The Menace in Tennis

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MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA―The Australian Tennis Open is finally over and after weeks of serious television overload, this tennis tragic will not be going near the box for a while―well, at least not until the French Open.

Together with the rest of Australia and the world, I’ve enjoyed every minute of this Grand Slam competition. However, one aspect of play has left a niggling bad taste―the sanctioned on court antics of certain players. Call me old fashioned, but smashing a racket on court and hurling expletives isn’t behaviour that should be applauded.

Firstly, my practical mother side is thinking: That’s one expensive racket―perhaps it could have been donated to some poor up and coming player or even better, auctioned off for charity. And then, there’s the confused realization that not everyone seems to find this behaviour shocking. The tantrum player in question is one of Australia’s up-and-coming tennis stars, Nick Kyrgios. He’s a really likeable guy off-court but someone needs to tell him it’s not right to smash rackets and use vile swear words when things go wrong. Kids are watching.

Are we so politically correct that not even umpires have the balls to admonish bad on court behaviour?

The normally outspoken commentator, Jim Courier did allude to the fact that the racket smashing incident should have been reprimanded but no-one mentioned it wasn’t quite cricket to swear―all the time. What really confused me was that Nick’s own mother later excused his behaviour with a smilingly indulgent explanation that: ‘How else was he meant to get rid of his frustration on court?’ or something along those lines. How indeed? Wash his mouth out with soap for starters. And are we so politically correct that not even umpires have the balls to admonish bad on court behaviour?

I’m wondering whether it’s open season for swearing simply at the Australian Open. Perhaps Australians are known to be a nation that doesn’t mind the odd swear word so players let rip. And it’s not an age thing. Kyrgios may be young and have a lot to learn from greats such as the always-poised Federer and Nadel, but Murray? Well, he should know better. Sunday’s Men’s Final against the composed No 1. Seed, Novak Djokovic had him in top form. Murray swore all the way through―he was having a f***ing field day.

His talented artist fiancé Kim Sears doesn’t mind the odd expletive either, it seems. She was caught on camera mouthing what appeared to be: “F***ing have that you Czech flash f***” during Andy’s tense match against No. 7 seed, Tomas Berdych. Looking at the slow motion footage, it didn’t look as though she was saying: “Well done, darling, you get him!” The press immediately loved her and some bright spark newspaper sub-editor came into his own with the headline: ‘Kim Swears’.

Kim’s father was equally forgiving. Dear Nigel Sears, proudly joked afterwards that his daughter: “always had a potty mouth—gets it from her mother of course”. And just in case we thought Kim herself may have been mildly repentant, she defiantly donned a sweatshirt with the words: ‘Parental Advisory. Explicit Language’ boldly emblazoned for cameras to see at last night’s final. Her point? “F**k off, I’ll swear as much as I like.” And the Tweeters adored her for it.

Again, perhaps it’s an age thing but I remember my mum saying that even the most beautiful girl or handsome boy can suddenly become rather unappealing when ugly expletives emanate from their mouths. Kim is certainly a beautiful girl. I commented on exactly that many times until she swore at Tomas.

I once asked a respected tennis coach what he thought of the grunting, screeching, swearing and racket throwing that seemed to be part and parcel of today’s professional tennis. He believed the fundamental problem lay at grassroots level.

Coaches should be teaching up and coming players that it’s not OK to smash your racket, screech or swear on court.

“Coaches should be teaching up and coming players that it’s not OK to smash your racket, screech or swear on court. They should refuse to coach them until they behave. Only then will they learn that on-court bad behaviour is unacceptable.”

A last word of caution: Wimbledon and its imminent royal entourage is coming up too. Please clean up your act before then players, because Her Majesty, the queen will certainly not be amused.

© Jessamy Owen 2015