Where are the bad boys of tennis

08-21-2005, 02:26 PM
A lot of people here complain about behaviour on the court (COME ON, VAMOS, the breaking of rackets, fist pumps,...) and I've seen some people react that they prefer tennis the old style.
Well, most of these current "bad boys" are real sweethearts compared to the old days. Back then, they could get away with a lot more but the rules have become more strict and some wonder if they have become too strict?

Our five favorite explosive players in tennis history:

1. Ilie Nastase "Nasty," who ranked No. 1 from Aug. 23, 1973, to June 2, 1974, habitually baited opponents and was probably the most lewd player in history. He was fined for all manner of offenses, including tanking a match in 1975.

Signature moment: His ejection from the 1976 Palm Springs event after mooning referee Charlie Hare.

2. Pancho Gonzalez Considered the preeminent player of the 1950s and the sport's biggest name until the Open era, he raged against opponents, officials, reporters and even spectators. "We hoped he wouldn't get upset; it just made him tougher," Rod Laver once said.

Signature moment: He once threw a chair at a tournament referee. It missed, and Gonzalez escaped punishment.

3. John McEnroe The tennis virtuoso was also "SuperBrat," a pit bull-like intimidator of officials who also tried to psyche out opponents. During a doubles match in the 1981 Davis Cup finals at Riverfront Coliseum, he nearly came to blows at the net with Argentina's Jose-Luis Clerc.

Signature moment: His blowup at chair umpire Ted James - calling him "the pits of the world" - during a 1981 Wimbledon victory over Tom Gullikson. Another phrase in McEnroe's tirade, "You cannot be serious!" became the title of his autobiography.

4. Jimmy Connors McEnroe's chief foil delighted in the black-hat role for much of his career. He matured and became a beloved figure, especially during his run to the 1991 U.S. Open semifinals at age 39.

Signature moment: Enraged by umpire Jeremy Shales' line calls in a 1986 semifinal against Ivan Lendl in Key Biscayne, Connors refused to play the fifth set and defaulted.

5. Marat Safin This tempestuous 25-year-old Russian has an unofficial world record for most rackets broken. His anger is usually self-focused, but he's not afraid to gripe at umpires.

Signature moment: He celebrated his drop-shot winner in a victory over Felix Mantilla at the 2004 French Open by pulling down his shorts, earning a point penalty.

Source: Where are the bad boys of tennis? (http://news.enquirer.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050821/SPT/508210346/1078)

Another quote from the article:

Ilie Nastase's antics in the 1970s and '80s are said to have inspired a set of behavior rules nicknamed "the Nastase Act."

James Blake was talking about the declining number of temperamental tennis players. Just then, on the TV in front of him, Andy Roddick spiked his racket.

Said Blake: "There's still a few of them left."

A generation removed from the tennis boom of the 1970s, a period some revere as the sport's heyday, there are few explosive personalities like those that populated - and polluted - that era.

Rules changes legislated because of the antics of such players as Ilie Nastase and Jimmy Connors eventually restored order, though occasional player blowups and the obligatory Marat Safin racket toss still show up on "SportsCenter." What's debatable is whether kinder, gentler tennis has affected fan interest.

"The crowds may miss (the outbursts) a bit," tennis historian/analyst Bud Collins said. "Sometimes it can be amusing, but other times, when it gets profane, there's no need for it."

It's clear the hotheads of the 1970s and '80s became larger-than-life personalities. Fans used to anticipate a John McEnroe match, for instance, in part because they never knew what he might do.

Nowadays, the game's top draws largely emote in positive directions. Think of Andre Agassi's kisses blown to the crowd, Roddick's passionate cries and Rafael Nadal's fist pumps.

"Maybe people aren't as excited to see two guys play who just hit it back and forth," veteran American player Vince Spadea said. "People pay good money to see tennis and they want to see a show. Hopefully the show is good tennis."

The first major tennis outlaw was Pancho Gonzalez, who terrorized opponents and officials from the late 1940s until about 1970. Tennis was vastly different then, and much of Gonzalez's career was spent barnstorming with a handful of other professionals. The fiery American went largely unpunished for his antics.

Earl Cochell, a top-10 U.S. player, was banned for life - an unprecedented penalty - after verbally abusing a referee in the 1951 U.S. Open. Yet there were no written conduct standards when the Open era began in 1968.

Until 1985, most tournaments used local umpires, which often resulted in home-court advantages for native sons - and arguments from opponents.

The sport's Code of Conduct, adopted in 1974 by the Men's International Professional Tennis Council, included provisions for disqualifications for on-court behavior. Collins calls it "the Nastase Act," saying it was inspired by the Romanian rebel.

The man known as "Nasty" famously mooned a referee, threw a shoe at a baseline judge who kept calling foot faults, and even changed his shirt and his shorts on court during a U.S. Open match. Nastase was disqualified from some matches and quit in protest during others - though he occasionally was persuaded by tournament officials to continue.

His most famous DQ didn't stick. Umpire Frank Hammond threw Nastase out of a 1979 U.S. Open match against McEnroe for continually arguing, but when fans nearly rioted in protest, tournament director Bill Talbert removed Hammond from the chair and reinstated Nastase. McEnroe still won.

"Ilie enjoyed (outbursts); that was part of his shtick," ESPN commentator Cliff Drysdale said. "He would intentionally get guys riled up on the court. He was really the dawn of the bad boys."

McEnroe and Connors then took the baton. The Code of Conduct allowed three violations before a disqualification, and McEnroe once bragged, "I'm an old pro. I (come) within one word of a default, but I always know what I'm doing."

Enforcement of the rules gradually increased, and in 1990 DQs were moved up from the fourth violation to the third. McEnroe became the first casualty when ejected from a 1990 Australian Open match against Mikael Pernfors, later saying he hadn't heard about the rules change.

Today's stars sometimes face penalties or fines for minor misdeeds, such as breaking a racket. Safin, for one, struggles with the tight reins.

"When you are working with a pulse of 180 and you are losing, of course it's difficult to control ... yourself," he said.

Nastase, in 1994, criticized tennis for its crackdowns: "Everyone today plays the same way, very dull. ... It is a pity there are no characters like John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors or, maybe, Ilie Nastase today."

Drysdale, who said he's glad rules exist, fears they constrict players a bit.

"I would like to see our officials let the guys be a little more expressive," he said. "Not go overboard, not into the expletives, but a little more expressive."

Incidents still happen, and not just when fiery players like Safin or Lleyton Hewitt are playing. Even Agassi, the genteel elder statesman, has earned two disqualifications: in Indianapolis in 1996 and San Jose in '99. Agassi got away with only a fine after spitting on umpire Wayne McKewan's shoes and pants in the 1990 U.S. Open.

These guys (I played with), they knew they were crazy," said Guillermo Vilas, a world No. 2 in the 1970s. "With how the game was, you saw it (play out). But these guys today could be crazier than we are. We just don't see it on the court."

What do you guys think? It's good that there are rules, but are the current ones too strict?

08-21-2005, 02:41 PM
Nastasse was definintly the worst, followed by McEnroe and Connors. I do not consider Safin a bad guy, just a little immature. The same is true of Hewitt. Pancho had other issues. I only saw him play once, he had mellowed out some with age.

Tennis Fool
08-21-2005, 02:50 PM
Maybe your asking for a contrast of styles? Borg/JMac? Who is the contrast for Fed? Right now, Nadal, but they seem to have this Serena/Justine issue of avoiding each other.

08-21-2005, 03:02 PM
Well, there are so many "oh, isn't Hewitt a bad boy" threads and "I prefer tennis the old style" whereas tennis the old style was as mixed as it is now and even more so because the rules are more strict.

Contrast Borg/JMac?
Well, now that you mention it. I remember reading an article in the Belgian press that Lendl needed somebody like JMac. Lendl often had the reputation of having a 'bland' personality on court and that made quite a few people overlook his tennis skills.
The journalist said that the colorful John MacEnroe brought in people to watch the matches and at the same time, the contrast between the two made many people actually pay attention to the tennis skills of Lendl and look beyond the "bland" personality.
The article continued that Federer does not have his "MacEnroe". An opponent that can bring excitement to the game and give him a tough competition. They were hoping that Nadal could be his MacEnroe. (time will tell)
Now, quite often the criticism is that it's difficult to judge how brilliant Roger is because he simply has no competition, right?
So, he needs an exciting tennis player who is a strong opponent at the same time to make people look beyond the "bland" reputation he sometimes has (don't kill me over this - I don't think his brilliant tennis is bland - I'm just repeating what I often read) and pay more attention to his brilliance.

But, my post wasn't really about Federer but about the current strict rules in tennis.

I actually loved watching the antics of MacEnroe and Connors. It's good that there are rules but at the moment, people shout so quickly "bad boy" over nothing.

Tennis Fool
08-21-2005, 03:11 PM
Well, I can't speak of Belgium but here in the US, the media/casual ESPN fan wont' be satisfied unless Americans are at the top. Roddick has turned into a disappointment and so now the crown is being passed to Donald Young (he is being adorned the way Tiger Woods was at his age). DY doesn't have a bad boy image, but I don't think that people will mind (ref: Pete Sampras).

There could be a Fed/Rafa rivalry for years to come that is dramatic and exciting, but will they ever be given ESPN popularity status that Lance Armstrong has currently?

08-21-2005, 03:11 PM
Nice article (and thread) :) Unfortunately I could never watch most of those players play (well,....I watched some tapes, but it`s not the same.)

08-21-2005, 03:42 PM
Nice article (and thread) :) Unfortunately I could never watch most of those players play (well,....I watched some tapes, but it`s not the same.)
I just saw the end of the Borg era (but remember little from it because I was a bit too young) but I certainly saw Connors and MacEnroe in action.

I used to love Connors vs MacEnroe matches. You could almost see the electricity between them.
MacEnroe and Lendl matches were also great. The buzz before those matches was incredible. I miss that nowadays. MacEnroe had the talent (and yes, I call that a talent :angel: ;) ) to really get under the skin of Lendl.

Well, I can't speak of Belgium but here in the US, the media/casual ESPN fan wont' be satisfied unless Americans are at the top.
Isn't that sad, though?
Can you imagine how Americans would react if Federer was one of their own?
And just look at the Nadal hype now. Can you imagine the hype if he was one of theirs?
Ah well, real tennis lovers appreciate the game regardless of nationality.

Belgium is a bit too small for that sort of "we only want to see our own" although it's happening in female tennis, though. But, that's because we have the feeling of being spoiled at the moment with two top players like Clijsters or Henin so we might as well enjoy them while it lasts.

08-21-2005, 03:48 PM
Are they giving out trophies for best tournament clowns?

There's a lot more moola on the line today than when Nasty and the likes competed back in the 70's. Most bad boy behavior leads to losses (Rios, Goran, Safin and how about that screwball Jeff Tarango). Do you think if Goran could do it all over he'd rather have his entourage of Gorans rather than more slam titles?

It's the rare player that can go ballistic on the court and still win.

08-21-2005, 03:50 PM
Safin ?

08-21-2005, 03:51 PM
Yep,it's as much a mental game as a physical one. :smoke:

MacEnroe had the talent (and yes, I call that a talent :angel: ;) ) to really get under the skin of Lendl.

08-21-2005, 03:53 PM
It's the rare player that can go ballistic on the court and still win.

A guy who could go ballistic and still remain focussed and go on to win the match: MacEnroe. One more reason to call it a talent. :cool:
A guy who can go ballistic and totally loose the plot: Malisse. :sad:

08-21-2005, 03:56 PM

A guy who could go ballistic and still remain focussed and go on to win the match: MacEnroe. One more reason to call it a talent. :cool:
A guy who can go ballistic and totally loose the plot: Malisse. :sad:

MacEnroe blamed his parents a few years ago for not pulling him into line as a junior. He claims his bad oncourt behavior took a large toll and cost him dearly in terms of matches and career longevity. Might also explain why he is a huge pothead.

Don't really think his going ballistic worked for him ... overall.

09-01-2005, 06:15 AM
we need to bring these boys back

09-01-2005, 06:23 AM
how come they forgot my beloved goran :confused: :p