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Mag By Craig Gabriel

WHAT A RACQUET!
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WHAT A RACQUET!

Are we in tennis getting a bit precious when a player starts breaking racquets?

I can remember the times, yes I was around then, when the likes of Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Ilie Nastase, and the late Vitas Gerulaitis among some would go on tirades that would make any antics by the current crop of players look like a Sunday School Picnic. The women’s side of the game had a few tempestuous individuals as well, like the doubles specialist Rennae Stubbs who admits to being a hothead.

Gerulaitis is the only player a crew of linesmen went on strike about due to his behaviour and refused to work a match of his; it was at the now defunct Melbourne Indoors.

Tennis introduced a strict Code of Conduct which went to such an extreme that the sport became clinical and bordered on boring. Soon there was a call to slacken the reins which was amusing because it seemed like the sport did not really know what it wanted. 

They couldn’t have their cake and eat. By the way I could never figure out the meaning of that, can’t have your cake and eat it. What’s the point of having cake if you can’t eat it? Right? Anyway …

So I ask the question should there be yet further loosening of the rules to provide players with extra leeway to release frustrations? 

Right now it is a mandatory warning if a player bounces a racquet and the racquet cracks and that warning is a step that could eventually lead to a default.  There are players who know how and at what angle to bounce a racquet so that it doesn’t crack so can avoid the mandatory warning. Then there are those who know they have cracked their racquet but play a point with it and then change the racquet which also allows them to get away with no warning.

It’s all rather amusing.

During this Roland Garros there have been some priceless moments of racquet smashing and the players have been warned very sternly for racquet abuse. But, just but should that be the case? If no one is hurt or injured should they be allowed to get away with it? 

I think it is a definitive situation when a player flings their racquet and it flies across the court. When an umpire deems it a danger or a threatening action then the full force of the rule book needs to be brought down on the player.

While any such behaviour should not be condoned, it is equally amusing to see the faces of kids, especially the boys, light up when a tennis racquet is disintegrated. And one racquet company says they will fine their players if they break the racquets they provide. Is that because it shows the racquets are not strong enough? Look at the publicity they miss out on; when a racquet is broken the TV cameras zoom straight onto the equipment – the company’s name gets free advertising.

A player’s behaviour on a court needs to be monitored carefully and how they address court officials. Last year at the French Open, Nick Kyrgios was warned  by the chair umpire about how he asked the ballboy for his towel, yet this year Novak Djokovic’s barking at ballkids during his tight match with Diego Schwartzman went unchecked, and it was the same chair umpire.

I’m not sure what’s worse, when a player barks for their towel, “TOWEL!” or when they point to it as if asking a dog to fetch. Absolutely things are tense on the court, no one denies that, but how ballkids are spoken to by a player needs to be monitored way more.

What do you think?