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In Tennis, Racket Smashing Gets Out of Hand

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After blowing a golden opportunity to interrupt his opponent’s serve late within the second set of his match on Monday on the Miami Open, Jenson Brooksby, the rising American star, whacked his foot along with his racket several times in frustration.

It was progress for Brooksby, who earlier within the tournament had escaped an automatic disqualification that many tennis veterans — and his opponent — thought was justified after he angrily hurled his racket to the court and it skittered into the feet of a ball person standing behind the baseline.

Every week earlier, Nick Kyrgios, the temperamental Australian, narrowly missed hitting a ball boy within the face when he flung his racket to the bottom following a three-set loss within the quarterfinals of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif. The ATP punished Kyrgios with a $20,000 tremendous and one other $5,000 for uttering an obscenity on the court, but he was allowed to play a couple of days later in Miami.

Kyrgios was at it again on Tuesday during his fourth-round match against Italy’s Jannik Sinner. He threw his racket to the court on his strategy to losing a first-set tiebreaker, prompting a warning and some extent penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct as he shouted on the umpire, Carlos Bernardes. Then, throughout the changeover, he battered his racket 4 times against the bottom, earning a game penalty.

“Do we’ve to attend until someone starts bleeding?” an exasperated Patrick McEnroe, the previous pro and tennis commentator, said recently when asked concerning the flying rackets.

Racket-smashing tantrums have long been accepted as a part of the sport. Like hockey fights, they’re a way for players to blow off steam. But because the broader culture becomes less tolerant of public displays of anger, and with an increasing variety of close calls on the court, racket smashing suddenly now not looks like an entertaining idiosyncrasy.

Mary Carillo, the previous player and longtime commentator, said the tantrums have never been worse, especially on the ATP Tour, calling them “essentially the most consistently uncomfortable thing to observe.” But chair umpires still resist meting out essentially the most serious punishment.

“The rationale for conspicuous leniency is that they should by some means keep a match alive; there are not any substitutions,” Carillo said of the chair umpires. “Tennis players, especially tennis stars, know they’ve incontestable leverage over the chair.”

Like most individuals in tennis, McEnroe was stunned when the ATP recently handed down a suspended eight-week ban to Alexander Zverev, who repeatedly beat on the umpire’s chair at the top of a doubles match on the Mexican Open in February, coming inside inches of cracking his racket into the official’s feet.

Psychologists have found that expressing anger physically tends to harm performance and might encourage subsequent outbursts. In an oft-cited 1959 study by the psychologist R.H. Hornberger, participants listened to insults before being divided into two groups. One group pounded nails. The opposite sat quietly. The group that pounded nails was way more hostile to those that criticized them.

And yet lately, racket smashing feels contagious. There was Naomi Osaka’s display during her third-round loss to Leylah Fernandez on the U.S. Open last yr. Novak Djokovic’s throughout the bronze medal match on the Tokyo Olympics. Even Roger Federer has had his moments. Rafael Nadal, against this, is famously gentle along with his equipment and has said he never will smash his racket.

Even Andy Roddick, the previous world No. 1, got cheeky on the topic, taking to Twitter last week with a tongue-in-cheek tutorial on methods to safely smash a racket and whack a ball without endangering anyone.

Smashing and throwing a racket, not to say swats of the ball — that hit, or nearly hit, and possibly injure people on the court or within the stadium — fall under equipment abuse in the game’s rule books. To the frustration of among the biggest names in tennis, those codes are more gray than black and white.

Martina Navratilova, the 18-time Grand Slam singles champion who’s covering the Miami Open for Tennis Channel, expressed the emotions of many after Brooksby’s racket made contact with the ball person.

“If it hit the ball boy, they should disqualify him,” she said.

Brooksby and Kyrgios lost in Miami on Tuesday, but Zverev advanced to the quarterfinals and has a great probability of winning certainly one of the highest titles on the ATP Tour, regardless that some in tennis imagine he must be on the sideline serving a suspension.

A spokesman for the ATP, which doesn’t publicly discuss individual penalties, said Brooksby received a $15,000 tremendous, $5,000 lower than the utmost $20,000 a player can receive for an incident from tournament officials. That amounted to lower than half of the $30,130 he guaranteed himself by winning the match, not to say the $94,575 he ultimately collected for making it to the fourth round.

Kyrgios was fined $20,000 for nearly hitting the ball boy after his loss to Nadal at Indian Wells, where he collected nearly $180,000 for making the quarterfinals. He, too, will earn $94,575 in Miami, less whatever fines he receives for his behavior on Tuesday.

Zverev, who has earned greater than $30 million in profession prize money, needed to forfeit his earnings from the Mexican Open, and the ATP fined him $65,000, however the suspended ban has allowed him — in lower than two tournaments — to greater than triple in prize money what his outburst cost him.

The ATP is considering whether, given recent increases in prize money, a rise in fines could deter players. Fines for racket abuse on the ATP Tour begin at $500, compared with $2,500 on the WTA Tour.

Apart from that, the codes for men and ladies are similar: No violently hitting or kicking or throwing a racket — or any piece of apparatus, for that matter, and no physical abuse or attempted abuse against ball people, umpires, judges or spectators.

Still, tennis officials have a somewhat ambiguous understanding of when disqualification is warranted. It goes kind of like this: Should you throw a racket or whack a ball at someone intentionally in an try and hit or intimidate them, you might be robotically disqualified, whether you succeed or fail. But for those who throw or smash a racket or whack a ball without consideration of its direction, and it finally ends up hitting someone, then tournament officials should assess whether an injury has occurred.

If someone is indeed injured, as when Djokovic inadvertently hit a line judge within the throat on the 2020 U.S. Open, the player is robotically disqualified. But when nobody is injured, as when Brooksby’s racket skittered into the ball person’s foot, the umpires will assess a penalty and tournament officials will tremendous the player — no disqualification crucial.

Brooksby and Zverev quickly posted apologies for his or her actions on social media and personally apologized to the people involved.

“I used to be grateful to have a second probability,” Brooksby told Tennis Channel on Monday.

Kyrgios is a repeat offender. In a news conference after the Indian Wells match, he berated journalists who questioned him concerning the racket toss that almost clipped a ball boy’s head, and was unapologetic.

“It most definitely wasn’t like Zverev,” he said. “It was complete accident. I didn’t hit him.”

Only after an avalanche of criticism on social media did Kyrgios issue an apology. The following day, he posted a video of himself giving the boy a racket.

After his match on Tuesday, Kyrgios played the victim, criticizing Bernardes for talking to the gang while Kyrgios was attempting to serve. He seemed not to grasp why the ATP had come down so hard on him for the incident at Indian Wells, given, he said, that Denis Shapovalov had inadvertently hit a fan with a ball and received only a $5,000 tremendous. Actually, Shapovalov hit a chair umpire and was fined $7,000.

“I can throw a racket at Indian Wells,” Kyrgios said, “didn’t even hit anyone, and I’m getting 25 grand.”

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