The Greatest and Most Controversial Moments in Tennis History

Like many other sports, tennis is not without its share of controversies, apart from spectacular moments. These events have defined and redefined tennis since the sport was established. While there are glorious moments, there are some contentious too (and some are horrific). Here are some controversial moments in tennis history, in no particular order:

1) Monica Seles stabbing incident

Heading into 1993, Monica Seles was ranked No. 1 in women’s tennis. She opened the year by beating Steffi Graf in the Australian Open final, which to date became her third victory in her four Grand Slam finals against Graf. 

The Monica Seles vs. Steffi Graf rivalry was so influential that it compelled a deranged Graf fan to stab Seles on April 30, 1993. The incident happened during a quarterfinal match against Magdalena Maleeva in Hamburg. 

While Seles recovered from her physical injuries only a few weeks later, she never regained her old form after that. The horrific stabbing incident not only affected her tennis skills but also affected her emotionally and psychologically. Seles was formerly No.1, but Graf brought down her ranking. Eventually, Graf became the No. 1 player in women’s tennis.

2) Rafael Nadal’s win over Roger Federer in 2008 Wimbledon

The Rafael Nadal-Roger Federer rivalry is one of the most-watched and followed tennis rivalries of all time.

Federer had always been ahead of Nadal. However, Nadal beat Federer in Wimbledon singles finals in 2008 after four hours and 48 minutes of play. It is one of the longest final matches in history where the best tennis actions were on full display.

The year prior, Nadal came close to winning Wimbledon, but he was short of achieving it. This prompted fans and spectators to anticipate the 2008 Wimbledon that did not disappoint. In fact, it became one of the greatest and most classic matches in history. Nadal’s winning moment caused him to collapse on the court, but in a euphoric way. He was the first Spanish tennis player to win Wimbledon after over 40 years.

3) Roger Federer loses his cool and smashes racket

There are times when a tennis player loses his or her cool in a middle of a tennis match. But Roger Federer, who is typically cool and mild-mannered, has a history of freaking out during the heat of the match, swearing at the umpire and even yelling at the crowd.

In a shocking display of strong emotions, a visibly frustrated Federer lost his cool at the end of a semi-final match at the Miami Masters in April 2009. In his loss to then 20-year-old Novak Djokovic in that match, Federer lost his temper and smashed his racket.

Federer was roundly booed by the crowd, which was surprising as he wasn’t the type of player to get jeers from the fans. He refused to shake hands with the chair umpire at the end of the match. Needless to say, it was a match to forget from the Swiss tennis star.

4) Andre Agassi’s emotional final farewell

Andre Agassi’s tennis career is best described as checkered in terms of the number of victories and defeats. While he had his moot moments, his emotional retirement speech after losing a match in the 2006 US Open was certainly memorable and deeply moving.

During his short but dramatic run in the US Open, Agassi was suffering from back pain that he was forced to retire earlier than expected. He was receiving anti-inflammatory shots during the course of the event. 

At the end of the match, Agassi delivered an emotional farewell speech which received cheers and a four-minute ovation from the crowd.

5) John McEnroe hurts the king of Sweden

John McEnroe will always be one of the colorful figures in tennis history. Aside from his exceptional skills and his No. 1 ranking during his heyday, he was also known for his confrontational on-court behavior that often landed him in trouble with the umpires and tennis officials.

Because of his notorious outbursts on and off the court, he was often called “McErratic.” Controversy constantly hounded the American tennis star.

In a match during the 1984 Stockholm finals, McEnroe lost his cool and vented out his outbursts by hitting a table loaded with refreshments. Some of them flew to the crowd and struck Gustaf XVI, the king of Sweden.

McEnroe realized what he had done. Luckily for him, the king was cool and downplayed this incident. As a result, McEnroe did not receive any punishment.