View Full Version : Ten Weirdest Moments in Tennis History

Jun 9th, 2002, 02:50 PM
From todays Observer: (thanks to Joey for pointing it out)


10 weirdest moments in tennis history

Jon Henderson
Sunday June 9, 2002

New York 1960-1977
When Renee Richards stepped on to court to play Virginia Wade at the 1977 US Open she was making her debut in the women's singles - 17 years after she, or rather he, had made his debut in the men's singles. In 1975, Richards had a sex-change operation and the Richard H. Raskind who competed at the 1960 US Open became Renee Richards, who, after a ruling by the New York State Superior Court, took part in the same tournament - but different singles - in 1977. One thing remained unaltered though - the American transsexual's tennis playing ability. Raskind lost his first-round match in straight sets, and so did Richards.

Wimbledon 1995
Jeff Tarango was known to flip more easily than a Zippo lighter, but he really excelled himself on this occasion - and so did his wife, Benedicte. The Californian was playing Alexander Mronz and was upset when a serve he thought was an ace was called out. When the crowd barracked him and he told them to shut up, the umpire, Bruno Rebeuh, issued a code violation, which really got Tarango going. He raged at Rebeuh and then stormed off, defaulting the match, after announcing: 'You are the most corrupt official. I'm not playing any more.' As Rebeuh made his way back to the changing room, he encountered Benedicte, who slapped him. Later she defended her action and said: 'If Jeff had done it, he would have been put out of tennis.'

Melbourne 1990
Forget all the other John McEnroe outbursts - 'You cannot be serious' and the rest - this one topped the lot. It was the Australian Open and an agitated McEnroe was playing the Swede Mikael Pernfors. He collected an early warning for intimidating a lineswoman and was docked a point for smashing a racket. He thought he had one life left - the deduction of a game - but had miscalculated. He'd probably have been chucked out anyway for his next offence, an instruction to the tournament supervisor Ken Farrar to, 'Just go fuck your mother.' Within moments, Gerry Armstrong, the British umpire, was announcing: 'Verbal abuse, audible obscenity, Mr McEnroe. Default. Game, set and match, Pernfors.' And McEnroe's response? 'I can't say I'm surprised. It was bound to happen.'

Amelia Island, Florida 2002
'I flip-flopped the distances. It's supposed to be 21 feet from the net to the service line and then 18 feet to the baseline. I made it 18 and 21,' said an embarrassed groundsman at the Amelia Island Plantation. But Bert Evatt, who had been doing the job for 22 years, wasn't the only one who was embarrassed. Anne Kremer and Jennifer Hopkins, who played a first-round match in the prestigious Bausch & Lomb Championships on the wrongly measured Stadium Court, served a shaming 29 double faults. They complained to officials who discovered the mistake.

Cannes 1926
The Riviera - and tennis - had known nothing like it. Hundreds queued all night and the Train Bleu from Paris was packed with fans eager to watch French diva Suzanne Lenglen play the coming force, American Helen Wills. In a tense finish, Lenglen thought she had won but the English linesman Lord Hope said he had not called Wills's shot 'Out'. Lenglen won three games later and was swept from the court by her fans. Wills, standing alone in the centre of the court, was joined by an admirer. 'You played awfully well,' said Frederick Moody. Three years later she became Helen Wills-Moody, the name under which she achieved her great fame.

Wimbledon 1921
'I have known several connoisseurs who were present,' wrote tennis historian Ted Tinling, 'and all accepted the fact that a psychological, probably homosexual, relationship affected the result.' The result in question was American Bill Tilden's 4-6 1-6 6-1 6-0 7-5 title-match win over Brian 'Babe' Norton of South Africa. It has been suggested that Norton could never bring himself to beat his mentor and threw the second and third sets. In the fifth, Norton had two match points and on the first, Tilden, mistakenly thinking he had hit the ball out, ran to the net to congratulate Babe. He had even switched the racket to his left hand. Norton had an easy pass to win the title but missed.

Bucharest 1972
According to Arthur Ashe, the 1972 Davis Cup final between Romania and the US was marked by 'cheating by local officials [that] reached an abysmal low'. The most notorious of the five matches was the one in which Stan Smith clinched victory by beating Ion Tiriac in five sets. Smith ran up an unusually high number of foot faults - called by judges wanting to negate his aces, said Ashe - and Tiriac reportedly orchestrated crowd noises to disturb Smith's game. But what really incensed the Americans was the moment when a supposedly impartial linesman openly massaged Tiriac's cramping leg and, unavailingly, urged him on to victory.

Wimbledon 1985
She was White by name and, as laid down by Wimbledon convention, she was clad all in white, so what on earth did Wimbledon have to complain about? 'Not traditional tennis attire,' was the official line as the tournament asked the Californian Anne White to step out of her dazzling, skin-tight body stocking into something a little more demure. Her outfit had caused a stampede by photographers when she appeared in it on a miserable, wet evening to play Pam Shriver. Play was suspended by the weather at one-set all and when they reappeared the next day White was more orthodoxly dressed. She lost the match, though. 'I think I showed a lot of guts,' she said.

Houston 1973
Billie Jean King reacted angrily to the defeat inflicted on her 30-year-old rival Margaret Court by Bobby Riggs, an American showman who had won Wimbledon but was now 55. King saw it as stain on the women's game and resolved to take revenge on Riggs. The Battle of the Sexes at the Houston Astrodome caught the public's imagination. A crowd of 30,472 packed the arena and 48 million watched on TV in America. King was carried to court-side on a litter and presented Riggs with a live piglet as a 'tribute' to his male chauvinism; Riggs arrived in a rickshaw pulled by six nymphets. King won 6-4 6-3 6-3.

Rome 1963
It could only have happened in Rome where they don't take their tennis nearly as seriously as they do at Wimbledon. Tony Pickard, the British Davis Cup player, was playing the New Zealander Ian Crookenden in the Italian championships and not only the crowd, but the line judges were losing interest. Pickard takes up the story: 'It was a vital game point. He served and it was at least nine inches long. The umpire looked to the baseline judge for the call, but he was turned round buying an ice cream over the fence.' Crookenden won the point and went on to win the match. 'I felt as sick as a pig,' says Pickard.

This month's 10 was selected by Observer tennis writer Jon Henderson. Here he explains his choices:

Few sports have been born into such genteel circumstances as tennis, or lawn tennis as the Victorian called it when they devised a leisurely afternoon pastime for the privileged few with gardens that included a large area of mown grass.

Even so it was considered too robust and indelicate for women and it was seven years before Wimbledon allowed the first women's singles event in 1884. Thirteen players took part. Pretty quickly, though, it gained popular appeal and has now grown into one of the truly global sports, attracting men and women in almost equal numbers.

This list of unlikely moments is meant to reflect tennis's emergence from behind the yew hedge into a world in which sport has become so much more than just a leisure pursuit. It is the result of whittling a substantial number of contenders with the emphasis on moments rather than matches, which is why, say, Pancho Gonzales's famous Wimbledon marathon against Charlie Pasarell in 1969 - 112 games taking five hours 12 minutes - is not included.

Of course John McEnroe could have filled the list on his own. His 'You cannot be serious' outburst, again at Wimbledon, was the most obvious contender, but we sometimes forget in this country that Mac the Mouth rocked up a storm wherever he went and his eruption at the Australian Open outdid anything he managed at the All England club.

Among other contenders were Martina Hingis's breakdown at the 1999 French Open when she had to be brought back on to court crying on her mother's shoulder after losing the final to Steffi Graf; a McEnroe-Ilie Nastase singles at the 1979 US Open in which the umpire disqualified Nastase but the tournament director told referee Mike Blanchard to take the chair so the match could resume; and, also in New York 29 years earlier, Earl Cochell being disqualified after arguing with the umpire and spectators and then addressing the crowd by microphone from the umpire's chair.

Jun 9th, 2002, 03:10 PM
Originally posted by JonBcn
Wimbledon 1985
She was White by name and, as laid down by Wimbledon convention, she was clad all in white, so what on earth did Wimbledon have to complain about?

Grip your jaw and hold it tight. Take your heart medication. Pull down the drapes. Then look.


Reference: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/features/galleries/then_and_now/white/

Cam'ron Giles
Jun 9th, 2002, 03:21 PM
Nice thread...That outfit kinda make Serena's FO 2002 Football outfitt look conservative...

Jun 9th, 2002, 03:25 PM

Jun 9th, 2002, 04:06 PM
Fun post! I totally remember watching the Anne White/Pam Shriver match! They were warming up in warm up suits and then they went to their chairs to take them off. All of a sudden a HUGE reaction from the crowd and then....the outfit! It was GREAT!

Jun 9th, 2002, 04:14 PM
Great thread Jon:)

Brian Stewart
Jun 9th, 2002, 07:10 PM
They had another contender from this very tournament, with Dementieva serving twice in a row to Fernandez.

And how about those Wimbledon streakers?

Jun 9th, 2002, 09:17 PM
How can they forget the infamous bump:
1997 US Open semifinal Venus V Irina

Jun 9th, 2002, 09:21 PM
Yeah, I was reading those in The Observer today on the train on the way to my family's hometown as I had been summoned to attend a family dinner. Very good Venus Williams interview in The Observer today too.

Jun 9th, 2002, 09:31 PM
There is always the 2002 men's doubles Australian Open finals. A deadly forehand...quite literally.

Jun 9th, 2002, 09:33 PM
Yeah, when I first read it this morning I immediately thought of both the Dementieva-Fernandez match and the Venus-Irina bump.

Jun 9th, 2002, 09:39 PM
The Dementieva - Fernandez thing qualifies.

I don't think the Venus - Spirlea bump is necessarily weird so to speak. In fact it was very tame compared to the very near fist fight Zina Garrison and Jana Novotna had on court during a match.

Jun 9th, 2002, 09:54 PM
Really? Zina and Novotna? Never heard of it. What happened?
I love the linesman buying ice cream through the fence.

Jun 9th, 2002, 11:01 PM
thanks Jon. how about Llodra killing the bird. ;)

Jun 9th, 2002, 11:09 PM
I didn't know about Zina and Jana either.
I only remember Brad Gilbert and David Wheaton almost starting a fist-fight at the Grand Slam Cup 1990. They were probably just greedy, as the winner would have had 1 million $ for sure.

Jun 9th, 2002, 11:16 PM
David - tell all about the Zina/Jana thing, then! (You're obviously showing your age ;))

Jun 10th, 2002, 12:19 AM
I think the match in question was at the 1991 Australian Open in a doubles match with Zina & Pam against Jana & Gigi Fernandez. Don't know the specifics but think it had something to do with a bad linecall or something.

Jun 10th, 2002, 02:50 AM
I'm laughing my brains out!!! This thread is so funny, thanks Jon.

The line-man buying an ice-cream!!?? O-M-G I cannot believe it. Neither that outfit. I mean, I read the article but could not imagine... but THEN i did saw the outfit and WOW! Do you imagine someone wearing that now! Maybe Anna...:drool: ;)

Talking about weird moments, there was that one at Wimbledon when the naked guy entered in the doubles Anna K. match. That really was weird.

Some question: About Dementieva serving two times in a row... did she fully served out the second time. How did neither of the three, Dementieva, Fernandez or the umpire take notice:confused:

Jun 10th, 2002, 03:39 AM
The Lenglen-Wills match of 1926 was bizarre from start to finish. Spectators on roofs, in trees, and standing on top of a bus. Reporters linking arms and literally crashing the gate to get in.
Cheers every 5 minutes before the match as some celebrity, King or Queen entered. And the stands! The wooden bleachers creaked and rocked as carpenters hammered away to keep them from falling down!:eek: The hammering continued during the first few changeovers.

At double match point Wills hit a ball near the line and "Out!" was heard. The women shook hands as the court was mobbed by fans and photographers. In the pic below you can see a hand motioning the cameraman to stop.


Someone in the crowd had shouted "out" not the linesman! The English linesman Charles Hope fought his way through the crowd to the umpire's chair, where he informed the ump that the ball was good. Screams of YES! or No! and protests filled the air. All the flowers and bouquets thrown on the court had to be picked up.

The two women were in shock. Accepting the decision, Suzanne went back to serve at 40-30, still match point. She waited some 15 minutes to serve as fans were running around the court trying to find sets given up and the crowd had stopped shrieking.

Lenglen double faulted. Lost the game. Then managed to win it at 6-3 8-6. This time she nearly fainted as she was totally mobbed by adoring fans. This is when Helen was comforted on court by her future husband.

When it was all over she was carried down the streets of Cannes
as the city celebrated.

No other match has ever been quite like it:) Pics from the match.



Note the crowd on the roof:


Jun 10th, 2002, 04:10 AM
Cool rollo.

Jun 10th, 2002, 04:36 AM
How about the match in Prague between Katerina Kroupova and Radka Zrubakova? During that match, the two moonballers played endlessly long points on an especially slow clay court. Midway through the 2nd set, the match was about 1:45 long. During another moonball rally in the 2nd set, one of the ballboys actually fell asleep and collapsed on the court. The ballboys came over and actually awakened him, and then took him off the court! I can imagine the players were a bit insulted lol

Jun 10th, 2002, 04:42 AM
LOL. That's funny Bradshaw:)

Glad you like it CC. I'd give anything to go back in time and see it!:)

Jun 10th, 2002, 02:17 PM
Rollo, this is a really cool story. I knew about it but you have added many more details. :)

Compared to that, today's 'hypes' are laughable.

Is it true that Lenglen retired just a few weeks later after Wimbledon ?

Jun 10th, 2002, 02:58 PM
thanks Rollo. once again your knowledge of tennis history astounds. write a book man!!! :) :)

Jun 10th, 2002, 04:58 PM
She retired soon after Go Dominique.

Odd twists and turns continued after the match. I'll let her good friend Ted Tingling continue: "Suzanne was assisted from the court. She was taken to a small wooden clubhouse that revealed, when unlocked,a scene of wild disorder, because thousands of francs in paper money that had been taken at the gate had yet to be counted. Once in private, Suzanne's nerves finally gave way and, and her friends recount a terrible bout of hysterics in which Suzanne lay on the floor screaming and clutching fistfuls of notes".
No one had realized the interest would be so high. As amateurs playing "for the love of tennis" the women wern't supposed to get any money. In reality both women had been paid "under the table", but not as much as they had earned for the club. Suzanne's father, the center of her life, was very ill.

Needing money, she decided to enter the French and Wimbledon one last time and then turn pro. Helen Wills also entered, but before her 2nd round match was rushed to the hospital for an attack of appendicitis.

Lenglen won the French and wanted to win a 7th record breaking Wimbledon. A scheduling misunderstanding led to the Queen of England waiting more than 30 minutes for Suzanne to show. In those days they dared not default her! When Lenglen arrived late she got into a shouting match with officials and refused to come out of the locker. The match was postponed until the next day, when newspapers started writing about how Suzanne had snubbed the Queen. Booed on court for the first time in her life, the French star defaulted from all her remaining matches.

She turned pro for about $100,000, the first female tennis pro.

Scott Storm
Jun 10th, 2002, 08:42 PM
This thread is excellent.
Rollo - Thanks for the details and the pics!

Aug 4th, 2002, 11:59 AM
Just a bump for the original thread which contains other "weird" tennis moments.

Jan 7th, 2003, 02:18 AM
this is some cool thread.....:)