a torn capsule of the ankle joint, a hematoma and torn tendon sheath. No preparation on clay for the winner of the Australian Open, who arrived at Roland Garros without having played a single match on the surface. Result: defeat in the second round against Arantxa Rus.
Unavailability: seven weeks, and a terrible Roland-Garros in the aftermath.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, don’t play with fire hydrants
If the devil is in the details, the injury can also lurks around the corner, at the turn of smallest action of daily life. In the summer of 2012, a distracted Jo-Wilfried Tsonga who was out and about in the streets of Toronto, when he cut open his right knee by bumping into a fire hydrant… An "unfortunate accident" according to his agent Morgan Menahem, which earned him eight stitches and a forfeit at the Cincinnati Masters.
Unavailability: ten days but only one tournament missed.