Tennis’ weird and wonderful show-stoppers


Originally published on: 26/02/10 15:26

News reached us this morning of unusual goings on at the ATP World Tour Regions Morgan Keegan Championships in Memphis, Tennessee during the fourth days play on Wednesday.

During a first round clash between former world No.1 Lleyton Hewitt and third seed James Blake, the match was suspended for half an hour while a spectator was treated for a heart-attack. Hewitt came back out to finish the job 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.

Anyway, it got us thinking, so we spent the morning digging about on the world wide web for some more examples of bizarre interruptions to professional tennis matches

Bomb scare in Rotterdam
There werent many things that could get in the way of the great Ivan Lendl when he was in the mood, but during the 1984 Rotterdam final a bomb scare at the Ahoy Arena stopped the Czech in his tracks. Lendl was up 6-0, 1-0 on Jimmy Connors when the police, reacting to a phone call, ordered the evacuation of the indoor venue. After a search the authorities said it was safe to continue, but Lendl was having none of it he refused to go back on court.

Flare scare stops Kournikova
One of Anna Kournikova’s doubles matches at the 2001 Australian Open was briefly interrupted when a 15-year-old boy threw a smoking flare onto the court. Luckily, security staff at Melbourne Park immediately apprehended the boy. The first set of the third round contest between Kournikova and German Babara Schett against Japanese pair Shinobu Asagoe and Yuka Yoshida was delayed by 12 minutes. Fortunately none of the players were in line with the projectile, which billowed orange smoke and landed about a yard from the net. Tournament staff were highly efficient and managed to repaint a patch of the court surface where the flare landed within minutes. The episode definitely added to Kournikovas street cred as she claimed she wasnt at all scared and apparently laughed off the incident. The boy was arrested and later released with a caution.

Henman gets kicked out of Wimbledon
British doubles pair Jeremy Bates and Tim Henman became the first players to be disqualified at Wimbledon in the Open Era when they were defaulted after Henman accidentally fired a ball into the head of a ball girl. The British duo were leading Jeff Tarango and Henrik Holm by two sets to one when the pair were ruled to have committed a code violation and were thrown out of the tournament. The incident occurred after Henman lashed out in frustration, whacking a ball he was holding into the ball kid who took the full force of the missile. Tarango said afterwards that the power with which Henman struck the ball could have killed the girl. The Tiger did the gentlemanly thing and presented the injured girl with a bunch of flowers in front of the media the next day.

Fainting ball kids
Quite a common occurrence in the world of tennis, normally due to unbearable conditions. One example is when Jiri Novak played Radek Stepanek in September 2004 in the first round of the US Open. A 13-year-old boy fainted while chasing a ball in the first hour of their match. Novak and Stepaneks thoughtful and caring natures shone through as they rushed to help him. However, their patience soon ran out when they grew increasingly angry as the US Opens first-aid unit took more than 15 minutes to arrive. The story had a happy ending and the kid in question was back at work for the evening session. We managed to track down a video: of a ball boy fainting during an old clay court match, if you can identify the players let us know!

New balls please
Lets face it, we all love a streaker, especially when its a tennis fan. Its hard to believe that fans have the guts to break all rules and run around an international stadium in front of a multitude of cameras only to then be stopped by security and arrested. But there certainly are a fair few of these people on the tennis circuit. Take a look at the professional streaker who interrupted Anna Kournikovas doubles match during the 2000 Wimbledon Championships. Kournikova and Natasha Zvereva were on a changeover during their 6-2, 6-1 defeat of Americans Amy Frazier and Katie Schlukebir when the man stepped on to court 14. He dropped his pants and danced around the court while fans cheered. He had a message painted on his chest, which read Only the balls should bounce which was the advertising slogan used by Kournikova to advertise sports bras. Anna and Natasha claimed to be totally unfazed and not distracted by the naked man: “I wasn’t paying attention to that,” insisted Kournikova. “I was just trying to think about the match.” Yeah, right. We believe you Anna.


Tim Farthing, Tennishead Editorial Director & Owner, has been a huge tennis fan his whole life. He's a tennis journalist and entrepreneur as well as playing tennis to a national standard. He also helps manage his local club and volunteers for his local tennis organisation. He's a specialist in content about the administration of professional tennis and tennis coaching for all levels.