We’ve all have or wanted to do it, we’ve all seen it happen by a professional tennis player, and we all feel a slight disappointment when it almost happen. I’m talking about the tennis racquet smash or throwing of the racquet out of frustration. Unfortunately, the USTA/ITF player code of conduct (entire CoC here) says that players can’t abuse their tennis racquets:
“Section 18: Player shall not engage in unsportsmanlike conduct. During the course of a match a player shall not engage in:
c. Racket abuse. Throw or break a racket other than in the normal course of play.”
I’m all for players being courteous and models of professionalism, however; there is something so primal when I see Andy Roddick, Novak Djokovic, or even Marat Safin lose their cool and smash their tennis racquets on the court. It’s as if it’s something that should go hand in hand with tennis, because it can be extremely frustrating when things aren’t going your way.
If a player actually commits this ‘crime,’ the official usually warns them about racquet abuse, the next violation will result in a point, and the next will result in the game – Andy Roddick recently committed this crime. Typically players are fined a couple of thousand dollars after the match for the violation, which I see as rather excessive for breaking a $200 tennis racquet.
My real question is, should the USTA/ITF take the tennis racquet abuse rule off the books and allow the tennis players to bust their racquets? Obviously, not breaking every racquet they have all the time, but in certain situations. My opinion is that they should not be punished for doing it, I see it as a form of expression; like Billie Jean King said about tennis “Tennis is a perfect combination of violent action taking place in an atmosphere of total tranquility.” Breaking a tennis racquet out of frustration is nothing more than just breaking a tennis racquet; it’s not like you are hurting anybody and most of the time the player throws the broken racquet into the crowd or gives it to a ballkid as a cool souvenir. It’s not like any player is going to purposely throw their tennis racquet at their opponent, line person, or tournament official. They are just, after all, taking it out on something that doesn’t have feelings.
I personally like to watch a player play amazing points just as much as I enjoy watching them blow a gasket, so the USTA/ITF should absolutely remove this blasphemous rule from the books and let players bust their racquets as they please.