If you watch tennis regularly, it will not have escaped your notice that players regularly smash tennis rackets. Some people like this, and others despise this behavior. But why do tennis players break their rackets?
Tennis players can become frustrated during a match by making easy mistakes and losing points, their opponent, the umpire, and the crowd. Frustration can run high because a player cannot take a timeout or talk to the coach. This can lead to a tennis player expressing frustration by breaking a racket.
In this article, I will explain the most common reasons why tennis players break a racket. In addition, you will find out if this is allowed and what the possible penalties are for doing so.
Tennis is often seen as a sport for gentlemen, especially back in the days when only rich people played tennis.
Smashing and breaking a racket on the court is quite contradictory to this image. However, it does happen and is not as rare as you’d hope.
But if it does not fit the sport's image and leaves the player with a broken racket, why do some tennis players break their racket?
Below are the six most common reasons tennis players break their rackets:
While tennis is a physical sport, mental stability is also very important. There are a lot of points played during a match, and it is impossible to win every single point you play.
This means you lose points as well; that’s simply part of the game. Most people can handle losing a point when the opponent plays a winner.
However, it is not uncommon for players to lose points due to their own mistakes.
Maybe they don’t start running in time, make an error with determining where the ball will bounce, or mess up their technique.
These mistakes can be pretty frustrating, especially if you mess up multiple times in a row or if you know you can do better.
These frustrations are then taken out on their racket, as this is conveniently already in the player’s hand and therefore easy to use for letting out their frustrations.
Unfortunately, it does happen that opponents do not like each other or get mad at each other. This can be due to several reasons.
In amateur tennis, it might be due to an opponent not playing fair and calling out balls that are actually in. In professional tennis, this isn’t as common because of the linesmen.
However, professional tennis players can still get frustrated with each other.
Where a soccer player, for example, has easy access to their opponent and might give them a nudge, a tennis player is usually not close to their opponent.
Therefore, it is easier to take out their anger on the tennis racket, which is close to them.
It does sometimes happen that the crowd turns against a player. Usually, this happens when a player behaves in an unsportsmanlike manner.
As a result, with every misstep, the crowd clearly shows that they do not appreciate the behavior of the player in question.
This interaction between player and crowd often only makes the player more frustrated.
When a player can no longer contain this frustration, there is a good chance that the racket will take the brunt of it and be smashed.
This reason is quite similar to when amateur players are mad at each other.
Suppose a professional tennis player is angry with the umpire. In that case, this is usually because the player thinks the umpire is being unfair.
Maybe they don't call the balls right, or maybe they have an obvious bias.
In this case, players often take their frustrations out on their racket instead of the umpire, who is sitting in their high chair.
It has also happened before that a player used his racket to hit the umpire's chair. This was obviously frowned upon by many.
It is possible that a racket breaks due to mishits and poor stringing.
These situations are obviously very inconvenient, but nowadays, they are not very common reasons for breaking rackets anymore.
The current equipment is way better now than it used to be, and especially professional tennis players get their stringing done by people who know what they are doing.
Now this will never be the main reason for breaking a racket, but attention and intimidation are things that go hand in hand with breaking a racket.
Even though we are supposed to frown upon racket abuse, most people like seeing some spectacle and sensation.
It is not without reason that there are so many videos on the internet of players breaking their rackets.
It can also be quite intimidating for an opponent, although this really depends on the person.
Some players might get encouraged and feel like they have a mental advantage upon seeing their opponent is losing it.
Breaking a racket is not allowed in tennis. It is considered highly unsportsmanlike, and it is strongly frowned upon by organizations, audiences, and even players.
It does cause some sensation, though, so there are definitely people who secretly like watching it.
There are several rules for behavior in tennis. For example, you are not allowed to make unnecessary noises during a point.
There are also rules for racket abuse.
Racket abuse is broader than simply breaking a racket. If you smash your racket, but it does not break, it is still considered racket abuse.
Smashing a racket is always a form of racket abuse, which is not allowed in tennis.
However, this does not mean that it never happens. There are several examples of tennis players committing racket abuse, and some even do it regularly.
As we have established, it is not allowed to break your tennis racket. This is a rule, so if you break that rule, there will be consequences.
Tennis players can be penalized in several ways, such as losing points or a fine.
How many points is up to the umpire and depends on the situation. The severity of the consequences of breaking a racket, in general, is up to the umpire.
Although this is not an official rule or anything like that, there seems to be an unwritten agreement between umpires to go easier on players who abuse their racket due to frustration with themselves rather than frustration with others.
Sometimes umpires look the other way if the player’s actions don’t affect their opponent or anyone else too much.
Suppose it’s a very obvious outburst, though. In that case, the player will likely get a warning even if their rage was against themselves.
For consequences outside of the match, it is usually up to the event's organization.
Sometimes a player is not allowed to continue participating in the tournament. In some cases, the ATP or WTA can get involved and ban the player for a certain amount of time.
Tennis players can be fined for breaking their rackets. Breaking their rackets is part of racket abuse, for which can be fined up to several hundred dollars, sometimes even thousands depending on the event and severity of the outburst.
However, usually, players don’t get fined right away. On many occasions, players get a warning first.
If they commit racket abuse again, there is a much higher chance of getting fined.
Usually, their behavior throughout the rest of the match gets taken into consideration as well.
A player who has been yelling and swearing a lot might get fined easier than a player who has been behaving appropriately except for one outburst.
As mentioned before, rackets can break due to unforeseen circumstances such as improper stringing. If this happens, the player cannot continue playing with this racket.
Fortunately, tennis players are allowed to change tennis rackets at any point during a match, just not in the middle of a point.
Changing a racket happens after a game or set, but if the racket breaks, a tennis player can switch the racket between points.
But what happens if the racket breaks mid-point?
In this case, the point usually gets replayed. This is only the case if the breaking of the racket is due to natural causes.
If it breaks due to the player's violence, the point will not be replayed.
While it is more than natural to feel frustrated during a tennis match, not every player copes with this by smashing their racket.
Roger Federer, who comes off relatively calm and collected, has smashed his racket before, but this doesn’t happen often.
Some players almost make it a habit with the frequency they break their racket.
Nick Kyrgios is a tennis player that is currently active. He is known to have quite a bad temper. You can frequently read all about his outbursts against umpires or even against audience members.
He smashes his rackets quite often, and back in 2019, he even faked a bathroom break to let out his frustrations.
He walked into the hallway as if he needed to use the bathroom, but instead, he used the occasion to break not one but two tennis rackets.
Watch Kyrgios' mental breakdown in the video below:
John McEnroe was a professional tennis player from 1978 to 1992.
He was known to get angry and frustrated a lot, which has often led to him arguing with umpires and opponents. It also led to him breaking tennis rackets quite often.
Not surprisingly, his nickname was "superbrat."
McEnroe has let it be known that he sees no harm in smashing a racket because tennis is a frustrating game.
Marat Safin is another tennis player whose behavior has earned him a nickname. Safin was active from 1997 to 2009 and was known by the nickname "Mad Marat."
This is due to his bad temper.
So how many rackets did Safin break?
Marat Safin did break a total of 1055 tennis rackets during his career. This number was revealed by tennis racket brand Head, when they gifted Marat Safin a snowboard with the number of rackets he had broken during his career.
Like with the players mentioned above, you can find a lot of compilations on YouTube with videos of Alexander Zverev breaking his racket.
Zverev is a currently active player. Last February, he was kicked out of a tournament for smashing his racket on the umpire’s chair.
See the video of this particular incident down below:
Racket abuse seems to be much more common in ATP matches than in WTA matches. While many male players have broken their rackets before, women do not do this as often.
A female player that has broken rackets before is Serena Williams.
One of her broken rackets was even auctioned off after the ball boy to whom she had given the racket sold it to a dealer.
Several players have smashed their rackets, some more than others. Most of the time, the reason for this is frustration.
The players disagree with the umpire, are mad at their opponent, or are simply frustrated with their own mistakes.
Breaking a racket on the court can result in several punishments of various severities, from loss of a point to a hefty fine or even being suspended from playing.